Route 66

Just when I thought the bubble was about to burst, Celtic go a claw it back. A 1-1 draw allowed Brendan Rodgers’ players to extend their lead at the top of the Premiership to 4 points (following Aberdeen’s capitulation at Ibrox) and a domestic unbeaten run to 66 games.

Mikael Lustig’s 78th minute own goal was beginning to look like Fir Park would be the ground where things would turn sour for Celtic once again. Then Callum McGregor won a penalty in the 87th minute much to the disappointment of the SMSM.

The spot kick was converted by Scott Sinclair, the Celtic player involved in Sunday’s controversial decision at Hampden. Was this a penalty or was it the wrong decision?

From the poor footage I’ve seen, it’s very unclear. I wasn’t happy with the cup final penalty, but this one I can’t judge because there simply isn’t enough video evidence from the Celtic TV footage.

Motherwell may feel they’ve been robbed again, but in the two meetings they’ve had with Celtic this season so far, they’ve yet to put the ball in the net themselves. I still maintain the Lanarkshire club a team on the up so on the whole I’m pretty happy Celtic got the draw.

A third game against the Steelmen takes place at Celtic Park on Saturday. I’d like to see this one marked up as an early win. 

In preparation for Anderlecht on Tuesday, Celtic need to set themselves up in a positive manner. It’s a tough schedule ahead for the Hoops and an equally crucial phase for success this season. 

With the squad reduced to a much more manageable size it is easier to see where the weaknesses are. Injury and form are obvious contributors, but after this full-on period, strengthening is a must for Brendan in January.

I’m still impressed by what I’m seeing, but an injection of personnel in the right areas, along with a winter break for Scotland’s best team, will allow Brendan Rodgers to make strides. Every team is out their to stop the invincibles and Celtic must rise to the challenge…at home and abroad. 

Hail! Hail! 

Stevie Mac

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Sixty-five

Four trophies, sixty-five domestic games unbeaten. Marvellous.

It’s a moment to behold. We should cherish it among ourselves though folks.

Don’t expect the red carpet treatment from anyone other than ourselves. It’s only a huge achievement which continues to grow after all.

It is also another step closer to greatness. This will not go down well in some places.

Speaking of going down, Scott Sinclair. I’m bringing this matter up for two reasons. 

Firstly I’m sure the SMSM will raise it themselves. Also, I was disappointed by the act myself.

Scotty hasn’t had the best of seasons so far. That’s despite scoring 11 goals in 23 games to date.

He hasn’t hit the heights of last season in terms of match performances. At Hampden on Sunday that didn’t change. 

There was one point in the match against Motherwell when he encountered Cedric Kipre. Sinclair went to ground and as he did I uttered that Thomson better hope he got this one right. 

He didn’t. He awarded Celtic a penalty. 

From the live footage I thought it was a dubious decision. The replay cemented that thought.

Kipre, who should have been red carded for a dangerous foul on Moussa Dembele earlier, made minimal hand contact with Sinclair in the box. Last season’s award winner went down easily and a penalty was awarded. 

It wasn’t a penalty. I’m not trying to be hard on Sinclair either.

I just don’t like simulation or cheating. Particularly if you’re already struggling with form as Scotty is.

Perhaps that was his motivation. Get a penalty, get himself in on the act again. 

No. Not for me. 

Celtic were already doing enough in this game to justify their lead. Sinclair’s decision only gave Motherwell, and our pitiful SMSM, cause to bemoan the eventual defeat.

Aside from that it wasn’t a bad final. Motherwell were set up well, Celtic tried to break them down.

There were a few challenges that escaped  punishment and some that didn’t when they perhaps should’ve. On the balance I have no doubts Celtic deserved the win overall.

Motherwell have done well to turn their fortunes around. They have a good formula and hopefully will continue to build upon that.

For Celtic this was a convincing win though. They weren’t troubled too much.

Once again I thought James Forrest was fantastic. He’s certainly keeping the critics quiet right now. 

Callum McGregor also turned a fine performance. A fine player.

It’s one of the best Scottish contingents I’ve seen at Celtic since the eighties. With any luck that’ll continue to grow.

For now it’s a job well done by Brendan and the Bhoys. Let’s keep the green flag flying high. 

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Hampden Silverware: Motherwell v Celtic

Today is a big day. An important day for Celtic. 
Not only is it an opportunity to extend their unbeaten domestic run to 65 games. There is a chance to win the first silverware of the Scottish football season. 

Victory would also mean Brendan Rodgers stays in the hunt for the treble. Back-to-back trebles.

Who doesn’t like a challenge? A big one at that. 
An even bigger challenge of course would be doing all of that unbeaten. Back-to-back invincible seasons. 

It’s a long shot. Should Celtic see off Motherwell today and make it into 2018 unbeaten then I think there’s a strong chance it could happen.

There will stregnthening to the squad. Possibly even in January.

Brendan Rodgers and his players will dismiss the bashing they’ve received from the SMSM over Champions League displays. They have nothing to prove to Scottish football – they are the benchmark.

Europe is a different arena altogether. They are also the best Scotland has to offer in that arena as well.

That doesn’t matter to our media though. They dare to defend a club in freefall across the city whilst Celtic continue fly the flag for our nation.

No doubt the SMSM will be rooting for Motherwell today at Hampden. The thought of Celtic getting silverware whilst the second Ibrox club continue to plummet may be too much. 

Celtic’s reign in Scottish football is very near to total eclipse. That’s if it hasn’t happened already.

Today, Motherwell will set out to halt Celtic’s domination. Today, Celtic will set out to see that doesn’t happen.

I’m looking forward to this one. Hopefully it will be a good advert for the Scottish game as well.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

A dozen reasons to remain focussed.

I’ve been a little preoccupied in recent weeks with a variety of personal matters so I’m afraid my blog has taken a bit of a hit (did you even notice?). Thankfully, I’m back just in time to write something for some upcoming, high profile fixtures (applause). 
On Wednesday Celtic return to Parc des Princes to face PSG. It’s been more than twenty years since they were beaten by a solitary Youri Djorkaeff goal in Paris.

I’d like to think that the Bhoys could get a similar result tomorrow night in the Champions League to save our blushes, but I fear that is an unlikely scenario. PSG might be through to the knockout phase already, but they’ll want to finish top by beating Celtic and not having to rely on the final group phase match against a resurgent Bayern Munich.

Celtic shouldn’t be too concerned by this match. A match they cannot win. 

To bust their nuts in Paris, less than a week before a domestic cup final would not be smart. What they want to do is turn up on Wednesday night, give a good account of themselves and get home physically unscathed.

Having already been beaten 0-5 at Celtic Park in the opening game of the group phase, we already know PSG are a team in ascension. They can be devastating home and away and I’d rather we didn’t stand in their way.

Brendan Rodgers will want to see less of a drubbing like the rest of us of course, but I think there has to be some consideration about the games that lie ahead. The big Champions League game for Celtic comes two weeks later in Glasgow against Anderlecht.

That IS an important fixture. It can earn us a place in the last 32 of the Europa League ensuring European football after Christmas.

Between the penultimate and final Champions League games for Celtic, are three matches against Motherwell. The first of these will be the League Cup Final on Sunday at Hampden.

So it’s another busy period for Celtic which started with Saturday’s 0-1 win at Ross County and will see the Hoops play 12 games in 6 weeks. That’s one midweek game as well as a weekend game right up until the end of the year.

If any club in Scotland can handle that then it is Celtic. There are injuries, but there is also a good squad to be utilised. 

With so many important fixtures before the winter break the Bhoys need to knuckle down and get the results. A Europa League spot, a domestic trophy and a continuing unbeaten run are on the pre-2018 agenda.

No pressure then. We’ve already seen this team of invincibles under Brendan Rodgers break a club, Scottish and British record, but there is much more on the horizon as well.

We’re only in season two under Brendan Rodgers and this team haven’t even peaked. The challenges are plentiful and Celtic show no sign of letting up.

A superb Leigh Griffiths free kick won the weekend’s torrid match at Ross County. It wasn’t Celtic’s best display but they ground out a result again.

Ross County proved to be a physical and stubborn opponent. They perhaps got away with a little too much in my opinion but I won’t let that deflect from what was a good display by the Staggies.

Celtic may have been keeping something in the locker for PSG. I don’t expect anything from this game though.

Hail! Hail!

Positive signs despite defeat

It’s not often I watch Celtic lose at Paradise and think to myself “that was a great performance.” Well, last night was one of those rare occasions.

Playing against European giants has been a humbling experience of late. Barcelona last season and PSG this season as examples.

The body language cast by Celtic players  has been of a team demonstrating too much admiration for their opponents. There is something in the psyche about certain clubs that Celtic have had a problem with recently.

Against Bayern Munich in Germany it wasn’t quite the hiding that PSG inflicted in Scotland. The Germans were purring like a well tuned Mercedes at the Allianz Arena that night but Celtic had made an improvement in that game despite the 3-0 loss.

In second half of the double header at Celtic Park they now had to show they was progress and lessons learned. To believe in themselves and to take the fight to the opposition no matter how big a task it was.

And they did. Celtic were strong and on the front foot creating chances.

The coldness that rattled them in previous games was absent. Then Bayern capitalised on a slack piece of play between Boyata and Gordon which was duly dispatched with calmness by Kinglsey Comman.

Celtic were floored by the goal. Having played with such spirit and confidence for the opening 20 minutes, it was all undone in a couple of seconds.

It took them a good 10 minutes to get regain their composure. That allowed them to finish the first half with some positivity.

Eventually Celtic would get their reward. McGregor, an unsung hero for so long pounced onto Forrest’s pass and netted an equaliser.

Brilliant. Celtic had earned it.

Only a few minutes laters though Bayern were back in front. Bitton was outjumped by Martinez who nodded home an unstoppable winner.

Both players were bloodied in the process. Celtic didn’t give up though and rallied right up until the 6th minute of injury time.

My overall verdict of this match is similar to yours. We had to turn in a bettee performance against a far greater team and we did.

How Celtic played last night was close to our best. Mop up the mistakes and have your players on top form and you’ll make progress.

Aside from the first goal and Sinclair’s strangely absent performance Celtic were brilliant to watch. Tierney and Lustig were immense.

Bitton overshadowed Boyata. Brown was tireless, Armstrong was imposing himself and McGregor was worthy of his starting slot.

Dembele’s presence made validated his selection. Last night though the plaudits go to another.

James Forrest was outstanding all match. As frustrating as he can be at times, he reminded us of what he is capable of when he’s in the right frame of mind.

His performances this season have been better than Paddy Roberts’. Even if the injured winger had been available I would have gone with James.

He should watch this match over and over because he was running the show. Well done wee man, you were superb.

I’ll forfeit the PSG match now and hopefully no slip ups against Anderlecht next month. Europa League is our oyster for 2018.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac