After the weekend’s 1-0 victory over Hibs at Celtic Park, the Hoops turned their attentions to the Easter Road side’s city rivals. And you would have to agree that given recent results against the Edinburgh clubs, they’ve pushed Celtic harder than any other in the league.
Hibs have a good squad and always give Celtic a game. As slender a victory as it was on Saturday, we lost more in terms of players – more on thar later.
Hearts came to Glasgow on Tuesday night looking to inflict defeat just as they did towards the end of last year. That Tynecastle victory for Hearts ended Celtic’s unbeaten run.
The Hoops weren’t at the races for that one, but Hearts were. So what would Brendan have in store for them at Celtic Park?
Well for starters, he would be without three players who’ve just joined the injury list. Former Jambos keeper, Craig Gordon, goalscorer Leigh Griffiths and now vice captain Mikael Lustig.
Brendan Rodgers could be forgiven for feeling a bit hard done by this season. Injuries have not been kind to Celtic since he took over but this season has been far worse.
You could practically make a starting lineup from the list in the treatment room right now. Or those out on loan for that matter, albeit a mix of youth and experience.
But I digress. Back to Tuesday’s match.
The lineup was different. More akin to what I’d been waiting for.
It was a Celtic side that had more of a Brendan Rodgers look to it. When you take on a squad the size that he did, it takes a while to improve and trim.
Even though 6 of the 11 starters were signed by his predecessors it was heavily influenced by the 5 he signed himself. It can also be said that upon Brendan’s arrival that others have benefited greatly from his management.
The first 45 minutes were a delight. Every pass and move had conviction.
Sometimes the finishing was off, but the hunger and desire were true. A real departure from the last meeting between the two clubs.
Odsonne Edouard scored a stunner in the 3rd minute. Could be a goal of the season contender.
The second came from Dedryck Boyata. He’s shrugged off his dip in form and pushed on so much he found himself in the six yard box to score goal number two.
The third goal was scored by Moussa Dembele. I’ve seen more of the French international on Instagram than in a Celtic jersey this season and he really needed a goal.
He’s been lacking match focus and sharpness. When he fired in one of a handful chances that came his way I think it was as much to his relief as well as every Celtic fan – he’s stil our player after all.
Going in at half time that gave Celtic a 3-0 lead. Would the Hoops show no mercy after the interval?
No. That’s something Brendan needs to work on.
I wasn’t displeased with the effort. In fact we continued to have it a go and play at a good tempo, but with less fortune, otherwise it could have been a total hiding for Craig Levein’s team.
Overall I thought Celtic were excellent. Scott Brown got awarded the man of the match award, but there were so many good performances on Tuesday night in that Celtic team.
The changes that Brendan made, though forced to a degree, were positive and influential. Perhaps an insight to what Celtic are shaping up to be.
3-5-2 hasn’t really been used since the Martin O’Neill era. Brendan Rodgers isn’t afraid to use it though.
Kristoffer Ajer looked comfortable in his role along with Jozo Simunovic and goalscorer, Boyata. Kieran Tierney and James Forrest worked the flanks tirelessly.
The midfield engine barely stopped for breath. Broony played as well as he has done since Brendan arrived , but Eboue Kouassi and Olivier Ntcham were just as hungry in this game as their captain was.
The three dictated everything. A constant torrent of closing, pressing and supplying to the wide men.
I’m fairly certain that this rare pairing of two strikers weren’t expecting so much service. It’s not often you see two up top for Celtic these days.
Not as rare as Dorus de Vries in goal right enough. If he finishes off the season there he might even earn himself an extension for another year unless plans are underway to plan for the long term future in goal.
Off the bench in the second half we had Callum McGregor, Scott Sinclair and new loan Bhoy, Charly Musonda. Each made an impact, but there’s doubt that many were excited to see what Chelsea’s wonder kid could do.
With Patrick Roberts sidelined for most of the season, James Forrest’s excellent form has been essential. Celtic needed an injection of exciting talent and we’re all hoping he’s it.
Even as an 18 month loan deal we’re all keen to get the best out of Charly. He’s another part of what is beginning to look like a Brendan Rodgers Celtic team.