Damp Squib Derby fails to dampen Hoop spirits
Despite Celtic’s twenty one winning streak coming to an end in the Scottish Premiership to their Glasgow rivals at the weekend, Brendan Rodgers’ men still remain on course for a domestic treble with the possibility of an unbeaten season in domestic football, an incredible feat which thus far is yet to be achieved in the Scottish game. The nature in which Celtic’s run was ended will have left Celtic fans, players and staff bitterly disappointed, as the hoops should have been awarded a penalty right at the death when Clint Hill, scorer of the Rangers equaliser clumsily brought Leigh Griffiths down inside the penalty area. Incredibly, a penalty wasn’t given and Pedro Caixinha was able to see his new team hold on for a share of the points. If truth be told, the game was a poor enough spectacle and Brendan Rodgers will be disappointed that his team lacked the fluency and tempo that has been on show at Parkhead all season, particularly after being in the ascendancy thanks to a rifling effort from Stuart Armstrong in the first half.
A semi final date with Pedro Caixinha’s men on the 23rd April at Hampden awaits, and the players will surely be looking to make amends for what was a minor blip in a pretty spectacular season to date. Taking into consideration the fact that the Scottish Premiership has long been a formality, the Scottish Cup is presently the main target as the final piece in the treble jigsaw. The draw was made a week prior the derby showdown at Parkhead, after Celtic had overcome St.Mirren in a 4-1 quarter final victory, despite a nervy first half in which the Buddies had taken a 1-0 lead into the interval. If the Hoops play anywhere near to the level they are capable of in the semi final, then it would be difficult to foresee their third-placed rivals matching their result at Parkhead. Winners will play either Aberdeen or Neil Lennon’s Hibernian in the Scottish Cup final in May.
Armstrong celebrates scoring yet another Derby goal
Nearest rivals Aberdeen lie twenty five points behind, and a loss at home to Ian Cathro’s Hearts on Saturday would provide the Hoops with the opportunity of mathematically securing their sixth title in a row at Dens Park the following day, with nine games to spare. In the week prior to their quarter final meeting with Championship outfit St.Mirren, Hamilton Accies and Inverness Caledonian Thistle became victims number 22 and 23 in a win streak that stretched as far back as September, when the latter were the first of only two teams to take points from the champions all season. Hamilton were put to the sword by two goals from French striker Moussa Dembélé, and the 20 year old’s first was one worthy of winning any football match. He received the ball from Scott Sinclair some twenty five yards from goal, before turning sharply past two Accies defenders and expertly curling the ball into the far top corner, leaving Gary Woods with no chance in the Hamilton net. The second came on 59 minutes and it was the same man again, this time from the penalty spot. The spot kick was awarded after ex Celt Massimo Donati was adjudged to have taken down Kieran Tierney, who had made a darting run into the penalty area from left back.
All smiles as Dembélé celebrates scoring another cracker
A trip to Inverness was next on the agenda and a blistering second half performance saw Caley swept aside in a 0-4 thrashing. Dembélé was at the double again and was joined on the scoresheet by Englishman Scott Sinclair, and the ever energetic Stuart Armstrong who has since been called up to the Scotland squad. It was Sinclair who opened the scoring two minutes before the break with a stunning solo effort. After receiving the ball on the left hand side, he managed to avoid several Inverness tackles before setting himself on his favoured right foot, and elegantly guided it into the bottom right hand corner of the net. The late first half goal appeared to have an effect on the Inverness players that lasted right until the beginning of the second, as they found themselves two down almost instantly after they had kicked off. Some lacklustre passing and an awful error by Williams in goal allowed an onrushing Dembélé to lift the ball over the keepers head with a cheeky touch and then tap into an empty net. Armstrong was on the scoresheet to make it 0-3 on 66 minutes with a sublime free kick.The Scottish midfielder lifted the ball over the Caley wall and was able to find the required dip to leave a helpless Williams picking the ball out of his net for a third time. Kieran Tierney combined with some reckless defending from the opposition paved the way for Dembélé to double his tally for the evening and make it 0-4. The 19 year old full back characteristically drove out of defence before executing a perfectly weighted cross-field pass for Dembélé to rush on to. He had quite a bit of ground to make up, but his sheer power and pace ensured that the Caley defence were left for dead, and his composure allowed him to lift the ball over Williams with a deft chip. It was a classy goal to round off a classy performance.
Familiar sight as Sinclair celebrates another peach against Caley
Next up is a potential title party at Dens Park on Sunday, when the Bhoys will be looking to raise the performance level once more against Paul Hartley’s men. The sides last met just over a week prior to Christmas when goals from Griffiths and Bitton were enough to seal all three points despite Marcus Haber’s reply for the Dees. Fans who have acquired tickets for the trip to Dundee will be hoping that Aberdeen suffer defeat the day before, and that a possible title clinching party will be on the cards. Regardless of the results this weekend, Brendan Rodgers men are on the brink of a domestic treble in only his first season in charge, and there is a sense that there are going to be many special times ahead under the Irishman at Celtic.