Celtic’s Young Guns tonight smashed aside their Sevco counterparts in a storming Youth Cup Final victory, played in front of a Hampden almost deserted as a consequence of the ridiculous decision not to allow paying fans into the game.
The slightly surreal atmosphere – a mostly empty ground except for a horde of screaming schoolkids – did nothing to dampen the spirits of the Young Celts, who rose to the occasion in fine style with some very decent football and two quite sublime first half goals.
The game started brightly, with Celtic having the possession and playing the football.
There were early signs of nerves from a couple of the players, in particular the Celtic keeper who strayed a little further out of his goal than was safe, but for the most part they were very comfortable.
The breakthrough came in the 21st minute when a corner kick came in from the right and the Sevco defence flapped for it only for the young Hoops right back, Sam Wardrup, got in front of a couple of them and put it past the goalkeeper.
A moment later we had a moment of genuine barmyness as Sevco equalised from an own goal by O’Connel, as a long hoof up the park was dealt with badly by the defender, by even more badly by Jordan Hart in the Celtic goal, who was way off the line and missed the ball completely.
It had taken just sixty seconds for us to lose our lead. Insane.
There was a staggeringly bad challenge from the long haired thuggish looking number 6, Kevin Mbabu, on loan from Newcastle.
He was seriously lucky to stay on the park.
Celtic players didn’t react.
They continued to play football, and that was to our benefit.
On 27 minutes, they had regained the lead with an absolutely wonderful goal from Aiden Nesbitt.
This one would have graced any cup final, anywhere in the world, from the Camp Nou to Celtic Park itself.
He was out wide right and cut inside, beating three Sevco players with astounding poise and self-confidence and then he slammed the ball, from the acute angle, past the goalkeeper and into the left hand corner of the net. It was beautiful.
Just six minutes later, another wonderful goal put the team 3-1 up as a throw in from the left found its way to Luke Donnelly, and a wonderful piece of close control saw him turn, Larsson like, in the box, beat a Sevco defender with a shuffle of his feet, and slipped the ball through the keeper’s legs, with defenders on both sides of him.
It was a splendid piece of individual skill. Sheer genius.
Celtic were denied a stonewall penalty just before half time when Paul McMullen was tripped in the box.
Despite the ref having a good view of the incident, he booked the Celtic player for a dive.
TV replays show the nonsensical nature of that decision.
In the 52nd minute, Luke Donnelly charged down the right hand side and put a wonderful cross into the box. Jamie Lindsay was running in on it, but he was unable to connect with the ball with the Sevco keeper lost to the world and the defence completely beaten.
Celtic turned on the style with another wonderful goal in 73 minutes, as Donnelly took the ball in the box and passed it wide right, for the stylish Aiden Nesbitt to glide past a defender, into the box and unleash a right footed pile driver into the top corner of the net. It was another beauty.
Just a minute later, another shocking Sevco tackle, this time in the box, gave Celtic a spot kick.
The magnificent Nesbitt stepped up to take it, and he secured his hat-trick with a lovely finish.
The Young Hoops were now rampaging towards the cup, 5-1 up with 15 minutes left … and eager for more.
In the 80th minute, Paul McMullen went in on the keeper and tried to chip him, but the shot wasn’t high enough and the keeper palmed it away.
Yet it was Sevco who struck last, in the 89th minute, as a neat bit of football left the Celtic defence beaten, and the keeper with them.
It was little more than a consolation prize, as Celtic had been in total command of the game.
A few second later, Aiden Nesbit found out he’d won the man-of-the-match award for a sublime, assured display that surely would have impressed the watching Scott Brown, who’s animated support from the touchline must have been great for the Young Hoops players.
In the last minute, Paul McMullen, who’d had a storming game himself, ran down the right wing and unleashed a speculative, but ultimately unsuccessful, effort which didn’t trouble the Sevco keeper. The final whistle blew a moment later.
It was a grand night’s work from the kids, who showed some real class and quality.
Hopefully we’ll see some of these kids in the first team squad as time marches on.