Celtic’s Performance Last Night Was Most Significant For How We Bullied Them.

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On a night like that, everyone takes something different from the game.

In the aftermath of it, I got a message from a good friend of mine suggesting that I focus some attention on what, in his view, was a critical element of the performance.

Allan, you were totally right to identify it, and I couldn’t agree more that it was one of the reasons for the margin of victory.

Too often in the last few years, our team has been bullied off the park when we came up against theirs.

It was the fear of more than one of the Celtic bloggers in the run-up to the game; Paul Brennan was very clear this morning that his cautious predictions were based on the fear that our midfield might be too lightweight to deal with theirs.

This was obviously part of the thinking across the city as well, with many of their supporters looking at the middle of the park as the key area where they would dominate.

They also thought Jota and Abada might struggle against the physical demands of trying to get past Tavernier and Barisic.

If all we had done is leave those guys in the dust out of sheer quality, then there might be a crumb of comfort for Ibrox this afternoon in their analysis.

But actually, we out-muscled them as well. We outfought them in every area of the pitch.

Our team looked more aggressive. It looked stronger. It looked more committed.

Christ, Callum McGregor played the whole thing in a facemask. That’s how much we wanted it. That’s how much mental and physical strength there was in this team.

We were not bullied last night. We did the bullying.

It helps that we now have, in our midfield, one of the most physically imposing players I’ve seen in the middle of the park for us in many years; Matt O’Riley, who is 6’2 and built to collide with things.

He fulfilled more than just a silky attacking role last night; he was strong in the tackle, he held players off, he harassed them every time they were on the ball … and nobody in their team could cope with him.

Giorgios Giakoumakis was a nightmare for them to deal with last night.

They are used to rag-dolling Celtic forwards but last night he was the one who bounced them all over the penalty area, which was reflected in the way we looked less imposing up front when he left the field.

And all of this is to say nothing for Hatate, who their sites – and I suspect many in the media – had stereotyped as an Asian lightweight who would not be up to the demands of the British game.

But they forget that Ange has been watching this guy for a while, and that he played in a league which is every bit as physical as ours. I don’t mind that these people are narrow bigots, who live inside the world of their own prejudices; I mind that they’ve never watched a Tokyo gangster film though, with big hulking six foot monsters in it … there are plenty of those sort of bruisers playing football over there too and Hatate has been dealing with them for years.

The average height over there might be 5’7 to our 5’9 but that guy is an athlete, and he looked like the full package last night, covering every blade of grass, getting in their faces, terrorising them every time they had the ball … he’s dealt with tougher guys than these paper tigers and you could tell that the way he harassed them.

They had no answer to it.

He has now come up against three of the toughest midfields in the league, and he’s dominated all of them.

I think we can put any debate about his courage and determination to bed with those about whether or not he had the skills to make a difference.

We would be crazy, of course, not to mention last night’s other stand-out warrior; Juranovic.

He is becoming a fan favourite.

Myself and a mate of mine were talking about him at the weekend and the way he’s steadily improved to become a critical part of the team, and last night he was head and shoulders above everyone on the park with the exception of Reo.

He was aggressive to the point of being terrifying, but it was controlled and disciplined and it wasn’t for nothing that Barisic was hooked at half time because Juranovic destroyed his fellow Croatian in that first 45 … he destroyed him.

And Kent?

Kent is one of the most over-rated players ever to pull on a jersey in this country, and another mouthy wannabe hard-man who Brown has owned time and time again and who the big man broke last night.

We have assembled not just a good footballing unit which at times has looked as if it could be a great one; we have built a team of warriors here, of players willing to go that extra yard and put themselves in harm’s way and win the 50/50 balls and who aren’t afraid of anything.

And you could see that the Ibrox team were shell-shocked at all of it, not just the quality but the aggressiveness and the will to win that we brought last night.

And this isn’t a one off.

We’ve seen this already this season in the games in Germany and Spain against better players than the Ibrox club was able to put on the pitch last night.

I always felt sure that having scared the daylights out of their sides that we were going to simply be too good for Ibrox when they rolled into town, but that other element of it was ever the concern … and I’ll tell you, it’s the last time I will worry about it this season.

I suggest others worry about it. This team is a monster.

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  • MND says:

    Typified by our captain who led his warriors
    into battle. Whilst Reo deserved his MOM award
    JJ was superb.
    Continue with this progression, win the league
    and we will have a side that will not be easily overrun
    in the CL.
    The future is bright under Ange?

  • NICK66 says:

    That was one of, if not, the best perfomance this season by Celtic. Given we were without a couple of our mainstays it jusz goes to prove we have a strong squad that can be rotated now without fearing a drop in standards. So pleased that Shug on SSB was shown up, with his *Rangers wont get beat from just before the break til end of season. He really should shut it.
    Anyway, great game, great result and the title ours to lose i think.

  • Frankie pearson says:

    It’s about time our board tied Ange down with a decent contract.James you could start an online petition for our fans to get involved in and get Ange hopefully a great deal through our voice.

  • Roonsa says:

    There’s a good clip on Twitter of Calmac chasing Barasic who had the ball and was forced to play the ball back to get out of trouble – then Calmac shouts something at him (the Twitterer said it was Shitebag) – whatever it was, it just showed you how much he was up for it. See it here:

  • jrm63 says:

    Hatate plays without fear. Absolutely without fear. That second goal was outrageous and against a keeper who was making superb saves. CCV has made some difference. My favorite player of the season thus far. Rangers tried the Beale system – three narrow midfield players and let Abada and Jota run at their full backs. Last season those Celtic wide players were not good enough. These guys are. You cannot give them that kind of space. Dundee Utd lost the last minute winner in exactly the same fashion.

  • Darren James Kerr says:

    Juranovic was a giant. Skill, smarts, hard work and refused to be beaten.

  • GourockTim says:

    Thought last night wee Greg Taylor really came of age in a Celtic Jersey. I know many don’t like him but he always puts in a shift. Just so much to love about that game. Atmosphere in the stands best I’ve ever experienced in over 50 years of going to CP.

    • Jake Hansen says:

      Greg Taylor was immense. Even at the end when he was limping around. Just got on with closing down his part of the pitch. United are gonna have to buy his shorts as Diallo is firmly stuck in his pocket.

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