The World Cup break is here, and with it there are questions as to whether or not we’ve won the title today. Of course we haven’t, but as I’ll talk about later we have taken a gigantic step towards what many of us thought we’d do when the season began.
I thought we were a little off it for much of that game today.
They didn’t put us under the least bit of pressure, we put ourselves under it when we didn’t get the early goal. We kept on playing though, and when we do that we’re always going to be too good for these teams.
Once again, we faced a side that didn’t do much more than put men behind the ball. When they don’t concede in the first 15 minutes these teams take heart from that, but because they are set up to play spoiler football they never quite know how to respond when you do finally score. The game-plan is to score first, and then hold on for dear life.
They managed that. But still we were too strong. This is a team of winners now, and they never quit and they are as hungry for victories as any Celtic side I’ve ever watched.
At the end of the day, one team wanted this and only one team deserved the points. A few of the players were off the pace a bit today, but you expect that at this point in the season … we just have too many quality players in the squad for that to hurt us too badly.
I thought that the officials were absolutely dreadful today. Some of their decisions were baffling to say the least and a couple just blatantly corrupt.
After multiple stoppages in the first half the ref couldn’t wait to blow the whistle. There should have been minutes – several of them – at the end of that period, but they chose to blow right on the 45. It’s as if they brought their own rule book.
The penalty, there’s nothing more to say on. It was never not going to be given. Every handball in the box is going to go against us this season, and we’ll be lucky to even get one of them in return. There’s not even the pretence that we’re being refereed to the same standard as other clubs in this league. It didn’t need VAR to decide that today, I knew as soon as I saw it what the outcome of it was going to be, and the official was giving it anyway.
Of course we didn’t get one for the push on Ralston moments later, although a similar incident had resulted in a free kick to Ross County in the first half. Again, I didn’t expect to get it although it looks clear-cut. The system is not being used to give us fairness, it’s being used to screw us as much as is humanly possible. I don’t think that’s tenable. But right now, the same corrupt officials are making the same corrupt decisions and they are getting away with it.
The whole refereeing performance today stank to high heaven. He gave Ross County virtually every decision that he could. When he saw a chance to break up our rhythm he took it. When he could penalise our players he did that. People talk about refereeing inconsistency; that simply does not apply today. He was shockingly consistent.
And for all that, what good is all this blatant discrimination against our club doing? Yet again, dreadful decisions go against us and yet again our team rises above the disgraces to win the points. No matter how much they deal from the bottom of the deck, stacking the cards against us, we find a way to keep on winning. We keep picking up three points.
This is why all talk that this league lead is somehow a consequence of other clubs not being on form doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Their form has nothing to do with the way we’re able to keep getting results no matter what they put in our way … no matter what we might put in our own way, if we’re being entirely honest. This team just keeps rolling.
Of course, it helps to have strong stuff in the squad. Look at the substitutions we were able to make after getting the second and moving in front. Bringing on Jota, Abada and Giakoumakis, changes which many will argue reflect our strongest team.
In the space of just 18 months this manager has been trusted to build the most formidable Celtic squad – not Celtic team but Celtic squad – that many of us have ever seen.
It’s possible that the O’Neill squad was stronger – only just – but I can’t think of another, even close, in my lifetime.
In a day where the performance was a bit disjointed overall, some players still starred.
Hatate was the star of the show and the deserved man of the match by a mile. He was excellent. He was full of little touches of brilliance and he worked his socks off. By God, did he work.
It’s as if he was playing to prove a point today, and in some ways he was. His ability can seem absurd at times, and I cannot believe that Japan has chosen not to include him in their World Cup squad. They cannot continue to ignore him on this kind of form.
Turnbull, who has been threatening a big, big performance, produced it. He scored one and had a scorcher of a shot saved by the keeper. Haksabanovic, as predicted, now that he has started to score, is proving himself an invaluable asset.
It would be remiss not to praise Tony Ralston. I thought he had a cracker.
The subs didn’t have to be superb, because they added energy and kept Ross County on the back foot from the minute they came on. That’s good game management from the boss. You could see Ross County losing heart from it, backing further into their own box, any pretence of attacking intent gone the second three such potent front men came on.
This game was not short of incidents. Nor was it short of controversy. But in the end it’s about the points, and that’s what separates us from the rest, it’s why we moved nine points clear.
There is too much to this side, too much power, too much class and that is why we’re steamrolling our way a second successive title under this manager.