The laziest narrative in football commentary is that if there’s a major refereeing call in a game that it must have changed the outcome. It is especially useful when a decision falls Celtic’s way, even if it was the one key decision that did all afternoon.
St Mirren’s red card this afternoon is not what changed the game.
This is a classic example of what’s known as the correlation/causation fallacy.
To use the Latin expression, Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc. After it therefore because of it.
In this case, one thing did not cause the other.
No, what changed that game was that the manager made a brilliant half time substitution and told the players to start trying to pass and run through the St Mirren defence rather than aimlessly crossing it into a packed penalty area.
This is one of my pet hates, and we used to watch Neil Lennon’s team do this nearly every week. It is ABC stuff, a second rate brand of football that a lot of teams could read easily.
Once they adapted to it every team who came up against us knew how to stop us.
But the way we play under Ange, the best of our stuff happens when players don’t simply cross it from wide but use the ball and run at the defenders. Pass and move, football on the deck, and there are few players in our team who do it better than Abada.
If you look at how they played against us today, all they did when they went down to ten men was sacrificed their counter-attacking out-ball to maintain their defensive shape.
They still had the same number of men behind the ball, determined to stop us, so this wasn’t that we were facing a less packed penalty box … it’s because we changed our style and started to play the football again that has got us to the summit and on the brink of the title.
And once we stopped those crosses into a packed penalty area and started to pass and move on the edge of their box, we stripped them. We absolutely gave them a second half going over.
Abada was rightly named man of the match … which suggests, rightly, that he has a much better claim to having changed the game than the ref did.
The man who is responsible for it is Ange Postecoglou. He saw how that first half was going, knew what needed to be done to put it right, acted at half time and we never looked back.
Five second half goals, and the substitution clearly the right one.
But the media will have you believe it was the officials who changed the course of the game, as if St Mirren were assured the three points up until that moment.
Do not listen to any of it.
This was a managerial masterclass this afternoon and a stupendous performance from a substitute who grabbed his chance, and the game, by the scruff of the neck.