Few would have been surprised by the score line or that Celtic goes into the Scottish Cup quarter-final draw on Monday night (my preference would be a home tie against Partick Thistle). But it’s that old cliché, Celtic were made to work for it.
I wasn’t sure what kind of team Celtic would put out. We’ve got so many talented players you could make a great case for most of them. The only change to the team that beat St Johnston on a muck heap, and with a bit of swagger, was Reo Hatate. David Turnbull, who scored against the Perth men, replaced him in the starting eleven. Hatate had a bit of a stinker in Perth. But he’s such an outstanding player I rate him no only one of the best midfielders in Scotland, but England too. He’s Premeirship quality without a doubt.
We got off to a flier. Daizen Maeda’s cross turned into shot that hit the outside of the post and gave St Mirren an early warning. But one thing we know from Maeda, he’s not the most technically gifted, but he never stops. In the eleventh minute, he slid in and diverted Mooy’s cross from the touchline into the net. That could have been game over.
Roberson’s sides always have a certain physicality. He gambled on his side going man to man and pressing up. This is what Rangers will do in a fortnight. Here it worked until it didn’t. Alex Grieve, for example, had a well struck shot blocked by Carter Vickers in the sixteenth minute. St Mirren were tidy on the ball, without looking like scoring. But Carter-Vickers and Starfelt had far more of the ball than any other player on the pitch as the ball came continually backwards.
Kyogo, our top scorer, also went down early with what seemed like a nothing challenge. A shoulder injury when was caught between Keanu Baccus and Marcus Fraser. I think that’s what he had before. He was taken off and hopefully he’ll be fine for the final in a fortnight. He’s been on fire. Like many, I thought Hyeongyu Oh was the very man for the job with much of the match still to play, and it would give us supporters a chance to have a look at him.
Oh got the opening goal of his Celtic career, but it was late on. McGregor had got a shot away from inside the box and the St Mirren keeper parried it. The South Korean substitute was on hand to slot it away. That made it 3—0.
The game was largely finished with a Reo Hatate penalty to make it 2—0 and a man sent off. Matt O’Riley came on for Daddy Cool Mooy. The Australian set up the first goal, but then had a run of three passes where he gave the ball away. Flavour of the month only lasts to the next pass and sometimes not even to the next match. Ask Reo Hatate. It was a VAR penalty, which meant it took a fortnight to decide whether Abada’s shot was blocked by Small and/or Taylor. I think (what do I know?) the referee took so long because he knew he was going to give a penalty, but he’d also to decide whether to flash a red card. He did and Taylor was off.
St Mirren didn’t crumble. We’re well aware the importance of a third goal as insurance. Ball into the box. Starfelt sticks out a foot and catches a forward. Stonewaller. At 3—1 the match was still finished. Celtic fans were still jumping about topless behind the goal. Brrrrrr. Ironically, they were picking the ball out of the net and running up the park and putting the ball in the centre circle.
This allowed Matt O’Riley to get his first goal of the season. His standards had dropped, but he’d a fine game when he came on. Capping it with a shot from just inside the box into the net.
Reo Hatate finished the match with a bang. Catching the ball sweet from inside the box. He’s flavour of the month this match. Turnbull less so. Sead Haksabanovic also played his part as a late substitute. I’m a big fan of the Montenegrin. He’s just so intelligent on the ball and seems to make space to pick out passes. Not so long ago, he was officially player of the month.
Aberdeen at home. Then Rangers at Hampden. The big pitch will suit us. They’ll try and bully us as St Mirren tried today. It could work in a one-off match such as when St Mirren beat us a Love Street earlier in the season. But over a season Celtic have proven to be far better. We’ve far better players. Simple. Still up and running for the Treble.