Rangers 1—2 Celtic

Celtic were better and deserved to win. At the end of the match, Rangers manager, Michael Beale took his team aside, and into a huddle. ‘This is what losing feels like,’ he was meant to have told his players. Well, they better get used to it. Apart from a twenty minute spell when they offered some threat down the wings and Morelos got a goal back in the sixty-fourth minute to bring Celtic back into touching distance, they were no better than  the threat offered by, for example, Partick Thistle whom they edged past in the semi-final. As the late-great, Bertie Auld was meant to have said to his Rangers’ colleagues on match day, ‘You might get a bigger bonus. But ours is guaranteed’.

Hatate, McGregor and Mooy controlled the midfield. The flow of the game in the first-half was towards the Rangers penalty-box. Sure Ryan Kent hit the post and Fashion Sakala missed a good chance from the rebound. But for every mishit shot from the men in blue, Celtic had three or four. O’Riley missed a good chance at the end. And Haksbanovich missed a quick one-two of sitters.

Apart from McGregor, the Rangers goalkeeper, no Rangers player would get a place on the bench of this Celtic team. Joe Hart finds himself sitting on past glories. Compared to McGregor he’s a youngster, but his kicking isn’t as good. He should have got a better hand on the ball that went into the net from Morelos. At one point he punched a ball that came straight to him, and was the kind my granny would have plucked out of the air. But hey, he didn’t concede a second. He’ll do for now. But I’d hope for better.

And only one team can win the treble. The team with the worst ever Champions League record aren’t going to be in it this year (or the coming years). That leaves a straight shoot-out for the Scottish Cup and the last game of the season at Hampden. When we were picking up the League Cup last year, with another Kyogo double, it seems a different age when we still chasing Champions Rangers. In such a short space of time Postecoglou has taken an axe to the team that was and build a team that is a joy to watch. There is talk of him leaving and there will be a time when like all managers when he will leave. He’s not only rejuvenated the Celtic team, he’s helped erase the memory of the hapless blundering and lack of purpose when our ten-in-a-row bid ground to a halt. Celtic have purpose and identity. We want to win games the Celtic way with free-flowing and attacking football. The irony is the team that won the European Cup famously was recruited from a ten mile radius of Glasgow—Bobby Lennox, Saltcoats, the furthest away—had only two Scottish players in the starting eleven at Hampden. Callum McGregor and Greg Taylor are first picks every week. But supporting them apart from the dreaded English, Canadians, Americans, Japanese, South Koreans, Montenegrins, Australians, Danish, and not even an Irishman among them.  What Postecoglou brought wasn’t just a reboot of Celtic but also knowledge of where good player were for bargain basement prices. That is something Michael Beale with his media posturing does not have.    

Bargain- basement Kyogo, who won us the final last year against Hibs, also did so on Sunday at Hampden. He came up with two close range finishes at the end of the first and second half to effectively win the game, but he also missed a few chances. An ineffectual header and an early one-on-one attempt, which should have given Celtic their usual early lead. But unlike Morelos, when his number was called, he went off with a smile on his face, a humility that is heartening.

The treble is on, but one-game-at-a-time mantra is the kind of mood music us fans eat up. Celtic are well ahead of Rangers. There’s no doubt about that. And long may it continue. But Rangers can beat us in the odd, one off game. It will just begin to happen less and less. I remember listening on the radio to a report in which Celtic got a draw at Ibrox. Darren O’Dee was playing, and I was ecstatic. Not because Irish man Darren was playing, of course, but I did have a soft spot for the hapless Anton Rogan. One game at a time. One league at a time. One cup at the time. One treble at a time. Humility in victory and in defeat. Let’s see it out. Let’s build for a new future with or without Postecoglou. As the ten-in-a-row debacle showed to stand still was to go backwards. For now we’re going in the right direction. Hail Hail.   


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