Scotland 2—2 Austria

Watching Scotland play is a duty rather than a pleasure. I was brought up in an era when fitba was on the telly you watched it. If Celtic was playing Clydebank at Parkhead I’d go to the game and rush home to see if I was on the telly with the other 17 000 crowd haunting Paradise. I didn’t go very often. Obviously, watching every single game when Scotland played in the World Cup in 1974 and 1978. We beat Brazil and there was that Archie Gemmill goal against Holland when we nearly qualified for the next round. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9hLuv5AlXWE

It was great being on the road with Ally’s army. I didn’t go anywhere, but the idea was a good one. I’ve only been to one Scotland game at Hampden. I was accompanying some adults with Learning Disabilities. They were looking at me and I was looking at them. And I know what they were thinking…

Obviously, I’m a Celtic man. So I gave David Marshall the once over. Celtic flung £5 million at a Greek keeper that couldn’t catch a pound coin if you handed it to him. So signing Marshall on a free transfer takes me back to Hampden with those Learning Disability adults. Marshall made a couple of good saves here. But he was at fault for the first goal.  Grillitsch hit it from about 30 yards.  Marshall palmed it to his right. The six-foot-seven Austrian powerhouse, Kalajdzic, swooped and scored from the rebound in the 55th minute. Kalajdzic had another goal disallowed two minutes later for a push on Tierney. Scotland got lucky there, because there was little contact.

Tierney was Scotland’s best player. Captain Andy Robertson plays in front of him. I don’t think that works. Both are full backs. I think it’s either/or, not both. And Tierney is simply better. Celtic rather that wasting £20 million on duds should have kept him for another season. He’s sorely missed.

On the other side of the defence, we had the Belgian phoenix Jack Henry. Playing Henry allowed Clarke to push McTominay into central midfield. The Manchester United played had not a bad game. Henry in comparison is Mr Potato head, six foot five and he can’t head a ball. He’s not one I want to keep at Celtic. But he’s good enough for Scotland. Strangely, a Scotland team without any of the Champion’s players. We even had my namesake, O’Donnell, playing at right back (I’m better than him, but slower, a lot slower, and can’t take shys). O’Donnell proved his worth by taking the free-kick from which Hanley equalised on the 71st minute.

The Austrian backline played high, the ball scooped in behind. The Austrian keeper, Schlager, had the option of coming for the ball but hung back. Hanley didn’t. Schlager also made a basic goal-keeping mistake on the cusp of half-time. He passed the ball to Lyndon Dykes, perhaps time-wasting, knowing Dykes doesn’t score many goals. But Dykes found Christie and the Celtic forward hit the keeper with it. It’s not been a great season for him either. I’ll miss Christie when he leaves Celtic.

I’ll mention Stuart Armstrong because he also played for Celtic. Scotland are good at draws and the game looked to be petering out to a 1—1. Then a nothing ball was thrown into the box and Kalajdzic from the penalty spot, with the ball slightly behind him, powered it into the net. Marshall had no chance with this one.

I didn’t rate Scotland’s chances. With ten minutes to go it looked like another defeat. Armstrong played his part by going off a substitute. This allowed Celtic stalwart McGregor to come on and John McGinn to push forward and play up front with Adams (an Englishman winning his first cap for Scotland).

Kalajdzic’s goal was a beauty. But John McGinn’s was even better. You may remember that Celtic let McGinn go to Aston Villa. And he’s a Celtic die-hard, his grandfather player with Celtic. And I played with his McGinn’s uncle, Johnny Gibbons, in the school team. (I may have peaked too early here). Gibbons’ sister and McGinn’s mother played in the netball team. Some thought that’s where I belonged. The goal McGinn scored was probably offside, but even Scotland needs a bit of luck. Another bog-standard cross into the box. It wasn’t very high. McGinn did an overhead kick and it soared into the corner. The kind of winning goal that you dreamed about when playing school fitba—even though it wasn’t the winning goal. Scotland had to hang on for a draw. I wonder what the odds are for Steve Clarke being the next Celtic manager?

Clarke brought on ex-Rangers player McLean to run about for thirty seconds, which was an improvement on bringing on McBurnie. Next up Israel (again). We play them every second game. That’ll give me a chance to sympathise with El Hamad for not being good enough for Celtic. And to call for Bitton to be give a free transfer. He’s nearly as bad as Henry. If I’ve missed mentioning any Celtic player let me know (James Forrest doesn’t count. And we all know where Griffiths is at, but whose box he’s in is anybody’s guess).  

Manchester City 4—0 Liverpool.

It could have been worse for Liverpool. Raheem Stirling instead of hitting the post against Chelsea could have scored and put Manchester City 2—1 ahead and they’d have probably won that game too. This game might have mattered. It could have been worse for Liverpool, substitute Mahrez goal after 94 minutes was chopped off. That would have made it 5—0 for City. The same score they lost at the Etihad the last time they were here.

I was thinking before the game Pep Gurudiolo’s and Manchester City’s worse decision in recent years was to buy John Stones and not Virgil van Dijk. City would have had the title this year with van Dijk in the team. But for such an emphatic win tonight, early on it was even. With both teams playing a high line, chances came and went.

Gabriel Jesus ‘goal’ was disallowed for a marginal offside. Mo Salah hit the post. Liverpool’s balls in behind the City defence was causing problem. Mane should have scored with a header. He should also have scored with a much easier chance in the second half. He’d a poor game, as did most of the Liverpool team. I’ll need to change that to all of the Liverpool team.

Sterling created Kevin de Bruyne’s first goal when the Manchester City forward was hauled down by Gomez. De Bruyne scored from the spot. Then Sterling scored the second goal by turning away from Gomez and hitting the ball through the Liverpool central defender’s legs. Nutmeg nightmare. The Scottish international Andy Robertson, and left-back, had a good claim to be the worst man on the park. He lost Foden for the third goal. And on this showing Robertson would have a hard time getting a game for Clyde, his former club. The best players on the park were wearing the City shirts.

Oxlade Chamberlain tried to stop Sterling adding to his tally and scored an own-goal. By that time, midway through the second half, the game was over.

Liverpool chances came mainly from Manchester City’s defenders and goalkeeper trying to play from the back. Manchester City’s chances came for de Bruyne, Sterling and Foden, who looks a real prospect.

In what could have been one of the biggest games of the season, but in reality a glorified friendly, Liverpool were the losers, but the winners. But I remember a time when the most important fixtures weren’t dictated by telly money. And would have been played on a fucking Thursday night. Crap game. Liverpool were terrible, but that doesn’t matter. City’s defence was terrible. They’re still in the European Cup. That does matter, but not to me. I’m focussing on the qualifiers for the Champion’s league. Celtic should go for De Bruyne and bring him home to Parkhead, where he’d be appreciated.