Celtic 2—0 St Mirren.

Giorgos Giakoumakis misses out again, which is disappointing after the lack-lustre goal display at Easter Road. A carousel in which Matt O’Riley returns and replaces Tom Rogic, or vice-versa. Both are class player. Celtic had a free-kick in the first minute, 30 yards out, which was wasted by O’Riley, with not even a shot on goal. St Mirren offering no threat other than a Scott Tanser cross which Joe Hart had to fall on, early in the first half. No surprise they camped in and played for a no-score draw. That’s a given for most teams in Scotland.

Charles Dunne, who was lucky not to escape an early booking, came closest to scoring an own-goal after 15 minutes, and was booked just before half-time. A Jota cross and Dunne’s mis-hit clearance hitting the bar. He almost sliced another ball into his goal.

Daizen Maeda had a few headers, none of which looked like scoring. But Liel Abada had the best chance of the first-half, Maeda missing a Jota cutback and the ball falling for the Israeli. He’d ghosted in and outside the six-yard box hit the ball first time, but hit the keeper.

Jack Alnwick saved from Jota and a  Josip Juranovic shot powered over his bar. It’s been all defence for the Buddies, but our attack finding it hard to create chances.

Our centre-half, Cameron Carter-Vicker won man on of the match for a performance where our central pairing got more of the ball than their teammates. Ten minutes into the second half he got the goal we needed. Abada taken out by Tanser, who limped off after getting booked. As a general rule, we don’t score from free kicks or corners, until we do. Ball whipped in, Carl Starfelt jostled with the defender and the ball broke to Carter-Vickers, his measured control and left-foot volley from six-yards broke St Mirren’s resistance.

Maeda almost made it two with an acrobatic volley from an O’Riley cross a few minutes later. Celtic brought on three substitutes. Forrest, Rogic and Nir Bitton. All added urgency to the Celtic team. Forrest flung in a ball for Maeda which was just too high at the back post. He also came close to getting us a penalty, getting to the bye-line and getting tackled but he didn’t go down. With Hattate and O’Riley off, Callum McGregor pushed higher up the pitch after picking up a booking.

Our captain put us on easy street with nine minutes remaining in the ninety. He drove a clearance through a ruck of defenders into the bottom corner. With a few minutes remaining he came off to a standing ovation to be replaced by Ideguchi. Job done. Dembele came on for a cameo after his horrendous pre-season injury. Jota went off. Nine game to go. Let’s hope and pray, nine-in-a-row.   

Aberdeen 2—3 Celtic

Daizen Maeda leads the front line in a first half in which Aberdeen didn’t have a shot on goal—didn’t even look like having a shot on goal. The Don’s fans jeered the home team off the park, but they were applauded off in the end.

Maeda had our first chance after twelve minutes. A ball into the back post. A free header from four yards, which he fluffed. Top scorer in the J-League looks ineffectual playing the channels. He was played in a few times and failed to convert or look convincing.

 Liel Abada continues to be our most potent threat, but didn’t get a chance to score here.

I have a bit of sympathy for Giakoumakis—he’s not played badly, but he has failed to score in his last three (and-a-bit) games. The Japanese forward is more lucky scoring twice so far. But we don’t really care. As long as the ball ends in the opposition goals. The Greek striker came on as a substitute and did well enough, again, without scoring. But there were mitigating factors.

Jota starts, and showed the goal form and threat he did, before his injury, which he did after seventeen minutes. He swept away an O’Riley cross that left the Portuguese winger unmarked in the six yard box at the back post.

O’Riley went from provider to scorer. Rogic scored two in his last game and also drops to the bench. Not only is the Australian the hammer of the Steelmen, but also of the Dons. But we’re kept him in reserve. O’Riley has been everything we hoped he would be, but unlike the other midfielders he hasn’t added goals to his game—until his shot was deflected off the heel of (ex-Hun) David Bates and into the net.

A pitch invaded got closer to the Celtic goal than the Don’s attack. But just as earlier in the season when a two goal lead didn’t seem enough, and a three goal lead is the sweet point, our defence showed the same old deficiencies. Get the ball into the box and Celtic concede. It’s not finger pointing. Statistics tell you one thing. Watching the match tells you the truth. Just bad defending and being bullied.  

Christian Ramirez in 61 minutes gave the Don’s a life-life. The usual stuff about one from the training pitch will be rolled out. Simply, he was unmarked between the penalty and six-yard box. The ball was rolled across to him from a free kick. He scored.

He had the ball in the net minutes later to equalise. But was ruled, rightly, offside.

Lewis Ferguson loves playing against Celtic, because he scores against us almost every time, seven times in total. He was at it again. Corner swung in, Ferguson gets his header away. Goal.

Celtic were in trouble. Jota got us out of it with his second goal, and Celtic’s third, a in the sixty-third minute. A minute after the Don’s equalised.  A ball over the top. Abada looked offside, but Jota didn’t hang about. He smashed the ball into the ground and it looped over keeper Woods. Our Portuguese winger won it for us.  

Our bench is strong. But no Josip Juranovic? Must be injured. The enigma that is Mikey Johnston once more comes into the mix. He’s still a boy, but with Doak also coming on and into the first team at sixteen this is no longer the old Bhoy’s network. Ship up or ship out. Simple. Most of us love that philosophy, not only of attacking football, but if you don’t want to be here—fuck off.

Bitton and Forest came on to see it out. Goal scorer, O’Riley replaced by Rogic in the last few minutes.

The longer Ange Postcoglou’s winning run continues the more our belief grows. The league is everything, because Champions League qualification is added and with it a bumper payday. Every game is a must win.  A virtuous circle. The kind the Celtic manager keeps talking about. We don’t want to think of the alternative. Celtic were coasting at Pittodrie. Then suddenly we bottled it and a moment of Jota magic won it.   

Celtic 1—0 Dundee United.

High winds in Dingwall. And memories of twenty-four years ago: Wim Jansen (1946-2022).  Just win. That’s all we asked of Celtic before the Old Firm game on Wednesday. The performance and lots of goals didn’t really matter. Just win. And for ninety minutes it looked just out of reach. Then Josip Juranovic down the right wing, Jota into the box and Liel Abada scores. Late goals count double.

 The spine or our team remains largely the same from the midweek (and let’s remember, well-deserved) victory against Hearts. Our talisman Jota drops to the bench, but comes on at half-time for Forest. Ralston and Scales come in as attacking full backs, but both were replaced in the second half. Taylor and Juranovic coming back into the team. Let’s face it, everyone in the current team is an attacking player, including Joe Hart who creeps forward beyond his box at every opportunity, but had little to do.

Early in the game, United broke from their defensive set-up with pace. I guess Rangers will try and do the same. And United had the first big chance on six minutes, with Sporle bending a shot past Joe Hart’s right-hand post. A minute later a big chance. O’Riley played a ball in behind the United defence. Giakoumakis, from eight-yards out, waited too long for the ball to come down, and a defender came in to take the ball away. Great chance, not taken. That was the story of his afternoon, before he was taken off. Abada played a ball into the front post towards the end of the first half, which Giakoumakis and a United defender got on the end of and it spun agonisingly past the post. He scuffed a shot from the edge of the box, well past the post. And in almost eighty minutes contrived to miss a sitter from six yards from a cut-back from Jota. Let’s hope his form picks up for Wednesday’s meeting. He was replaced by teenage winger Ben Doak, with Abada coming central.

 Liel Abada, who looked Celtic’s most likely player to score, was unlucky with an effort on thirty-one minutes. Ralston had let the ball get away from him on the edge of the United box. His two footed challenge took the ball and took out a defender. Ralston’s touch looks poor, and he seems to have regressed. But Abada slinked pass the defender and got his shot away. But Siegrist made himself big and the ball came off his hip and went out for yet another corner.

The best chance of the first-half came to the best player on the park in 40 minutes. A cut back from Forest to the penalty spot. O’Riley caught the ball, but bent it past the post. Celtic looked like scoring, but not from the fourteen or fifteen corners, or from free kicks. O’Riley, late on, for example, hitting the bottom of the defensive wall.  Our best chance from a dead-ball coming when Siegrist dropped the ball in front of Carter-Vickers from an in-swinging corner.

 At the start of the second-half O’Riley could count himself unlucky not to score from a ball swung in from deep in the half by Jota. Siegrist making a finger-tip save and pushing it past the post. It had the look of being one of those long afternoons when regret becomes anger.

Bitton, the Celtic captain, was booked in the first half. He stuck a foot out to bring down Tony Watt and break up a quick United attack with Joe Hart out of his goal. And he was sent off, with ten minutes of the ninety remaining, and misses the Rangers game. Taylor seemed to have been fouled on the edge of the Celtic box several times, but the referee played on. Bitton brought the United attacker down. The Israeli can count himself unlucky.

But it was the other Israeli that got on the end of the cross and shook the stadium when he calmly brought it down and stuck it away. He too got booked for taking his Celtic top off and celebrating with the fans. He capped a fine afternoon’s work. O’Riley was our most dangerous midfielder. But Abada was our most dangerous attacker. Jota coming on also made the difference. But sometimes, all you need is a rub of the green. We got it today.   

Celtic 2—0 Hibs.

No Kyogo, but a good night’s work. Before the winter break he was our go-to-man for goals. He almost single-handedly won us the League Cup final against Hibs. That was a game we dominated but lost a sloppy goal. Our defence is the weakest part of our team. Don’t quote me statistics. And although he got pass marks tonight, let’s not talk about Starfelt. We’re looking good going forward. Giorgos Giakoumakis missed his chance to impress with Kyogo injured. Now, although he came on and is likely to start against Alloa in the Scottish Cup, the Greek striker in on the bench and moved down the pecking order. Maeda starting ahead of him and scored the opening goal within four minutes.

Tom Rogic had a decent chance from kick off. But Celtic were lucky not to be a goal down in three minutes. Martin Boyle used his pace wide and swung a ball across the six-yard box. Joe Hart was nowhere. Nisbett at the back post missed a sitter. He swung a foot and hit the inside of the near post and the ball was scrambled clear.

Celtic’s opener came from their closing down play. You can see they’ve been working hard on the training pitch, with everybody knowing where they should be. Liel Abada won the ball high up the pitch. He gave the ball to Rogic, who picked out Daizen Maeda just outside the six-yard box and he finished.

Josip Juranovic scored the second on twenty-five minutes from the penalty spot. A cool finish. And there was no doubt it was a penalty. James Forrest shot was blocked. Abada went on the outside and attempted a chip pass. Josh Doig clearly handled.

Hatate brought the ball down on his chest and had a volley easily saved by Macey. Then, before half-time, Forrest was played in by Hatate and looked to make it 3—0, but the shot was deflected past the post. Hibs tried to play from the back and it suited Celtic, who dominated. But the tempo dropped in the second-half and Hibs came more into it, without looking threatening.

Starfelt had a few decent headers from corners. And he created a chance for Abada, in which the little Israeli hit the post with the ball and his body. Luckily, he wasn’t injured. Carter Vickers also had the ball in the net, getting onto a Starfelt header. But the Swede was penalised for a push.

Nir Bitton, who so impressed before the winter break, must be injured, he’s not on the bench. Hatate starts ahead of James McCarthy and won man of the match. The ex-Hamilton prodigy looks set for a long spell on the side-lines. With twenty minutes to go, Yosuke Ideguchi got his first-team debut spot. He came on with a raft of five substitutions from Hibs and Celtic. The game flickered to life again and quietly died.  

I don’t know anything much more than paper talk about the Japanese players. But we’ve seen Kyogo. And the impact he’s had. We seen James Forrest speaking Japanese to Reo Hatate in the dugout, which I must admit, surprised me, but such is the depth of preparation, it really shouldn’t. We’ve seen Jota, and it’s a blessing he’s on the bench tonight. The loudest cheer of the night, apart from the goals, was when the Portuguese winger came on. Ange Postecoglou came in with a list of players and they were bargain-basement signings. Even if every one of them was a dud it wouldn’t touch the money we’ve wasted in the last two years. And we know the opposite is on tonight’s performance is more likely to be players on the pitch and money in the bank. Six points behind Rangers. Narrowed to three tonight. And before the winter break we always seemed to be playing second, putting extra pressure on our team. The league is everything. Before the season started, many, myself included, thought it may be beyond Celtic. We know we’re going to play attacking football. We know teams are going to sit in, and we’re not going to act shocked and horrified when they do. We need to kick on and keep winning. Hibs, under Sean Maloney, gave it a go, but were outclassed. Simple.    

Dundee United 0—3 Celtic

A straight-forward victory. Celtic drew with Dundee United at Parkhead in their last meeting which seems so long ago, I’m pretty sure Ismaili Soro would have been playing in midfield. In a first-half which Celtic dominated from the start with seventy-five percent possession, United’s best chances, their only chance of the half, came from Celtic defenders getting caught on the ball. Keeper Joe Hart in the fifth minute, for example, played the ball across the box towards Cameron Carter-Vickers, who had returned to the team for the injured Stephen Welsh. The ball didn’t reach the Celtic defender, but he helped usher it out for a corner.

Kyogo missed a good chance from a corner in six minutes. He peeled off his marker (how often do we need to say that? We’ll just take it as a given) and headed over the bar from close range. Turnbull had a similar chance. Mikey Johnston, looked sharp on his return—five starts since 2020, but Jota with five goals in five games is an enormous miss—hit a free-kick from the edge of the box against the United wall.

 Kyogo also almost played in Tom Rogic with a nifty one-two, which came to nothing as the Australian hoisted the ball over the bar. But the Wizard of Oz, who not so long ago was being encouraged to exit Paradise, did it all himself in twenty-one minutes. A five-a-side goal. Rogic took the ball from wide, near the half-way line, and cut inside towards the penalty area. Nipping in and out of defenders as they retreated. He beat two in the box and picked his spot. All kinds of goals make goal of the season. But this was special, because it put up one up. No more than we deserved. Celtic are always liable to lose a goal. In the game at Parkhead between the teams, for example, we scored and then United scored. We seen it against Hearts. A game we should have been two, three or four ahead, but scrambled to keep our lead.

Celtic had six corners in the first twenty minutes. Carter-Vickers and Carl Starfelt coming close and giving us yet another corner.

David Turnbull also missed a good chance with a header after thirty-three minutes. The former Motherwell midfielder has been an automatic pick, with his energy and passing ability, but his trademark runs into the box and goals from outside the box dried up of late. He missed another good chance from close in letting the ball hit off him, rather than guiding it into the net. He described it as ‘a sitter’.

Forrest got his feet mixed up and missed another chance in the six-yard box. But Turnbull’s goal, just before half-time, which gave us breathing space, was of the more straightforward variety. A dink over the defence by Callum McGregor. Turnbull juggled the ball over the advancing Siegrist. With his second touch, he volleyed into the empty net, just to make sure that Charlie Mulgrew couldn’t clear. Game over, so we thought, and so it proved.

United had more of the ball in the second-half, with one shot on goal. The kind your granny would have saved, but Barkas would probably have let in, which shows some of the distance we’ve come since the season started. Forrest who’d been holding his calf, late in the first-half, was replaced by Abada. The Israeli forward missed two decent chances.

Ten minutes into the second-half, Calum Butcher came on for Louis Appere. The latter was coming back from a suspension over a red card. The United substitute Butcher by name should have had a red card for his first tackle on Turnbull, ten minutes later. He got yellow. He also lunged into Turnbull again on the edge of the United box. That should have been another yellow.

But Celtic should have already added to their lead. Nir Bitton had replaced Rogic. And with almost fifteen-minutes remaining, Greg Taylor was substituted for former Shamrock Rovers defender, Liam Scales. Taylor has been out for three months. Many, including me, wondered if the former Kilmarnock full back was good enough for Celtic. Adam Montgomery came in but didn’t look the part. Josip Juranovic’s debut at left-back was in an Old Firm game. He looked cool and composed as his penalty panache suggests. But again, I’m not sure about his defensive work. The Croatian was shuttled over to the right-back spot to replace an injured Anthony Ralston. I laughed when the press questioned Ange Postecoglou about Juranovic saying he wanted to play on the right. Ange was quick to slap that one down with the reminder he picks the team, not the Croatian.

He picks the team and Liam Scales made his debut in a league match. He didn’t score the winner, but he did score the third from a shot from the edge of the box in eighty-one minutes of a second-half Celtic had cruised. We’ve a dud European match on Thursday. Maybe I shouldn’t get on the wrong side of Ange, but it would be nice to see Liam Scales starting, but I’m not really fussed. Just keep winning and pray for Jota to come back soon.   

Celtic 2—1 Aberdeen.

Two games a week now until the Rangers game at New Year. It isn’t too early to say—must win. After the disappointment of our defeat in Germany, much the same team. Nir Bitton, who I never rated, made me change my mind, with his last few performances, which bordered on man-of-the match. But with Jota in the team, that’s not going to happen, and he was at it again today.

James McCarthy needs to do the same, simply, to do better. The first few minutes, a terrible ball across the park from Welsh put the defence under pressure. McCarthy foul, gives away a free kick. Joe Hart lay injured for several minutes (four minutes added time at the end of the first half) from Christian Ramirez’s shoulder-barge.

Jota has been the most dangerous player in the last few games and scored many of our goals. Most chances coming from his wing. He scored again, the opener after nineteen minutes.

 Liel Abadda has had a decent start in a Celtic jersey. Now he’s under real pressure from James Forrest. He offered little in attack and was replaced by him after sixty minutes.

Abadda can count himself unlucky to give away the penalty. A foul on Bates, but with little or no contact. Lewis Ferguson equalised and after thirty-seven minutes. And Aberdeen came into the game more before half-time. Joe Hart having to make a decent save.

But Turnbull created the best chance just before the break. He swung in a deep cross to the back post. Stephen Welsh got a head to it, but squaffed it. Behind him was Kyogo, with a much better chance of scoring.

Former Celtic player, Dylan McGeouch was taken off at the start of the second-half. Scott Brown leaving later in the match, to a standing ovation. But in many ways, it’s our former left-back and sometimes winger, Johnny Hayes we can thank for our victory.

Ramirez had stood tall to a blockbuster shot from McGregor, knocking the Aberdeen player over and preventing an almost certain goal. Jota and Josip Juranovic came close as the second half began to mirror the first.

Twenty-four minutes into the second-half and Celtic take the lead. Abada, just before he was substituted, had a shot in the box blocked. The ball spun into the air. Hayes went to clear his lines. He hit the ball off McGregor and it ricocheted into the net.

Unlike the first-half, Celtic kept control of possession and the game. Ralston had a fine effort saved by Lewis. Jota got in behind the defence and hit the post. But with the game petering out, every corner and free-kick offers Aberdeen (and most other teams) the best chance to score.

 Juranovic’s audacious penalty might not have counted for much on Thursday in the Europa League, but his positioning and header off the line on ninety minutes won us three points here. You could just imagine Lewis Fergusson’s celebration if he’d netted a double for Aberdeen and the boys in blue.

Six-added minutes of injury time. Ange Postocoglou takes off Kyogo with a minute of it remaining and brings on Ajeti, which seems about right. The Japanese forward does the hard running for much of the team. In retrospect, we always come up with the right answer, but perhaps in midweek… Callum McGregor’s goal puts us back within four points of Stevie G’s bankrupt old team, whom after winning two games on the trot, claim to be back to where they were before—

Our next game, midweek, Thursday, Hearts. That’s all the matters. Hopefully, Rogic and/or Bitton will be back. I’m certainly not worried about Carl Starfelt. Christopher Julien has become a bit like the Loch Ness Monster, there has been a sighting of his head above the water, or so I’ve heard.  

Celtic 0—0 Livingston

Livingston’s game-plan at Parkhead doesn’t change. They play with eleven men behind the ball and came to take a point. Celtic dominate and are handed three points in the last minute on the ninety, but don’t take them. Obileye inexplicable swiped at Kyogo. He was sent off for gross stupidity and a penalty awarded. Callum McGregor was the last Celtic player to miss a penalty, which was firmly hit and the keeper going the right way. Josip Juranovic has scored two penalties, missed nil, and looked to be our designated penalty taker.  Max Stryjek had to do little more than lie down to save Giakoumakis’ penalty, which tells you all you need to know. The Greek striker had another chance a minute later.

An enforced change with Tom Rogic—who has been brilliant—injured. Bitton comes in at the base of the midfield, which immediately makes it a more defensive set-up with Callum McGregor playing the number-ten role and replacing the Australian playmaker. This kind of game suits Bitton, carpet-slippers and moving the ball with around eight-five percent possession, he doesn’t need to defend, because he’s not a defender, even though he was pushed there when Carl Starfelt off injured with ten minutes remaining. He found it easy, too easy.

Livingston offered nothing in the first-half and little more in the second. Ralston had one of the few chances just before half-time. David Turnbull after an early header towards goal, played him in. Ralston’s swerving left-foot shot was saved on the line by right-back Fitzwater. And Liel Abada had  the final chance of the half, but Stryjek did not had a save to make. The stand-out of the first half was Jota plucking a wayward Ralston pass out of the air. Ralston had a good case for being man on the match. His four early crosses in behind the Livingtson defence put them under pressure. He linked well with Abada and looked in the mood before it became overly predictable.

The gulf in quality between the teams immense, but it doesn’t show in the only statistic that matters—no goals.  Ange Postecoglou tried shaking it up, bring on Kyogo and Mikey Johnston for the last half-hour. He left the Greek striker on (in retrospect, an understandable mistake). Kyogo played the number-ten role. Bringing on James Forest for Jota in the last few minutes of the ninety was the last throw of the dice. These changes would be seen as positive and have worked, if it wasn’t for the Greek striker missing that penalty. After a positive run of results, five wins in five, with some swashbuckling play, a draw. Terrible penalty and terrible result. At the end of the season, these two lost points could haunt us. Massive downer.

Celtic 2—0 St Johnstone

Josip Juranovic comes into the problematic left-back spot, he handled so well at Ibrox. After Callum McGregor’s midweek miss from the penalty spot, it was Juranovic who once again picked up the ball, held his nerve, and sent Clark the wrong way with the second goal in 80 minutes that calmed nerves.

Another clean sheet and another victory. Joe Hart didn’t have a save to make. Celtic dominated the game. St Johnstone had pockets of possession in the first five minutes of each half, without threatening the Celtic goal.

  But the real thrill comes in seeing the Greek striker Giorgos Giakoumakis starting— flanked by Kyogo and Jota. Makes me think back to Celtic’s Three Amigos of the Tommy Burns’ era—Van Hooidjdonk, Cadette, and Di Canio—but hopefully, with a happier ending.

Our new number seven got us and himself off the mark. Jota’s shot is blocked. The ball loops into the air. Callum Booth ball watches allowing Tony Ralston to get the other side of him and fire the ball across goal. It’s taken thirty-four minutes for Giakoumakis to find himself unmarked in front of goal. He finishes with aplomb with a volley.

St Johnstone rely on free-kicks, corners and throw-ins to get them back into the match—it’s worked for them in the past—but even here they fail. Celtic’s defence is a match for them.

Ambrose and Bryson are booked to prevent Celtic breakaways. But bizarrely, the referee books Carter Vickers and Chris Kane, when the latter is clearly seen booting into the Celtic defender when he’s lying on the ground and the ball away from both of them. He should have been off.

Attack against defence, as it often is when teams come to Parkhead and put ten men behind the ball. The difference here was we had so many attacking options. With the game at 1—0 we could take out goal scorer off, Giakoumakis, at the start of the second half and bring on Mikey Johnstone. He was unlucky not to score, hitting the post with almost the last kick of the ball. But it also allowed us to push our icon, Kyogo, through the middle, and it was the Japanese star who won the penalty, being floored in the box.  We can even take him off with a few minutes reaming and the game secured and bring on Abada, who hit the ground running when he first came to the club, with a few well-taken goals. Sympathy vote?  Ajeti for Jota. Attack had by that time created so many chances it was just a matter of how many. We settled for 2—0, clean sheet and next up Hibs away on Wednesday night. Another away win would be nice.

Celtic 1—1 Dundee United

Two similar goals in two minutes were the story of the first-half—and the second. Jota looked to be Celtic’s most dangerous player. A cross from the right and the smallest man on the park, Liel Abada, nicked across his marker and headed it into the net, for the opening goal after sixteen minutes. Two minutes later Dundee United equalised. Ralston lost a tackle. The ball was whipped into the box by Niskanen. Ian Harkes got in front of Startfelt and left Joe Hart no chance with his header.

Albian Ajeti could consider himself unlucky not to score after eight minutes. A ball fizzed in by Ralston and the striker headed it over the bar. He had a similar chance from a Rogic cross in the second-half of a largely anonymous performance. The non-scoring striker missed a sitter from two yards, a minute after United had equalised. The ball played across the goal by Abada and somehow Ajeti scooped it over the bar, when it was easier to score. He skied another chance after being played  in by Jota, but that wasn’t unexpected.

Carter-Vickers bundled into Clark two minutes after Ajeti’s sitter. A clear penalty that wasn’t given.

Josip Juranovic went down injured after twenty-five minutes. Adam Montgomery replaced him. I like the nineteen-year-old Academy prospect, but his first few passes were wayward, and apart from one driving run in the second-half, he offered little. Perhaps, quite simply, like this game, I was expecting too much, too soon. We picked up another few injuries with McCarthy going off at half-time for Soro. More worryingly, goal-scorer Liel Abada also required treatment after a horrendous challenge from the United keeper at the end of ninety minutes. Our two winger’s performances offered supporters hope today.  

Jota, in particular, lights the team up. He whipped a few balls across the six-yard box with no takers. And he looked to get the Celtic win with two shots on goal in the dying minutes of the game, one of them looping onto the bar. The other a weak effort, easily saved.

David Turnbull also hit the bar, just before the half-time whistle. With ten minutes of the game to go, the woodwork denied Rogic. A cross for Abada, a downward header from Jota,  Rogic gets on the end of, and another chance gone.

In the four minutes of extra-time, added to the ninety, United went up the park and had a two-in-one inside the box. Better teams would have scored. A few United players tried to chip Joe Hart in the first and second half, because he played so far out of his goal. Hart also did a fancy half turn to beat a United player closing him down. I hate that kind of stuff. Terrible result, but not unexpected. I’m getting the kind of queasy feeling playing Bayer Leverkusen that I got when West Ham came to play us in our pre-season friendly. Ironically, I predicted Aberdeen, our opponents at Pittodrie next weekend, would finish mid-table because they were too open. Previous manager Derek McInnes took the Walter Smith mould up North. Ten men behind the ball at all times. Celtic are also there for the taking, but with better players. I expect the Germans to win on Thursday, but hope to be wrong. But, on the bright side, I think we’ll be good enough to beat Aberdeen and end our away-day malaise. I certainly hope so. Rangers are stuttering, but we’re falling further behind. That tells its own story.   

Celtic 3—0 Raith Rovers.

Celtic play St Johnstone, the holders, at Hampden in the semi-final. I’m old enough to remember when Raith Rovers beat us in the League Cup in 1994. After the dismal defeat at Livingston, the most important thing wasn’t our performance, but quite simply we win.

 Anthony Ralston comes in, Josip Juranovic drops to the bench, as does Stephen Welsh and Bolingoli. Only Carter-Vickers retains his place in the back-line that lost at Livingston. The much maligned (by me) Starfelt comes back to partner the American international. Adam Montgomery, who I think is our best option, plays on the left with man-on-the-match Jota.

Jota scored in just under 30 minutes. A few minutes earlier, Turnbull had an early free-kick from the edge of the box, which hit the wall. A poor effort. But McCarthy played in Jota, inside the box and he took it on and scored his first goal for Celtic. McCarthy was a surprise selection. He was so poor on Sunday, he wouldn’t have gotten into the Livingston team. Tonight he got pass marks, because his passing was better.

Jota created the second, just before half-time, cutting in and driving it at goal.  MacDonald palms the ball up into the air and Abada in 40 minutes, nipped in and headed the ball into an empty goal. Against a lower division team that had seen little of the ball this should have been game over—and so it proved to be.

David Turnbull picked up the ball and drove at the Raith box, he bent the ball into the net, but McDonald was poor. Three minutes into the second-half, it’s just a matter of how man Celtic will score.

Zanatta booked after a foul on Rogic, and minutes later it’s from yellow to red as he chopped down Ralston on the touchline. Two soft bookings, but he’s off and with half-an-hour to go. We expect to see Giakoumakis—even for this Celtic defence, the game was over.

 But Liam Scales made his Celtic debut. He comes on alongside Josip Juranovic, for Ajeti and Abada. Bitton and Soro replace McCarthy and Rogic. The game peters out with no Greek striker.  Ange Postecoglou explained why, in his post-match interview. Giakoumakis had injured his calf in the warm up, and left for hospital at half-time. Perhaps a cautionary scan and we’ll see him against Dundee United? Ajeti remains our only fit striker, and is holding the line. Playing Jota through the middle didn’t work as was shown here tonight. We lost much of our attacking flair with him in the centre, and he didn’t look comfortable. But needs must. The semi-final is at Hampden. I’m not sure that counts as an away game. With our recent record… well, you know as well as me. Wait and see what Celtic team turns up.  Hopefully, an all-green final before Christmas.