Dundee 2—4 Celtic

Thursday’s 3-2 win against Ferencvaros wasn’t a fair reflection of Celtic’s overall superiority. The same team started today at Dundee, with a similar result. Nobody bothers talking about Leigh Griffiths (or Albian Ajeti) now. Seventy minutes gone against the Hungarians and we brought on a completely different forward line. We did much the same today. That’s progress.

 Jota, after his midweek exploits, underlined his value to the team with the opening goal in eight minutes (which was really six minutes, because for some reason Celtic fans flung tennis balls onto the pitch and stopped the game before it had really started). Tony Ralston’s shot had hit a Dundee defender and the ball hit the post. Jota was there to follow in and hoist the ball into the net.

Kyoga was rested against Livingston and scored a double today. His first, and Celtic’s second, after peeling away from his marker, after nineteen minutes. Even twenty minutes in it looked like game over.

Dundee brought themselves back into a game that Celtic dominated, with around eighty-percent possession, with their first attack on twenty-three minutes. Mullen and McMullen combined to make mugs of the Celtic defence, who once again failed to defend from a cross ball. McMullen scoring from close in with a header, and becoming entangled with Josip Juranovic in the net, with both players being booked.

Celtic had thirteen corners, nine in the first-half. As Sutton pointed out, we simply don’t score enough with that advantage. Carter-Vickers came closest in thirty-six minutes with a free header from six yards.  Legzdins palmed the ball that hit him over the bar. On the cusp of half-time, Welsh missed a sitter. Unmarked, six yards out, with a free header, he guided it past the post.

Celtic’s half-time lead did not reflect their superiority. Other half-chances, such as Abada looking to play in Kyogo on two occasions, just didn’t come off.

A quick-fire double at the beginning of the second-half should have finished the game. Ralston once again the provider, and Jota once again the scorer from an awkward angle.

Two-minutes later, Jota the provider and Kyogo the scorer. The Japanese forward hitting the ball first time and placing it into the corner of the net. He took a bit of a knock from Sweeney and minutes later and was substituted.

Our defence once more showed its vulnerability. The other side of the Sutton equation: eight out of nine goals in the Scottish Premier League conceded from cross balls. Juranovic steps aside as Joe Hart comes out to punch a looping cross. The former England keeper has been a big plus, but made a complete hash of it here, it almost counted as an assist as Ashcroft headed into an empty net to make it 4—2 with fifteen minutes remaining.

Celtic went from us wondering how many they would score—to seeing it out. Man-of- the-match Jota was unlucky not to score with a solo effort before being substituted. Giakoumakis had a couple of chances, one from a Forrest cut-back from which the Greek striker chipped over the bar, when he really should have been scoring. But Jota and Kyogo had done enough to guarantee us a deserved away win, but should have been a more comfortable but for very poor defending.

Hibernian 1—3 Celtic.

Easter Road has been tough for us in the league. No away wins in eight seasons. But not tonight. Celtic totally dominant in the first-half and see out the second-half. For a change, we score from free-kicks, but true to form, concede too. Fourteen-minutes in, Tony Ralston started the party. Free-kick edge of the box. Ralston unmarked at the back post, keeps his head and powers in David Turnbull’s pass. Great header. Great goal.

Our second goal is another free kick. We don’t score enough from corners, considering we average around ten-to-one against most teams we play. Here David Turnbull simply whips it into the box and Carter-Vickers volleys home. Simple. Half an hour in, two set pieces, and two goals.

Giakoumakis drops to the bench, Kyogo plays through the middle (as expected) and scores, as expected from a Jota cutback after 24 minutes to make it 3—0, and it looks like game over. But yet again, we should have had more. Kyogo himself should have had more, squaring when he should be shooting three minutes later.  It’s great to see Mikey Johnston back—and starting. We’re beginning to pick up a bit of momentum, slicing through the Hib’s defence at will.

Winning four games on the bounce, with no goals conceded, until with Hib’s first corner of the game, and with fifteen minutes of the first-half remaining—and some Hibs’ fans leaving the ground—Boyle scores with a free—scuffed—header.

With almost total domination of the ball, it seems Hibs can’t get up the park. But two minutes after Ralston’s opener, Murphy plays in Joe Newell. From six-yards our goalie makes a crucial save.

Hart made an equally crucial save in the second-half. Hibs were dominant, but unconvincing. Doyle-Hayes plays the ball beyond the last man and gets behind the Celtic line with Ralston playing Murphy on. With 15 minutes to go if Murphy scored it could have been tricky. Hart makes himself tall and saves—yet again.

But the home side’s goal gives Hibs a dog’s chance. They should have been out of the game.

Tom Rogic, who had been running the show, unfortunately, got injured just before half-time and was replaced by the more defensive Nir Bitton.

 The focus in the other end of the city is on Walter Smith with a minute’s silence before the start of the game. We certainly hoped Aberdeen would honour his legacy by sitting in deep and Broonie scoring a breakaway winner after a dour defensive display, with their goalkeeper unbeatable.  But before the game we’d have taken a draw.

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 2—0-FERENCVAROS

3.30pm kick-off on a Thursday afternoon seems a time for school-football matches or reserve-team fixtures, but an almost full Parkhead showed how much we love European competitions. We’re in the second tier and whoever wins the head-to-head between both teams is likely to drop into the third-tier of European competition. Adam Montgomery came in for Bolingoli, the only change in the team that won at Motherwell. Celtic had similar possession here in the first-half, with two-thirds possession, but with far fewer chances. Jota came closest, with almost twenty minutes gone, with an angled drive Dibuzo tipped over the bar. Stacks of corners. But here’s the rub, we don’t look like scoring from corners, but we look like conceding.  Ferencvaros created a chance of their own, with a little help from Montgomery. The defence backed off and Montgomery gave Uzuni a chance to shoot from inside the box. Joe Hart made a decent save. It was a warning.

Samy Mmaee and Tony Ralston were both booked when the former kicked out at Kyogo. He didn’t kick him hard enough to get sent off. Sutton argued ‘a kick is a kick’ meaning a red card, but it was yellow.

The Japanese icon opened the scoring for us, fourteen minutes into the second half. Jota created it with a sweeping pass from the Celtic half. An exquisite first touch, a look up, and he dinked it in past the keeper and near the right-hand post.

We’ve had a couple of clean sheets recently, but were at our Keystone Cops best here as we almost conceded an equaliser immediately. Uzuni whips a dangerous ball into the six-yard box. Carl Starfelt is standing off Mmaee as he looks ready for the tap-in. But Ralston slides in to clear. Joe Hart also bailed him out when he dithered and made a back pass picked up by Uzuni. 2—0 up by then and there was more room for these kind of errors we’ve come to expect from Starfelt.

  Montgomery got us a penalty when he was brought down just inside the area by Wingo. Despite Celtic’s dominance, he too, didn’t have a great game. He’d earlier been booked after being on the wrong side of a winger, and his passing was erratic. When he limped off to be replaced by Liam Scales, it wasn’t a bad substitution.

Callum McGregor misses from the spot, or the keeper makes a good save? Either way, mid-way through the second-half, Celtic miss a glorious opportunity to put themselves out of the away team’s reach. His next pass went to the opposition. But Cameron Carter-Vickers does enough to prevent the counter-attack.

Most Celtic managers choose to substitute Tom Rogic after around 70 minutes, especially when we’re protecting a lead. Nir Bitton seems to be the man chosen for the job now. James McCarthy seems simply to have disappeared. But we also had a big substitution in us—Giorgos Giakoumakis. He replaced Liel Abada, who worked hard (that’s the minimal).  Giakoumakis gives us physical presence. Hart also took to pinging some balls from his goal mouth.

The Greek striker showed what he’s all about with a chest down in the box, holding off a defender and a shot that ballooned over the bar. He’ll score goals. Lots of goals.

With fifteen minutes remaining, with Giakoumakis lurking, David Turnbull scored after going to hit the ball with his right foot, the ball hitting his left foot. The keeper coming out of the goal and he’s tackled by a Ferencvaros defender and the ball ends up in the net. After his wonder goal at Fir Park, this was the antithesis. Not that it matters.

Turnbull should have scored another. Jota played him in. He’s one-on-one with the keeper, but slides it past the post.

Kyogo goes off and Mikey Johnston comes on, and he looked lively. With the game going to added time he played in Jota. But the Portuguese winger hit the side netting, when he should have scored.   

Fine margins. Celtic deserved to win and they did. Certainly we’ll go to Hungary next Thursday and attack. Kyogo will start through the middle, but there is a case for Giakoumakis. Jota is first pick, but Abada is going to feel the pressure of Mikey Johnston, or a tactical switch with Kyogo moving wide. We await Christopher Julien’s return. Starfelt looks the obvious candidate to go, but Carter-Vickers isn’t a loan signing I’d particularly want to keep.   

Motherwell 0—2 Celtic.

Celtic slick and sloppy. Joe Hart nearly gifted the home team a start in the first five minutes. His Cruyff-turn away from an attacker to try and play another pass out of defence rather than boot it up the park doesn’t inspire confidence. David Turnbull’s wonder goals always help our team to be more of the former rather than the latter. Boli Bolingoli returns to the team during a period of games that sees us, bizarrely, playing a European game on a Tuesday afternoon in the coming week. Rogic replaced Nir Bitton from the team that defeated Aberdeen at Pittodrie, but in role reversal the Australian was subbed for the Israeli after his usual 70 minutes. The nomadic ex-Celt Tony Watt was causing a few problems to our central defence pairing. After ten minutes he whipped a ball across goal after holding Starfelt off on the edge of the box. No takers

Jota hardly had a hit of the ball before he scored in 17 minutes. Celtic stole the ball away from the Motherwell midfield. In a slick breakaway attack, Rogic split the defence. The Portuguese winger, who scored the winner against Aberdeen, continued where he left off. He took the ball in his stride and blasted it in the left-hand side of the goal.

Ange’s Plan A to attack and Plan B to attack even more, is always made easier when we score first. We looked more dangerous when Motherwell attack and left space for the midfield and forwards to work.

Just before half-time we had what seemed a lengthy delay for referee Willie Collum to sub himself—there’s a masonic joke there somewhere.

The second-half had Jota failing to connect properly from a great cross from Tony Ralston. When we play quality teams, I usually say if we get a second we’ve got a fifty-fifty chance of snatching a draw, but usually I’m wrong. In that I’m consistent.

For goal of the season, it’s got to be Turnbull at his old stomping ground. Over 25 yards out, he cut in from the left and let fly. The ball zipped into the top right-hand corner. It’s one of those strikes you see played on computer games. Liam Kelly, in the Motherwell goal, could only turn his head to watch, like the rest of us. Turnbull showed class by refusing to celebrate. But he did crack a smile. He’s not being playing at his best recently, but was neat and tidy here, with a bit of spectacular thrown in.

Celtic looked the team more likely to score, but midway through the second-half, the referee waved away an appeal for a Motherwell penalty after the ball seemed to have struck Bolingoli’s hand in the box. Would Willie Collum have given it? Discuss.

Giorgos Giakoumakis replaced Liel Abada with twenty minutes to shine. The Greek striker had one half chance were he went for the spectacular overhead kick, but was nowhere near scoring. Perhaps the most pleasing aspect was with five minutes remaining was the way he plucked a ball from the air and held off a defender with ease, forcing him to foul. That’s something our attack has been missing. Physicality.

Kyogo went out to the left wing. He was replaced by Mikey Johnstone for the last ten minutes. I like Mikey. And like the Celtic team, he sometimes looks like a world beater or a Keystone Cop wearing someone else’s boots. He was unlucky not to score in the last few minutes. A free header at the back post which sailed over the bar the most noticeable chance for Motherwell.  But the home team looked most dangerous when we gifted them the ball in our half of the park. We had a rub of the green today, long may it continue. Two goals. Two away wins and counting.

Celtic 0—4 Bayer Leverkusen.

None of my mates thought we’d win tonight (perhaps I should use mate, singular). A draw would have delighted us. We can’t score goals and concede at every opportunity. One win in six games. Against a Dundee United, mid-table Scottish team, we looked vulnerable. Against a German team with far better players, we feared we could face the West Ham scenario again. We feared a thrashing. The return of our captain, Callum McGregor a godsend. Kyogo Furuhashi leading the line an unexpected blessing.

In the first few minutes it was end to end. Leverkusen had a goal disallowed for offside. Kyogo rounded the keeper, Hradecky, and looked sure to put Celtic one up. Tah came in on the Japanese international’s blind side and put the ball out for a corner. The Finish keeper was hard to beat all evening—only something exceptional would get past him.

Tom Rogic has a shot that the keeper puts over the bar. Adam Montgomery plays a ball across the Bayer box but Liel Abada doesn’t get on the end of it. Twenty minutes in and even, the much maligned Carl Starfelt, has a descent effort that the Bayer keeper is forced to save.

Twenty-five minutes in and Parkhead is silenced. David Turnbull is caught in two minds clearing a ball on the Celtic touchline. Bakker nips in front of him and plays a diagonal ball across the six-yard box. Hincapie beats Hart, but Montgomery gets a foot to it, but directs it into the net.

Celtic punch-drunk. Commentator Chris Sutton remarks some of our home town players were hiding and it was difficult to argue with him. Unfortunately, Ralston wasn’t hiding. He gifted Bayer the second goal ten minutes after their first. Dithering on the ball in front of a static back-line. Wirtz one-touch finish made it all look too easy. Celtic on the ropes until half-time.

Celtic went for it at the start of the second-half. Kyogo almost pulled a goal back, holding off a defender and bending a ball in at the post. Hradecky got his fingertips to it. Bayer’s keeper followed that up with a good save from Jota. Ten minutes into the second half and Celtic look as if they might have a goal in them.

Thirteen minutes in and Turnbull goes down in the box, after a challenge from ex-Celt Frimpong. Not a penalty. Frimpong didn’t have the easiest night. He created a couple of gilt-edged chances, but Celtic’s best player, Jota, generally, got the best of him—when attacking.

Seventeen minutes into the second-half and it is game over. Leverkusen get a penalty, when the referee decides the ball hit Cameron Carter-Vickers’ arm and booked the central-defender.  Alario makes it 3-0.

Bayer with a game against top-of-the-table Bayern, at the weekend, bring on around six or seven subs (I lost count). Kyogo finds time to miss another sitter, before he’s taken off. Abada misses a good chance too.

Giakoumakis makes his debut for the last fifteen minutes, but barely gets a kick. Hart makes a world-class save from a downward Shick header with a few minutes remaining. The Bayer substitute the ripped Scotland to shreds can think himself unlucky not to score.

Amine Adli scores the fourth goal, four minutes after the ninety, running beyond a static Celtic defence and hammering the ball into the top corner past Hart.

Celtic were simply outclassed, found wanting all over the pitch. Hart and Jota get pass marks. Kyogo? That’s a tough one. Four chances, no goals. Turnbull sold a goal and just didn’t play. Ralston also sold a goal. You could see his effort, but sometimes effort isn’t enough. Hradecky showed him how it should be done. Sheer class, attacking and defending. We want to play like Manchester City, but we can’t defend and aren’t scoring. This was as close to our first team as you’ll get. Certainly, Christopher Julien is better than Starfelt. I’m better than Starfelt. But the problem doesn’t lie with the Swede international. Good teams find it easy to score against us. So do mediocre teams. Livingston, bottom of the Premier league at the time, beat us 1—0. The good news is I’m sure we’ll beat Aberdeen at Pittodrie. Not totally sure, but pretty sure. They’re wide open as well. And if we can score three or four, we might get better than a draw. If we can hang on to Rangers’ slipstream we’ve an outside chance of the league because they too are stuttering, just not as badly as us. In the Europa league we’ll be lucky to pick up more than a point.

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.  

Real Betis 4—3 Celtic

Celtic lose 4—3 in Seville to Real Betis, after being 2—0 up and conceding four goals in two, two minutes spells, before and after half-time. I didn’t know much about Real Betis. Usually, we struggle against Spanish teams, by Spanish teams we usually mean Barcelona. In the first thirty minutes, we saw more of the ball than we did in all the combined games against the best club team in the world. In fact, I thought we were Barcelona. We ripped Real Betis to shreds and they couldn’t get the ball off us. We played like Spaniards. All over the park, we were better. João Pedro Neves Filipe (Jota) was almost in on goal after only two minutes.

Jota, who played on the right, had a good case for man of the match, before tiring late in the game. He jinked past the full back and flung a ball in. Albian Ajeti nicked in front of his marker to bundle the ball into the net with his hip. It was three goals in two games for the striker.  But the referee blew for handball. A long wait from VAR before the goal was finally awarded with thirteen minutes on the clock. Ajeti had already tried his luck with an easy save from the keeper, but this one counted.

Hart made a couple of decent saves from Fakir before we scored out second goal. Ones you’d expect our captain to make. Ismaila Soro had been booked and he made another wild challenge—he should really have been taken off. Tom Rogic’s magic feet fashioned another chance for Ajeti before the Swiss striker won us a penalty. Bravo wiped him out. VAR checked for Ajeti being offside before he was played into the box by Rogic.

I’m not sure who the designated penalty taker is now that Edouard—the serial penalty misser—is away, but Josip Juranovic stepped up. Playing left back or right back, he seems unfazed. It was one of those penalties where the keeper had no chance. 27 minutes in and Celtic are in—I—wonderland.

Here’s the thing, playing superb, but I don’t think a two-goal lead is enough. We had our own two-minute spell. Jota is picked out again. Coming in from the right, he tries to dink the ball over Bravo, but it falls flat, he stick out a hand and easily saves it. 3—0 and that might have been enough. Even then, Ajeti is first to the rebound, but flaps and mishits. He sends the ball back towards the goalkeeper and not the goal.

A minute later, Juan Miranda hits the Celtic post. It’s a shoot-out we’re winning until we lose. Betis score two in two minutes. The ball ricochets around the penalty box, the Celtic defence fails to clear and Miranda finds himself six yards from goal, the ball at his feet. He beats Hart. 32 minutes gone and Celtic need to knuckle down.

Pellegrini’s team that haven’t been in the match equalise in 34 minutes. Juanmi scores a tap in.  Carter-Vickers fails in his attempt to play off-side, but overall it’s hard to blame the Spur’s loanee. He had quite a good game. I find it difficult to criticise any of the team, even though we lost two more goals.

 Rogic created the best of the early second-half chances. He picked out Ajeti in the area, but he took too long to hit it and was closed down.

48 minutes gone, Miranda is finding a lot of space down Ralston’s right. He sends a ball across the six-yard box. Juanmi slides in, but can’t get a toe to it.

Sergio Canales works down the same flank two minute later. Borja Iglesias is allowed to runs across the front of our defence. There’s enough pace on the ball, he flicks it with the outside of his boot away from Hart at the near post. Five-minutes into the second half and Celtic for the first time are behind.

Two minutes later its capitulation. Juanmi claims his second goal of the night. Everyone knows Celtic can’t defend corners. But I’d classify this as unlucky. The ball is cleared to the edge of the box. Juanmi takes a touch on his chest. He fires in off the far post through a ruck of players. Hart, the Celtic captain, is another who played well. He had no chance, and it was one of those shots he could have taken on 1000 times and only scored once—when it mattered.

There was no surprise with Soro being taken off to be replaced by McCarthy, but the game looked beyond us. But I’m a big fan of the dog’s chance. Ajeti met Rogic’s cross and flashed a great header into the net, but he was clearly offside.

But as with Jota in the first half, the Portuguese winger beat his man again and flung in a cross. Rogic catches it sweet at the back post. Juanmi’s effort goes in. Rogic’s comes off the post.

Twenty minutes remaining, Betis bring on three substitutes, and use their full complement of five. Celtic have no firepower on the bench. Jota plays on, despite showing signs of cramp.  

With two minutes of the ninety remaining, we get a consolation goal. We hope for more than that, but that’s what it proved. Turnbull flings in a free kick. Ralston attacks it and scores. Celtic score three goals, but lose four.

Disappointing, but not surprising. Celtic continue with their away losing streak, but this seems even more unlucky than at Ibrox. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad. As the season continues we’ll be able to answer more fully. Still early days, but I can’t see us picking up many points in the Europa league. We’re too open, but we’re in a far better place than under Lennon.  We’re no longer stagnating and going backwards. It’s forward or burst.

Celtic 3—0 Ross County.

We hoped for goals, but in the first-half we didn’t see any. Ross County came with the Rangers’ game-plan, win a corner and win the game. Celtic made several changes to the team that lost at Ibrox. No Kyogo, no Edouard, no Christie,  no Ralston and no Welsh. Taylor came back into the team, but was replaced in the second-half by Adam Montgomery. Kyogo’s goals in recent matches have given us the edge, so obviously he was a big miss. But Albian Ajeti hit two striker’s goals.

Ajeti had a clear sight of goal, a one-on-one with Ross Laidlaw, which he missed after twenty-five minutes. Turnbull also hit the side netting. Abada hit the bar twice and should have scored with a superb pass inside from Rogic. Jota cut inside, after 40 minutes and the keeper made a comfortable save from his shot.

In the first-half, the former Benfica player looked the best of the newcomers. Cameron Carter-Vickers looks comfortable on the ball and he’s a big boy, although not the tallest, which is how we’ve been found out in most of the games last season (and this season at Ibrox). Juranovic played on the right, and Taylor went back to the left-back slot. The Croatian, as he showed at Ibrox, isn’t fazed on the ball and is a quality addition. Starfelt, however, remains Starfelt.

Ross County, like Rangers at our last away game, had around twenty-percent-possession in the first-half, but created three chances—that weren’t corners of free-kicks—and required toe pokes into the net. Breakaways, usually down the left. Their game plan to frustrate Celtic was working.

Albian Ajeti’s first goal, a flying header inside the six-yard box, from an Abada cross on the seventieth-minute, put us 2—0 up, and made sure the game was safe.  

But in many ways, the game hinged on a deflected long-range shot from Cameron Carter-Vickers, which looped over the Ross County keeper, after sixty-four minutes, when the away team were beginning to look comfortable.

Then a save from Joe Hart minutes before our second goal. Ross County forward, Charles-Cook had switched from the left wing to the right wing. He got the better of Juranovic a few times (which hints at defensive worries) and he hung a ball up at the back post. The County forward should have scored, but Hart kept us ahead. We went up the park and got the second goal. Massive.

Hart took the captain’s armband from Tom Rogic—who’d be given it be McGregor—when the Australian went off. Hart wore John Thompson’s name on his back today, in remembrance of the Celtic keeper who died after a head knock from Rangers player Sam English at Ibrox, 5th September 1931. The story of three captains shows who’s who in the Celtic pecking order.

I’m a fan of Montgomery and he created the third goal for Ajeti with five minutes of the ninety minutes remaining. A surging run from the young Scot, a ball into the box. Ajeti with a striker’s finish. He’s holding the centre-forward jersey now, and I’m trying on my old chant for size, ‘Ajeti puts the ball in the net-ti.’

We were exposed at the back a few times. And looked lethargic before the first goal. Jota faded out of the game in the second-half. Cameron Carter-Vickers won man-of-the-match. A good day for the debutants, overall—and Ajeti. Any victory is a good victory. We’ll be more tested in Seville on Thursday, Europa League duty, where, ironically, twenty-one-years ago we lost, but remember fondly.