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.  

Livingston 1—0 Celtic

Defence against attack and the defence won. Celtic dominated the first-half, with three Livngston players booked in the first 20 minutes, but we didn’t have a shot on goal. Tom Rogic was head and shoulders above every other player on the park in the early jousts. But yet again, a simple ball into the Celtic box, Stephen Welsh, in for Starfelt, allowed Andrew Shinnie to get in front of him and fire past Joe Hart into the roof of the net. Celtic, one down, after 25 minutes with Livingston’s first attack.

And it could have been 2—0 to the home team. Just before half-time, Fitzwater outjumps a static Celtic defence and heads towards goal. Hart gets an instinctive hand to it and gets the ball over the bar.

Turnbull who had a free kick which was easily saved by the keeper in the opening minutes, should have scored just before half-time. Rogic picked out Ajeti. The Swiss striker cushioned the ball for Turnbull to strike from eight yards, but under pressure, he knocked it past the post. Carter-Vickers had a few headers, which he won in the opposition box, but never looked like scoring. Livingston, who have only picked up one point this season, looked comfortable. Neither of our wingers doing much and Ajeti starved of service in the first-half, not having a strike at goal.  

An unchanged Celtic team came out for the second half. No place for Giorgos Giakoumakis, not even on the bench. McCarthy in for Soro seems a no-brainer. The Irish international, with 45 caps, misplacing three passes in a row and, generally, had a poor game was taken off. Soro on for McCarthy after sixty minutes. Neither the Ivorian or Irish midfielder looking fit for purpose.

And a triple substitution.  Rogic was replaced by Mikey Johnston. Stephen Welsh, the young Scottish international unlucky with a header from a Turnbull corner before being taken off, was replaced by Nir Bitton.

Ajeti looked lively. He had a few headers and shots saved by the Polish keeper, Stryjek. Turnbull had the most shots on goal, but never looked like scoring. Bolingoli got booked (who’d have thought he’d have been back in the team?) but he wasn’t the worse. In the 90th minute, the Spur’s loan player, Carter-Vickers shot from 25 yards out, but it was wide of the post. Stryjek flapped at a Johnstone cross, and almost scored an own-goal, but Fitzwater cleared off the line.

Celtic lose again at the Tony Macaroni Arena. All the early season good will is sucked right out of us, by a defeat to a bottom-of-the-table team. Man of the match for me, Livingston’s captain, Devlin. That about sums it up.  Complete and utter fuck-up.  Celtic  still looking for their first away win since 14th February. No excuses, please. Another winnable game—we lose.