Saturday, 21 May 2011

Heading For The Sunlit Uplands....

126th Scottish Cup Final, Hampden: Motherwell 0, Celtic 3

 Celtic won the 126th Scottish Cup Final by overcoming the tactical problems set out by Motherwell, and in the end creating the quality of chances that their superior use of the ball provided to them.  The win was built on Ki-Sung Yeung’s 32nd minute thunderbolt.  Further goals came in the shape of an own goal from Motherwells Steven Craigan and a free kick from Charlie Mulgrew. This win extends Celtic’s record to 35 Scottish Cup wins, is Celtic’s first win in this competition since 2007 and halt’s Celtic’s trophy drought stretching back to the League Cup of 2009.

The game was played in constant torrential rain, the first rainy final since 2005.  As a result a lot of first half was not good.  Celtic had a chance within the first minute when Hooper had a shot that hit the bar, but Hooper was flagged offside.  That apart the first half hour became bogged down in a midfield battle.  Celtic’s Majstorovic was booked for showing studs in a challenge, as was Motherwell’s Lasley a couple of minutes later.  Hammel was clattered by the Celtic captain Scott Brown, who was booked.  Then Ki was booked for a challenge on Lasley, replays showed that Lasley had not been touched by Ki.

Motherwell had been good in depriving Celtic of space, but the first lapse from Motherwell cost them a goal.  Celtic moved the ball down the Motherwell left, the ball came infield to Ki-Sung Yeung who took a touch   before unleashing a shot that flew past Motherwell keeper Randolph.  A crackerjack of a shot, we have been lucky to see goals in the last three cup finals that have been great Hampden moments.   That goal was another one.  Within five minutes, we nearly had another.  Motherwell recovered, and broke forward.  The ball came to Galvin Gunning, who’s shot hit the bar.  The ball fell into space, had a Motherwell player been there, they would have had an excellent chance to score.

Ki's Goal 32nd Minute
For a season blighted by issues surrounding the standard of refereeing, it would be a surprise if we didn’t get one controversy.  Instead we got two as both Celtic’s Majstorovic and then Motherwell’s Craigan escaped bookings when both players handled the ball. Majstorovic handled at the edge of his area, and escaped a second yellow.  Craigan wafted the ball away with his hand.  Unlike Majstorovic’s offence, no free kick was awarded, I suspect that the referee may have been unsighted as subsequent replays showed that Jennings may have obscured the referees view.  The fates would have a much crueller punishment for Craigan,

The second half started brightly as Celtic pushed for a crucial second.  An Izaguirre cross was deflected away, while another cross fell to Hooper, who’s close range back heel was parried away by Randolph.  Samaras then drove into the penalty area only to fluff is chance, despite Hooper being in a better position.  Samaras did not have a good game, he looked disinterested most of the time.  Had he been engaged, Hoopers cross into the box midway through the second half into might have been met by Samaras.  At this point Motherwell were starting to get back into the game, so a second goal would have sealed the game.

Though Motherwell came back into it, they lacked quality possession and crucially someone to provide a bit of creative guile, to be the foil to John Sutton (who was tireless upfront).  This also meant that as the game opened up, Celtic began to get better quality chances.  Commons really should have scored when Brown put him through (pass of the day that one!) and he sped past Randolph only to have Hutcheson clear his shot.  That second goal was coming.

It came with 15 minutes to go.  Substitute Stokes passed to Commons who had ran into the box at an angle.  Commons passed back to Mark Wilson, whose shot took a deflection of Stephen Craigan and into the back of the net, despite the attempts of Hutcheson.  Game over.  To add insult to injury, Celtic claimed a third.  Stokes was fouled by Craigan just outside the box, Charlie Mulgrew hammered home the resulting free kick.

For Celtic, this will be the “what if” season.  What if they had won the League Cup in March, what if they had avoided defeat in Inverness three weeks ago.  I had questioned the logic of Celtic bringing in a rookie manager in the shape of Lennon, considering that rookie managers often fail (Graeme Souness excepted).  Lennon has shown that he is capable of being a good manager.  Yes he is annoying and irritating when talking about referees.  But deep down, we would like our own managers (and I am talking to those of us who don’t support one of the Old Firm) to be as combatitive as Lennon has been.  It will be interesting to see if he can take the next step, which is winning the championship and progress in European competition.

For Motherwell, they would like some managerial stability.  Stuart McCall is the third Motherwell manager in two seasons, Motherwell fans will hope his appointment will be longer term than Jim Gannon & Craig Brown’s tenors were.

So goodbye season 2010/11.  Not one that will be looked back with any joy & pride in future years, and one that leaves a very bitter aftertaste.

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