Celtic had no need to get out of second gear to stroll past The Rangers at Hampden. The first ever clash between Glasgow’s giants and its newest club was a non event as a contest – if it had been a boxing match it would have been stopped before half time.
For the record, the final score was 2 – 0. Leigh Griffiths became the first Celt to score against The Rangers with a fine 10th minute header and a typically accurate Kris Commons strike from outside the box on the half hour was all that needed to secure the victory. Celtic looked as if they were quite content with just the two goals, although Van Dyke and Johanssen both missed very good chances to add to the score. Celtic played some neat possession football – or as much as they could on a pitch that looked like a ploughed field by the end.
I know the SFA has many things to worry about as it attempts to run Scottish football, but for the field of play at a so called National Stadium hosting a major semi final to look like something a Sunday league pub team would expect to play on is very poor indeed. Perhaps they could find someone currently on gardening leave to give them a hand?
And a word for referee Craig Thompson. Well, how about disgrace? Perhaps incompetent? Or maybe hapless? In all seriousness, anyone who performs as badly as this ref did deserves to find himself demoted to officiating in the North of Scotland under 10s Reserve League.
His decision to blow for a free kick to Celtic with Griffiths running through on goal rather than allowing the most obvious of advantages defied any rational explanation. The referee should really have red carded himself at that moment for denying a clear goal scoring opportunity.
And it wasn’t the only time Thompson managed to stop play for no good reason. Add in John Guidetti being brought down and somehow conceding a few kick, probably for letting Lee McCulloch to stamp on top of him. The same McCulloch being allowed to escape punishment for a forearm smash into the back of Griffiths’ head. Foster getting off scot free for hauling Izaguirre to the ground just a minute after picking up a booking. And Griffiths being booked for a fairly muted goal scoring celebration.
But still, these things even themselves up, don’t they?
Celtic performed well, although with little real challenge. Many of the players will have had more strenuous training sessions. Captain Scott Brown led the way with an inspired performance full of energy and desire. Along with the calm and composed Nir Bitton he dominated the midfield from first whistle to last. At the back, Virgil Van Dyke and Jason Denayer strolled through the game.
Anyone watching The Rangers for the first time would have wondered quite how they have managed to reach as high as second place in the Championship. Their collection of journeymen, has beens and never will bes were totally outclassed all day long. The lower league club didn’t looked like scoring at any point, and Celtic goalkeeper Craig Gordon’s perfectly clean jersey at the final whistle was proof of their failure to force him to make even a single save. Indeed the one shot at goal that the Ibrox club was rather charitably credited with was actually a mishit cross that sailed well over the bar.
So the large crowd did not get the spectacle they had perhaps hoped for. Not that the green and white half were bothered greatly as they celebrated a first victory over their new rivals. And the blue half of the stadium seemed to have found an old song book belonging to a liquidated club. Still, being just three years behind the times is probably pretty good for them, with many still appearing to be perpetually fixated on 1690.
Will much be made of the wide range of sectarian songs emanating from one end of the ground? Will mass arrests for offensive behaviour be reported in the media? I’m not holding my breath.
Ronny Deila’s pursuit of trophies in his first season in charge at Celtic Park will now take him and his men back to Hampden next month. I’m sure many will be hoping that Dundee United provide far more of a challenge and contribute to a much better game of football in the final.