How The Battle Was Won….

This blog has been delayed due to the celebrations on Sunday evening affecting me well into yesterday but it was very much worth it!!!  Last week I concluded that Celtic had more quality within their team than Rangers, however, this had to be proven on the park come kick-off on Sunday.  Bhoy was that done!  As performances go Celtic were fantastic for the majority of the game so in this blog I decided to have a look at how the battle was won…..
Lennon, the manager who could not win a big match according to the media, went into his 5th Old Firm match boasting a record of only having lost once to Walter Smith.  Lennon’s selection sprung something of a surprise with Samaras favoured up front with Hooper in place of Stokes.  Celtic appeared to line up in a 4-4-1-1 formation however this often appeared to be close to a 4-3-2-1 as Commons, Hooper and Samaras interchanged.  Typically Izaguirre also lent his own support to the attacking moves as both he and Commons terrorised Whittaker on the Rangers right.

Celtic 4-4-1-1

Rangers were unsurprising in their 4-5-1 formation with Kyle Bartley, 19 year old on loan from Arsenal, adopting the role usually taken up by Lee McCulloch in front of Weir and Bougherra offering them some protection.  This selection was not that surprising as Rangers had shown their hand in their previous SPL match against Motherwell.  Diouf started on the right but tended to float in-field and over to the left, a move which cost Rangers the first goal.
Celtic – 1 (Hooper, 17mins) Rangers – 0
Unsurprisingly it was Gary Hooper who opened the scoring after a pretty unsettled opening 17 minutes.  Kyle Bartley had picked up an early booking following a shocking challenge on Scott Brown.  This was not Bartley’s only contribution of note as he was in the thick of things for Celtic’s first goal.

Diouf has wandered, Whittaker has to cover and Bartley fails to follow Commons...

Following a series of passes Celtic launched an attack down their left.  Diouf and Naismith were both over on Celtic’s right and Mulgrew slipped the ball out to Izaguirre.  Whittaker then found himself having to cover across, however, as he pushed on to Izaguirre, Commons made a run in behind which Bartley failed too match choosing instead to point at him indicating to Bougherra or Weir that they should pick him up.

Bartley has still failed too follow Commons and Izaguirre slips ball down the line past Whittaker....

With Bartley still pointing at Commons but failing to make any effort to follow him the ball played down the line by Izaguirre allows Commons to attack their back line.  As I mentioned in my last blog, one major weakness for Rangers is the ageing Davie Weir, however, McCulloch has afforded him a degree of protection which Bartley has failed to do here.

Bougherra now gets dragged over, Bartley is still lost and Hooper is in space....

With Whittaker caught upfield Bougherra now has to come across to Commons with Bartley still appearing uncertain what to do.  Hooper intelligently hangs back in the space vacated by Bartley.  As Commons slips the ball inside, Hooper takes a great first touch which I believe would have evaded any defender before steadying himself and slotting the ball under the advancing McGregor.

Celtic – 2 (Hooper, 27mins) Rangers – 0

Celtic appeared a lot hungrier following them taking the lead and as has been typical of recent weeks the midfield trio of Brown, Kayal and Ledley dictated the play and tempo with assured touches and passing combined with a high level of energy.  Celtic players appeared both technically and physically superior to Rangers, a conclusion which was highlighted in abundance with Celtic’s second goal.  A throw in from Whittaker to Jelavic saw him take a poor touch and allow Izaguirre to nip in and knock the ball to Samaras.  Rather than be content with his lot Izaguirre then bombed past Whittaker who was left in his wake.  With Whittaker again caught upfield the space in behind was there to be exploited.

Hooper and Izaguirre are both behind Samaras but start out on a foot race with Rangers defence...

Samaras holds on to the ball a bit too long for my liking but releases it just in time to Izaguirre who is played (just!) onside by Weir who fails to step up in time.  Both Papac and Bartley have a start on Hooper but fail to match the strikers desire to get in to the box and as Izaguirre squares the ball there is only going to be one winner.

Hooper has beaten Bartley and waits in anticipation for Izaguirre's cross....

Celtic again reap the rewards from Whittaker being caught out of position and Bartley’s inexperience in matching Hooper’s run allowing Celtic to take a 2-0 lead.  The energy and pace in the attack for the 2nd goal was in contrast to the patient build up before exploding forward of the 1st but show the versatile nature of the players.

Celtic – 3 (Commons, 70mins) Rangers – 0

Over the course of the game Rangers had offered very little threat to Fraser Forster with only a couple of half chances for Jelavic and a weak attempted chip by Diouf worthy of note.  Rangers stuck to their formation and were reluctant to push on despite trailing in an important match.  Walter Smith surprisingly remained by Ian Durrant’s side in the stand leaving the touchline management to McCoist and McDowall much to the fury of many Rangers fans.  The icing on the cake for Celtic came after a weak Papac clearance was collected by Celtic’s ever-running midfield.  The ball was shuttled to Commons who sidestepped Bougherra before hitting a shot with his weaker right foot which made McGregor look silly but had the Celtic fans embrace in a 50,000 strong huddle!!!!

Rangers were very much outplayed and out-thought by Celtic who deservedly extended their lead at the top of the league to 8 points.  Talk of the title has rightly been played down but if the team continue to play the way they are and key players remain injury free then the potential for this is high.

Hail Hail

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2 Responses to How The Battle Was Won….

  1. Sean says:

    Brilliant blog post. Love the detailed image use. Enjoyed reading that.

    • Thanks Sean, comment is much appreciated given how new I am to this – hopefully bring blogs on all things Celtic from my own perspective but obviously up for debate – thanks again!

      Hail Hail

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