There’s a phrase I’ve not heard recently. Everyone is too up in arms about Celtic getting two soft penalties to remember their usual response to suspect penalties getting given against Celtic.
Yes, I’m differentiating between soft and suspect. When Celtic get a penalty for a foul outside of the box or for a dive when the referee had his back turned, let me know. I’m not about to get upset about getting penalties because Scott Sinclair was given a little pull or Callum McGregor was clumsily bundled over after he beat his marker to the ball.
The fact that both of those are technically fouls, and inside the penalty area so therefore a penalty, seems to have been overlooked by many. The outrage in the media – those same people who usually tell us these things even themselves out – has been ridiculous. It’s almost like they’re paranoid.
And there’s another term that only ever gets thrown one way you’ll note.
Regardless of the decisions, Wednesday night was the closest we’ve come to losing our domestic unbeaten run. The 88th minute penalty equaliser was even later than McGregor’s equaliser against Hibernian at Celtic Park earlier this season – a game where we also had a late shout for a penalty when Sinclair was pulled back but he stayed on his feet.
Wednesday was a night of frustration for the most part, and I don’t just mean for those trying to watch on the much maligned Celtic TV!
Trevor Carson, Motherwell’s goalkeeper, has probably been one of the key players in the two matches between Celtic and Motherwell. In the League Cup final, his saves prevented a Motherwell collapse after they went down to ten men. It could easily have been more than a 2-0 win if not for him. Then on Wednesday night Carson was again in fine form, particular with his first half save from Kieran Tierney.
I don’t doubt he’ll be in form again at Celtic Park today, so Celtic will need to be more clinical to ensure there isn’t a repeat of the close call at Fir Park.
These fixtures aren’t helping our injury list either. I’m sure we’ll want to beat Motherwell in this final game of three against them in quick succession, but you have to wonder if Brendan Rodgers will have one eye on the Anderlecht game next week. That’s probably more important, especially since Aberdeen lost on Wednesday night and play the same opposition on Sunday. The gap between us is now four points with a game in hand, so we could probably afford to slip up again against Motherwell.
I’m sure we’d all rather we didn’t though!
With Moussa Dembele missing out on Wednesday night and still a doubt for these next two games, seeing Patrick Roberts hobbling off at Fir Park was the last thing we needed. He looked magical when he came off the bench at Hampden, and so it’s a bit of a shame that it looks like he’ll be missing for a period again now.
So would you risk your key players against a physical team like Motherwell knowing full well that you have to finish the job against Anderlecht on Tuesday night to ensure European football after Christmas?
Motherwell haven’t fared well at Celtic Park recently. Although they’ve been the team that have come closest to ending our unbeaten run on two occasions now, those results both came at Fir Park. Their visits to Celtic Park last season saw them lose 5-0 in the League Cup, thanks to doubles from Tom Rogic and Moussa Dembele, as well as one from Scott Sinclair. The two home league matches both finished 2-0 – Dembele scoring in both matches, with Sinclair scoring in the first and James Forrest scoring in the second.
And, of course, the biggest win of our 66 unbeaten run came in the very first match when Ronny Deila’s Celtic hammered Motherwell 7-0 on the final day of the 2015/16 season.
That day saw seven different goalscorers, from Tierney’s first senior goal through to Jack Aitchison becoming Celtic’s youngest ever goalscorer with his first touch. In between, Tom Rogic, Mikael Lustig, Stuart Armstrong, Patrick Roberts and Ryan Christie all scored that day too.
I doubt anyone thought that day that we’d be here 566 days later going for our 67th match unbeaten. And for those paying attention to my blogs, if we do that then we really do beat Willie Maley’s domestic record – Glasgow Cup and Charities Cup matches included!
Having said all that, Motherwell are the last Scottish team to have won at Celtic Park. Back in December 2015, Nir Bitton had given Celtic a second half lead before a Louis Moult double – the second from the penalty spot – gave Motherwell all three points.
The hope now is that after two quick fire games we actually have a good understanding of what we have to do to break Motherwell down. Despite Carson’s heroics, we’ve created 21 shots in each game so far. The disappointing aspect has probably been that less than half of those have been on target in each match – 8 at Hampden and 7 at Fir Park.
In contrast, Motherwell have had 12 shots in total across the two games, although the Craig Gordon save from Moult at 1-0 up in the League Cup was undoubtedly the best of those.
You’d like to think we’ll learn the lessons of these first two games and hopefully we won’t be listening to a third consecutive game where the media are moaning about the officials. Although I’m half expecting a string of dodgy decisions to go Motherwell’s way in this final match of the three.
I’m sure then we’ll be hearing far less about them being dodgy and way more about things being evened out over the course of the season.
Krys (Twitter @krys1888)