If the previous game against Hooligan was a war, Sunday's TSSL League cup game with Morton was the Atom bomb. Going in to the encounter, with absentees, injuries and a general Sunday fatigue feeling, Celtic knew it would be a physical encounter but this surpassed any prior expectations by a good twisted limb or two.
At 6.15pm, location Eglinton Flats South East Field, where Celtic have enjoyed many a cup victory in glories years past, the black clouds rolled in and a dark sinister mood swept through the Celtic squad as they prepared for battle. Final good byes to loved one's were emotionally embraced, as a return from the field was no guarantee, and Celtic took to their trenches ready to lock horns with the enemy.
Celtic's defense, while absent of the much needed commanding presence of Stuckmann, had a ready made replacement in the returning Mercier, able to step up to the plate and refortify the back line. Also, Celtic were graced with the defensive presence of Chisholm, whom had gone AWOL on Saturday following a rumored heavy drinking session the night before. The antics were heavily documented by both kiss and tell cougar's and the Saturday Tabloid papers, making Nicklas Bendtner look like a light weight in comparison.
While the storm brewed overhead and threatened ominously, Celtic drew a line in the sand (yes there was actual sand on the bobbly pitch) and dug their trenches, looking to gain and protect territory at every opportunity. However, Celtic's reserves were soon tested, as little over 10 minutes on the clock, Cetlic medics had to deal with the first fallen comrade. Teague, who naively tried to show some finesse in the proceedings by turning an opposition player, was rudely brought crashing down to earth, proving there was no place for fancy tricks as far as Morton were concerned. A twisted knee was dished out to Teague for his trouble, which left the Striker on the floor screaming like a girl in sheer agony. The initial pain, which could probably have been heard from Eglinton flats NW pitch, may not have caused as much damage as first feared, but it will be a race to be ready for the next league fixture.
If the Morton tactics were not already abundantly obvious, they were now crystal clear. Instead of playing anything close to eye catching flowing football, Morton reverted to hard nosed tactics, kicking lumps out of players, not ball, suffocating any decent Celtic play. Celtic kept their discipline though, and didn't lower themselves to the Morton standard, patiently looking for openings with the now rotated front line of Curley, Imnaishvili and player Manager Tibby.
The First half ended with both sides only managing one decent effort on goal. First, Monaghan whipped a ball across the face of the goal after great work down the right flank, then, at the opposite end a Morton set piece struck from all of 30yards threatened to creep inside the post, had it not been for the alert Fourie who tipped the effort expertly around the post. For all the Morton possession, their intimidating one dimensional tactics (I'm not bitter eh?) were failing to yield any significant return, which only served to motivate Celtic during the half time interval.
Celtic, steadied by the calming words of manager Tibby's half time speech, were confident that if they stuck to their game plan, opportunities would come their way and Morton would only grow in frustration. And, the second half proved just that.
Both McCallum and Bredin were finding plenty of joy down the Celtic left wing, mostly due to the gaping space their gobby right back was leaving, as he spent much of his time camped in the Celtic half. Between the Celtic pair, on at least two occasions dangerous balls sped across the six yard box, with Tibby unfortunate not to apply the finishing touch to one of them. Had the crosses favoured his right foot, surely the Albion fanatic would have had his second goal of the season.
However, any feelings of a missed opportunity were soon dispelled, after Morton failed to recognise the danger the Celtic left wing was proving to be. Chisholm, deep in the Morton half with his back to goal, took one touch to pivot and then with his second curled in a lush cross right in to the danger area, which was just begging to be put it to the back of the net. Bredin, who had been threatening to score all weekend, duly accepted Chisholm's exquisite invitation nodding the ball past the helpless Rooney look-a-like, Morton Goal Keeper.
Morton were physically shell shocked, and while they still enjoyed a fair amount of possession, looked incapable of mustering up the kind of opportunity that was going to threaten a second consecutive clean sheet for the hoops.
Eventually a ceasefire was called by the diplomat with the whistle, and Celtic came off the field buoyed by a first leg victory. Morton will be looking for revenge in the return leg, and Celtic will once again have to step up their game if they wish to keep their defense of League Cup intact. YNWA