It was not a game for the purist's and fans of total football, but Celtic did what was necessary, rolled up their sleeves and got the dirty work done to claim all three points and a third straight victory. Sometimes, for its own mortality, the beautiful game has to be politely ignored and kept in a safe place, while the ugly hammer out a result.
The early morning 9am kickoff ensured that a strict curfew was imposed on the Celtic squad the night before, which had the sole purpose of keeping blood alcohol to a coherent, legal level. And, what better way is there of clearing the pallet and avoiding the breathalyser from an opposition player, than a Tim Horton's double double?
So, with the senses heightened by a cheap dose of caffeine, Celtic began to congregate in the state of the art changing facilities lavished upon them by the hospitable Eglinton flats. Which, basically consisted of a room the size of a shoe box that wouldn't have been out of place latched onto a wing of Fort Knox. Catering for a nearly full Celtic squad in the small quarters, after the welcome returns of the likes of McCallum, Monaghan and Roberts, verged on the claustrophobic, but demonstrated Celtic'c continuing pursuit of professionalism, on and off the pitch.
In the TSSL's effort to promote woman's right, Globe and Mail kicked off the half, officiated by the unusual honour of a female ref. First they get the right to vote, then equal pay and now they get to boss around 22 grown men, in what can only be described as a relentless pursuit of repressing the vulnerable male population. Next they will be running for office, or driving articulated lorries, is their no end to this feminist juggernaut?
I will be honest, I bitch and moan at ref's regardless of their gender, race or sexual orientation, probably way more than I should. So, I can safely say that when it comes to lamenting the decision's these whistle blowing totalitarians make, prejudices takes a back seat, their is no escaping my, and many others wrath. Unfortunately for the high shorts wearing lady, basking in her 90 minutes of command, frustration grew through both sides as play was stifled by the constant use of the whistle. Clearly, the whistle would take a pivotal role throughout the match.
With that said, the piecing sound of the ref's whistle could not be put to blame for all of the untidy work on display at the Eglinton flats venue. With the ball bobbling around on the hard, but greasy surface, early chances were few and far between. Celtic were missing the artificially enhanced surface of Cherry Beach, and so was my decision to wear indoor footwear instead of studs.
After a good 20 minutes or so of unadulterated scrapping by both sides, a freekick was awarded to Celtic just inside their own half, down the left channel. As both sides jostled for the most strategic position, Globe and Mail insisted on a high line, looking to play the offside trap. The problem with the offside trap is that it leaves a gaping space behind the back line, which can be exploited should in not be executed in a coordinated fashion. And, unfortunately for Globe and Mail, that's exactly what happened. Teague hugged the defensive line, while Carney chipped over the freekick into the acres of space behind the now redundant offside trap. The Globe and Mail defensive line stood like statues, expecting the linesmen flag, only for it to be non forth coming, leaving Teague through on goal, with only the keeper to beat. With the ball bouncing towards the edge of the box, and the cries of off-side now in vain, Teague took fall advantage lobbing the ball audaciously over the keeper, who was caught in no man's land -1 nil to the hoops, get in!
The goal may have been the first real chance for either side, and you would have assumed that it would give Celtic a good foundation to build on, however any signs of an easy stroll for Celtic were put in to perspective when the referee made a ballsy decision in awarding a penalty against Mercier for handball, 10 minutes from the end of the half. It was one of those types of handball's that are sometimes given, and are other times blissfully ignored. But on this occasion, and with the referee looking to stamp her authority on the game, there was only going to be one outcome.
So, for the second game running Celtic were up against a penalty, which gave Fourie another chance to bring out the rubber legs. However, the Globe and Mail striker kept his focus, and coolly finished from 12 yards, giving Fourie no chance.
Celtic will have felt a little hard done by, but their spirits showed no signs of being dampened moments after the equaliser, when Stuckmann drilled in a curling effort from the edge of the 18 yard box, only to be denied by the girth of the post. On closer inspection the foundations of the goal post looked to have been physically shaken, such was the power behind the Giant Germans effort.
The Second half began with the score level, but it was Globe and Mail who showed early promise and initiative. Celtic were miss placing far too many passes, and were welcoming pressure from their opponents. So, it came some what against the run of play though, when Celtic were given a life line. Tenacious midfield Chilean, Gonzalez managed to dig out a shot inside the box, only for it to be blocked by one of the many bodies occupying his route to goal. However, the ricochet fell kindly to Teague, who was on hand to grab his and Celtic's second, forcing the ball under the keepers body from just outside the six yard box.
It was a bitter blow to Globe and Mail's efforts, but they showed great resolve and continued to dominate much of the play despite trailing for the second time in the game. If it were not for the heroics of the ever present Fourie in goal, Globe and Mail would have surely got themselves back in the game. First, and again after another freekick was awarded, Globe and Mail had Fourie at full stretch, after what seemed like a shot destine for goal was tipped around the post. Next, a cross from the Globe and Mail Left wing turned into a dangerous shot, but Fourie was alert to the danger, and again at full stretch tip it over the bar. This was turning out to be a day for the camera's for Fourie, who must have been wishing McGroarty was there to capture what was developing in to a man of the match display.
At the opposite end of the pitch chances had dried up quicker than the greasy surface being played on. Such was the scarcity of opportunities, Curley decided on taking matters in to his own hands by inexplicably checking an opposition player in the centre circle. Such was the velocity of the collision, that it sounded more like a car crash than a tackle. Curley walked away from the incident without a scratch, while the opposition player rolled around on the floor like a salmon out of water. Clearly the sound was worse than the impact. And fortunately with only 10 minutes left on the clock, the referee was lenient on the sleep deprived Curley, no doubt after a few charmful whispers in her ear, deciding the robust challenge warranted a yellow not a red.
With the final minutes on the clock rapidly ticking away, Celtic were under heavy pressure and desperate for the final whistle. Fourie cemented his man of the match accolade with one more match winning save right at the death. Celtic were unable to clear their lines effectively, and their striker was left with a golden opportunity to claim a draw, only for the striker to blast his shot directly at the well placed Fourie. The danger was desperately averted, and this time the referee's whistle did bring an end to the game and not another freekick, much to Celtic's relief.
It won't go down as the prettiest spectacle ever witnessed, but Celtic dug deep and managed a win, when perhaps in previous season they would have dropped points. Its ugly games like this that can have a huge bearing on outcomes come the end of the season. Manager Tibby will want to play down any premature talk of title credentials, given how early it is in the season, but Celtic have shown signs that they can win, and win ugly when they need to. Hopefully in their next fixture against the some what inappropriately named Hooligans Filmworks, Celtic can get back to some pretty football. It will, however, be a stern test given that Hooligans have only conceded two goals so far this season.
Next game 13th June Hooligans Filmworks v Fionn MacCool's Celtic 9am, venue Eglinton flats (NW)