Sunday, 19 July 2009

Sierra's Fallen Stars

I said tickets for this one were selling fast, and if you failed to be one of the lucky few who managed to get hold of one, you missed out on a game that had everything, and then some more thrown in for good measure. But first, I will quickly and painlessly call to order that other game on the weekend against Zoomer FC. It will be short and suit, as we all know that the result was below par and Celtic more than made amends the following day. Plus, I am dying to divulge the Sierra meltdown, which is going to take some cleaning up.

Fionn MacCool's Celtic
1-1 Zoomer FC

In a nut shell, Celtic dominated for lengthy periods of the game, but could not muster a cutting edge to see off the challenge of Zoomer. And, as so often is the case when a side dominates play, it only takes one lucky punt in to the box for the inevitable to happen. After a solid Celtic first half, 10 minutes in to the second half, Celtic gave away a penalty. Unfortunately there were to be no heroics from Fourie this week, who must be getting tired of the weekly penalty practice.

After the penalty, Celtic continued to frustrate and it took until 3 minutes from time for a point to be rescued and an embarrassing defeat avoided. In a game that drew few positives, Celtic will take some heart from debutant McCann, who finally broke the deadlock with a neat left foot finish in to the bottom left corner, after being put through by a surging Curley run.

And that is how the game ended. Manager Tibby said what needed to be said after the game, and the Mike Bassett, "England Manager" inspired speech must have paid off, as Celtic looked indistinguishable the following day. So on to the Sierra debacle......

Fionn MacCool's Celtic
3-1 Sierra Stars

Where on earth do you begin?? Even Winston Wolf would have problems cleaning this mess up.

The picture to the left is probably a slight exaggeration of how the game may have ended, so I guess we should start with the free flowing football, that, to be fair both teams displayed when the game kicked off.

After the game against Zoomer, Celtic once again had to step up to the plate, as anything but a win would have left all of last weeks hard work against Sierra and the season in tatters.

From the moment the referee got the mouth watering occasion started there was a sense of urgency, and straight away you knew it was going to be an open game, as both teams threw caution to the wind in search of the win. Sierra were after revenge and Celtic were after the double over their arch rivals.

In the open exchanges Sierra began to apply the pressure, as their busy number 24, who's relentless running had Celtic on the back foot. As Sierra looked to push further up the field, and pin Celtic into the own half, the threat of the counter attack in behind the ever growing Sierra defense looked increasingly likely, especially with ability Celtic possessed in midfield.

So, it was little surprise that, with the Sierra defensive line close to the halfway line, a clever chip from midfield released Teague down the Celtic right Channel. Teague, hugging the touchline knocked the ball past the covering defender and showed him a clean set of heels. With the Sierra defense know breached, Teague continued his run in to the box, and with the keeper advancing squared the ball to the open Imnaishvili, who needed only one touch to bury the opportunity low and hard in to the bottom left corner.

Despite the opening early goal, the pattern of the open game remained, with Sierra enjoying a lot of the ball, and Celtic ready to pounce at every opportunity. Unfortunately, the Sierra possession paid off only minutes after the Celtic opener. The ball was lost in midfield and after appeals to the ref for an infringement fell on deaf, soon to be bruised ears, the Sierra midfielder continued his mazy run in to the heart of the Celtic defense, and then let fly from the edge of the box, with an unstoppable effort that flew in to the top left corner. Sometimes, you just have to accept a decent goal, and Celtic remained positive despite the set back.

The Sierra goal would soon be forgotten, as Celtic insured they would end the half with their noses in front. Another clever chipped ball from midfield in behind the Sierra defense had Teague chasing a 50-50 with the Goalkeeper. Teague just managed to get a slight touch ahead of the keeper, but was wiped out for his troubles and sent crashing to the ground. The keeper making the rash decision, that if he missed the ball he would at least take out the man, as the goal would have been wide open. With Teague decked, reluctantly, and I hear, after pondering what seemed like a stone wall penalty, the referee eventually pointed to the spot.

Prior, this time managed to fight off the enthusiastic advances of Fourie, and patiently lined up his penalty. With the Celtic nerves on edge, Prior remained cool and ensured Teague's injury would not be in vain, effortlessly stoking the ball in the bottom left, sending the keeper the opposite way.

The second half continued with both teams willing to keep the game open, but slowly and surely the tide began to turn in Celtic's favour, as Sierra grew increasingly frustrated. As the indiscipline started to seep in to Sierra's play, more and more freekicks were being awarded to Celtic which only served to perpetuate Sierra's "anger" issues on and off the field.

With the game reaching boiling point, and the restless Sierra support taking over the Celtic section, Sierra surged forward with the number 24 going on another penetrating run. However, the dazzling run would end in rather more subdued fashion, as the midfielder decided to dive when a well timed Celtic tackle came flying in. The ref didn't fall for the play acting, but Sierra at this point now feeling aggrieved, were incensed, so decided to take matters in their own hands and pressed the self destruct button.

From the clearing Celtic defense the loose ball was picked up by Prior in midfield. And, before he had time to gather his bearings, a reckless lunge came flying in from Sierra leaving Prior in a heap. This was possibly one of the worst looking challenges I have ever seen, and was the type of tackle that could end a career. Fortunately for Prior though, limbs were left intact, but the already under pressure ref had little choice but to send off the Sierra player.

So, with Sierra already furious after what they felt was a freekick on the edge of the box, was deemed a dive, now had to deal with being a man down only seconds later. Which, in terms of the volatile Sierrra temperament, was like pouring petrol onto an already out of control blaze.

The Sierra players surrounded the ref, berating him on what was a clear sending off. The Sierra left back though, took it one step further, and must have been mimicking the sort of language his supporters were using, as astonishingly after the dust had some what settled, the ref also gave him his marching orders, leaving Sierra down to 9 men.

With Sierra facing an uphill struggle with two men sent off, they were unable to clear their lines, and it was only a matter of time before more controversy came their way. Curley received possession in the box after Sierra had failed to clear, and was again hacked down, leaving the ref no choice but to issue another penalty to the hoops. Which, in machine like fashion Prior dispatched, claiming his second of the game.

The game was very near to a finish, but you could see shades of the infamous ugly brawl that occurred 2 years ago bubbling at the surface. The concept of football had been all but deserted by Sierra, and their only mission now was to hurt as many players as possible. On two occasions, the Sierra number 10 slapped Chisholm, who incredibly managed to restrain himself and continued to mark the player out of the game.

The Sierra number 10 though would eventually pick a fight that you can never win. After yet another Celtic player was on the receiving end of wayward tackle, this time it being Bredin's turn, Sierra surrounded the referee again, and the number 10 decided that as he had had no luck getting a rise out of Chisholm, why not try the ref? So, in what I can only describe as the worst moment I have witnessed, the Sierra number 10 punch's the ref. Granted, it was never enough to send the shaken up ref to the canvas but this was inexplicable, and it sent the game into a complete and utter farce.

The game was abandoned with probably only a couple of minutes on the clock, with the referee calling the Celtic team to the centre circle to give the final whistle, before taking refuge behind Fourie with the Sierra entourage looking for blood.

I am sure their are plenty of bad tackles, punches thrown and profanities that I have missed, but what I can be sure of is, Celtic won 3-1 deservedly with outstanding performances throughout the team. And, in what is arguable even more of achievement, is that despite all the chaos and provocation surrounding them, Celtic kept their cool as the game boiled over, leaving their dignity, pride and season intact. The disgraced Sierra on the other hand, will await what will have to be serious disciplinary action from the TSSL.

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