Saturday, 26 September 2009

Celtic Crowned CHAMPIONS!!

In a day when the Celtic traveling contingency outnumbered both Morton and KU Golden Oldies supporters 5-1 even though the famous hoops were not on display, history was made as Celtic claimed their first TSSL League title amidst a raucous atmosphere at Eglinton flats, sparking celebrations not seen since Lisbon 67'.

Before we get in to the nitty gritty of this remarkable feat, which hinged on the final game of the season, I would like to go back a couple of weeks when Celtic had two remaining games left of which both had to be won. The first of the two games was against the much fancied fellow title contenders Multinational, whom had beaten Celtic in the first encounter 1-0 and were debutantes in the Media League this term. Celtic were well aware of the importance of the Multinational game, and the objective was crystal clear: Must win. No more room for errors, a drew would not be enough, victory was the only option, clearly, this was the last chance saloon.

Multinational 0-1 Fionn MacCool's Celtic

To add to Celtic's already mammoth task, due to injuries and players going AWOL, the back line was down to the bare bones, and was patched together with what ever reinforcements that manager Tibby could get his hands on. In these types of situations, you need to be able to call on the senior payers and more specifically your captain, to grab the game by the scruff of the neck and drag the team over the line -kicking and screaming if necessary. Luckily for Celtic, their Captain, Jason Mercier heard the call, and yet again put in a barnstorming performance, leading from the back and keeping the Celtic defense water tight for a solid 90+ minutes.

At the opposite end of the field, where again injuries were limiting Tibby's options, Fitzpatrick had been handed a starting birth partnering Teague up front. Whether Tibby's hand had been forced to play Fitzpatrick up front or whether it was sheer divine intuition, Fitzpatrick wasn't hanging around for an answer and seized the opportunity with barely 5 minutes on the clock, with Celtics first attack of the game.

Multinational had been controlling the tempo of the game and were confidently stroking the ball around with short intricate passes. However, against the run of play, Celtic managed to muster an attack down the left wing through Bredin. The rangy left wingers gallop had left him deep in Multinational territory with both Teague and Fitzpatrick screaming for the square ball. Bredin obliged, with a pass that look like it was intended for Teague but strayed behind the Englishman's run. However, the pass deceived not only Teague, but the rest of the Multinational back line, splitting it in two leaving Fitzpatrick clean through on the overlap. With the goal keeper rushing off his line, Fitzpatrick skillfully (not a word I use lightly!) rounded the keeper, and then from the most acute of angles rolled the ball over the line, leaving the trailing goalkeeper and defender in his wake. This was a huge life line, and it proved that Fitzpatrick had a healthy appetite when it came to the big occasion. The importance of the goal was up there with his match winner in the cup final the previous year, but this time, and much to the relief of the bench, Fitzpatrick kept his shirt on, opting against the explicit triple X celebrations.

After the Goal Multinational continued to dominate possession, but for all the slick passing on display failed to create any real end product. There was, however a sense that should they continue to boss proceedings in the second half, it would only be a matter of time before the possession would yield goals. A threat Tibby recognised all to well, as he look to reinvigorate Celtic during the half time team talk.

Sitting on the one goal advantage and soaking up the pressure was a risky game, and in the second half Celtic finally crept from out of their defensive shell and began knocking on Multinationals door. First up, Curley came close after been put through by an instinctive through ball from Barrero. Curley latched on to the pass, and with the keeper again looking to close the angle, deftly lobbed the ball over his advances only to see the ball pass inch's wide of the up right.

With the game becoming more open as both teams looked for the decisive second goal, Multinational managed to register their first shot on target, but Fourie was equal to it, tipping over the bar from close range.

As the minutes ticked away, the game was drawing to angonising close with both teams having great chances. With the Multinational back line pushing up close to the half way line they were prone to passes in behind. And first to exploit this was Lucero, after being put clean through only to be denied one on one with the goalkeeper. Next up Teague, with almost an identical chance as Lucero was foiled by the keeper, who at this point was keeping his side in the game. Teague then had an another opportunity to seal Multinationals fate only for a last ditch tackle to keep them in with a shout.

Much to the relief of Teague, and owing a huge debt to the magnificent Celtic back line a clean was kept, and Celtic had achieved the must win they set out for.

Zoomer FC 0-5 Fionn MacCool's Celtic

The objective in this one: "Don't do a Zoomer."

Although the score line would suggest an even more entertaining game then the Multinational match, do not be fooled by the books cover. Zoomer, with little to play for than bragging rights to middle table mediocrity, had about as much motivation for this encounter as I do for mental arithmetic. Which, in terms of numbers, equated to 9 or possibly ten men -what difference does it make- sheepishly displaying a 4-3-1 formation that was never going to trouble Celtic.

At least that's what we thought. Perhaps, knowing Celtics Achilles heel, which is play badly and Celtic will drop to your standard was Zoomer's cunning plan. What ever the reason, Celtic managed to make hard work out of the depleted Zoomer, and it wasnt until the second half, with the Zoomer tiring, that Celtic really drove home their numerical advantage.

Highlights of the game included, a brace by Curley, who would have pinched a hatrick had it not been for Teague sabotaging a goal bound effort, clearing the bar from a yard out with a dismal header, such was his level of desperation to get on the score sheet. Although, who really needs to hear about a Curley hatrick anyway?! Your welcome.

The other key moments came from, Bredin who managed to get on the score sheet as well, bringing his drought to an end, after being put thorugh with a punched like pass from Teague which has suspciions of being off offside. Prior drove in a clean finish after finding his range, and, Bredin retruned the favour to Teague with a square ball inside the box, which Teague tucked away, much to his relief.

So, in terms of quality, the two games were at opposite ends of the spectrum. But, the points had been secured and now Celtic had to sit and wait for two agonising weeks, while KU finished up their schedule, whilst knowing that KU at least had to draw one of their two remaining gmaes for Celtic to then win on goal difference. After winning 3-1 in their penultimate game, the worst was feared as the opposition for their last game was our old foe Morton, who similar to Zoomer had little to play for as their final league position was all but set.

And, that theory at least at half time, with Morton 2-0 down would seem like a sound bet. However, from the Morse code updates I was receiving, depsite being two goals down, Morton had played the better football in the first half. And, they continued the second in much the same vain. It would, however, take until 10 minutes from time to give the Celtic traveling suporters some hope to cling to.

After being two goals to the good the KU manager, in his naivety, made a quadruple substitution including the goalkeeper. And it would be the change in keeper, that ultimately would lead to their down fall. After what looked like a routine save found its way in to the net through the keepers butter like fingers, Morton sensed a comeback. And, on 90 minutes, with Celtic's hopes of league title glory in the balance, Morton delivered the shattering blow to KU, via a freekick awarded just outside the box, that smacked the post but fell kindly to Morton who duly tapped home.

Who needs the Premier league? Pfff! You could not ask for a more dramatic ending to a fantastic season, which finally sees Celtic get their hands on the elusive League title, which slipped through their grips this time last season, ironically due to a no-show from KU. Bitter sweet.
I could ramble on, and continue to throw superlatives on what has been a season full of highs and lows, but their is little more satisfying than kicking back and gazing at the league table, Celtic atop.

Fionn MacCool's Celtic18124251123940
KU Golden Oldies18124255292640
Sierra Stars18122452193338
Multinational Crew1895448212732
Zoomer FC186483239-722
Hooligan Filmworks185493228419
Globe and Mail FC1852113640-417
AS Rosso1851123555-2016
Trinity Park FC1800188135-1270

Monday, 7 September 2009

Oh my god, the FA banned Kenny!

What started out as a cold, and a couple of days recouping in bed with a box of cold medicine, has turned into a 9 month ban for Sheffield United Goalkeeper, Paddy Kenny, after testing positive for the banned substance ephedrine.

I still can not fathom exactly what the FA's message is with this harsh 9 month ban. "Don't reach for the nearest cold remedy when you get the sniffles? Otherwise you will end up with a worse ban than not even showing up for a drugs test." How did Rio get away with that one? The crime, rather the indiscretion, simply does not match the punishment.

The FA's Regulatory Commission chairman, Christopher Quinlan stated, "Whilst we found that the player satisfied us on the balance of probabilities that the substance was not taken with the intention of enhancing sporting performance, his admitted conduct displayed significant fault." Lets be honest, the stereotype of Footballers not being the sharpest tool in the shed, holds plenty of weight to it, and acts like this do little to dissipate those theories, but he could be forgiven for failing to check the entire ingredients label of a cold remedy bought over the counter at the local superdrug before popping a few. Reading the usage instructions is challenging enough when you have a head that feels like its in a vice.

Paddy's "admitted conduct," displayed the actions of what most people would do in the same situation, including all the staff in the FA's regulatory commission. Yes, maybe he was a little bit liberal with his dosage, but the intention was not to enhance his performance. So a 9 month ban during which he is not even allowed to train with any professional team, is excessive to say the very least. Maybe, the FA can have a word with UEFA and swap Eduardo's two game ban with Kenny's 9 month maternity. Put it this way I would rather see the law come down seriously and consistanly with cheating that is caught in broad daylight through the HD lenses every weekend around Premier League venues, rather than an oversight with cold medicine.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Fionn MacCool's Celtic 1-0 Morton

The punctuality of this match report and the quality of finishing in this bruising encounter, might have been severely lacking, but Celtic were spared their blushes courtesy of the foundation that team is built on, the formidable defense.

Games with Morton usually consist of brutal tackling and rising to the bait of bitching that protests innocence at every whistle blow. Its difficult to distinguish what hurts more, the studs on the back of your calf from a tackle that was about 2 days late or the constant barrage of nonsense that rings loud in your ear drum.

Either way, it was within the first minute that Celtic would spurn their first opportunity of the game, and would provide Morton with their first ammunition to discharge on the lines men. Bredin got in behind the Morton defense, scampering down the Celtic left wing and curled in a low cross to Teague. With the Morton defense breathing down his neck, Teague had no time to control the ball, choosing to hit it first time but could only direct his shot wide of the opposite post, with the goal keeper rooted. Offside was Morton's excuse for being caught cold, but the cry fell rightly on deaf ears.

With Celtic signalling their intent with the opening chance, they continued to dictate the pace of the game, but would have to wait until mid way through the first half before they registered their first shot on target. Curley, again thriving in his central midfield partnership with Prior, was looking to make a carbon copy of his strike against KU Golden Oldies the week previous. After another surging run from midfield, Curley let fly from the edge of the box, with the ball looking goal ward bound. However, the Morton Keeper was equal to it, and at full stretch acrobatically tipped the ball round the post. Definitely one for the bank of Camera's populating this bone crunching tie.

Before the half drew to a close, Celtic missed another golden opportunity to take in a lead at the break. After breaching the Morton back line with a quick counter attack down the right wing, Roberts squared the ball to Teague, who instead of pulling the trigger with his left, tried to return the 1-2 to Roberts with the outside of the right, but the pass went wayward and the chance went begging, much to the dismay of his team mates.

With the score levels at the break, it was time for another sterling speech from manager Tibby. After observing the amount of back chat, Celtic were drawing themselves into with Morton, Tibby demanded Celtic concentrate on letting the football do the talking. Despite some of the outrageous bait being floated by Morton, Celtic managed to stick to the orders, and kicked off the second half in search of the must needed three points, a draw simply would not suffice.

Unfortunately for Teague, who would have struggled to finish a Sunday Roast, the half time break did little to appease the strikers quality of finishing, who was having a day to forget in front of goal. About 15 minutes into the second half, Curley had gone on a mazy run deep into the Morton box, then unselfishly squared the ball to Teague who's first time effort from just outside the 6 yard box was smothered by the flailing keeper. Although, the frustration of being unable to break the deadlock after so much possession was palpable amongst the Celtic team, eventually their endeavor was answered.

About half way through the second half, Celtic were awarded a corner which Prior stepped up to take. Celtic's big central pairing of Mercier and Stuckmann, which must have a combined height in the region of Goliath like proportions, meandered their way into the box, which is enough to send any TSSL defense in to a frenzied panic. And, the panic was rightfully warranted. Prior expertly curled in the corner straight in to the danger area, which was met by a towering header from Stuckmann, which almost pulled the net from its pegged footings. Celtic breathed a collective sigh of relief, and finally they had something to show for all the hard work.

The goal only served to invigorate Celtic, and they were now looking to put the tie beyond Morton as they pressed for a second, which could have been granted from another set piece. A free kick near the right hand corner of the 18 yard box had been awarded after yet more miss timed tackling from Morton. Prior sensed that this was well within range, but his free kick which had the keeper beat, rebounded off the foot off the post. Lucero, who must have been observing Teague too much, was on hand to collect the rebound with the goal at his mercy, but in a rush of blood blazed his effort clean over the bar.

You could forgive Celtic for fearing that a 1-nil lead would not be enough, and given the numerous amount of chances to wrap the tie up, they would only have themselves to blame. However, given Morton's lack of attacking threat, the fears were more likely born out of previous slender advantages whipped out by fluke goals. This was not going to be the case though in this fixture, as the vast majority of Morton's attack came from long ball's via the keepers rangey right boot. This tactical naivety played right in to the hands of the Celtic defense, and the predictable regularity of the long balls were easy pickings for the 6ft 5 plus centre back frame of Stuckmann, and Mercier sweeping up. Fourie's pristine clean Goalkeeper Jersey was testament to the solid defense he had in front of him.

1-nil was how it finished, but before the close there was at least one more miss for Teague, however I think this is more than enough of a self deprecating critique for one day! Besides, I hear unsubstantiated rumour that instead of being accountable, Teague blames the last one squarely at the heckling side lines screaming for him to pull the trigger, instead of taking the wiser option which was to square to Curley who was in acres. Curley, you know where to send your complaints!

So, with Celtic yet again claiming a clean sheet and another victory, which now seems them unbeaten since early July, the race for the TSSL Media League title is still very much up for grabs. Celtic will have to rely on KU dropping points, but will be chomping at the bite in anticipation of any slight sniff of a KU slip up.

KU Golden Oldies16113249252436
Fionn MacCool's Celtic16104245123334
Multinational Crew1695248163232
Sierra Stars16102442192332
Zoomer FC165472734-719
Globe and Mail FC165293532317
Hooligan Filmworks164482624216
AS Rosso1641112847-1913
Trinity Park FC1600165123-1180
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