Wednesday, 9 June 2010
Back at the familiar surroundings of Eglinton flats, where many of the vital victories of last seasons championship were sealed, Toronto Celtic kicked off the game confidently, buoyed as though they were playing at home. The defense, organised and led by Murray, was pushing up the field, allowing a neat and tidy midfield to operate mostly in opposition territory, while the energetic front line were soon asking questions of the Junction defense.
It took until around the 20th minute when eventually Junction ran out of answers to Celtic's probing approach play. Curley, who had been looking lively from the first whistle, following some meaty challenges was able to get on to a squared ball inside the box. With the Junctions defense closing in, Curley kept his composure and after a couple of touches, side footed past the keeper at the near post. 1 nil Celtic.
With any nerves swiftly settled following the opening goal, Celtic were unlucky not to go in at half time 2 goals to the good. Curley, with confidence flowing after registering his first goal of the season, now had a healthy appetite for goal. Having picked up a loose ball about 40 yards from goal, the quite and reserved Curley, skipped a flying tackle and jinked his way in to the box, only to skew his shot wide of the upright having been forced on to his left.
After a pulsating 45 minutes, the referee intervened by signaling the half time break much to the inconvenience of Celtic, who had so far put in a professional display. Such was the performance, that Manager Tibby had little to address at the interval, other than to keep playing the same football and guard against complacency. Follow that, and the goals would surely come.
Although Celtic might have felt that the game was in their hands, they were only winning by a single goal after half time, just as they had in their last game. At the same point last week, I described how Celtic had to rely on the intervention of an unlikely source. Well, the unlikely source is fast becoming a common intervention. Following another corner, once again Murray leaped to meet the ball with a commanding header that former hoops favourite, Stuckmann would have been proud of. Up came the one hand shearer solute, and with it, Celtics second goal.
With the game looking increasingly out of Junctions reach, Brooks was soon on hand to pour more misery in the oppositions direction. Following an energetic burst in to the box, Brooks was denied an effort on goal, after being hacked down just as he tried to pull the trigger. Surprisingly, at least to this biased observer, the referee hesitated to award the penalty, until consulting the linesman. After some mutterings and much confusion, eventually the ref pointed to the spot, which Prior cooly placed making it 3-0 to Celtic.
Celtic were now in the driving seat, and the frustrations for Junction were soon beginning to show. To put a slight blotch on what had been a solid competitive game, O'Connor was on the receiving of a late swipe from a Junction player, after the ball had gone. O'Connor retaliated, and the two players were soon exchanging handbags. The ref with little choice, gave both men their marching orders, so the remainder of the game would be played out with 10 a piece.
Celtic would prove to benefit the most from the open spaced granted to them by the departure of the two players. After a mix up in the Junction defense, which had left their goal keeper in no mans land, Curley took full advantage with a cheeky lob bypassing the chaos that lay beneath it.
Not to be outdone by Curley's brace, Prior soon had his second of the game. After a freekick was awarded in what seemed an innocuous position, Prior spotted the frailties of the Junction keeper who resembled one of the Hanson brothers, and audatiosuly lobbed the keeper from all of 25 yards.
To round out proceedings, Celtic made it six before the close. A lovely flowing move that started from Chisholm in defense, made its way down the right wing to Nolivos who squared to Chihombori on the edge of the box. Chihombori shifted the ball on to his left, then curled in a lush shot just inside the post and beyond the keepers reach.
The game finished 6-0, an emphatic statement by Celtic, who at times had the onlooking bench either ohhhing and ahhhing, or in warm appreciative applause at the quality of play being showcased. Celtics endeavors had finally come to fruition, which had been built on the bedrock of a man of the man performance by centre back Murray. Its now 2 in 2 for Murray who has settled in to the Celtic defense as though he has been playing their for years.
The season is only 3 games in, but Celtic will have gained a huge confidence boost against a solid team in Junction. The result sends out a real statement of intent, and one Celtic will know have to live up to in the coming months as future opposition look to bring the high flying hoops back down to earth.