|Written by PAC|
|Monday, 25 April 2011 20:05|
That’s probably the best word to describe yesterday. Ultimately getting anything from Ibrox is an achievement. It’s always been a difficult place for us to go, no matter what team they put out and the only time, in my lifetime at least, we ever went there consistently with conviction was in the Martin O’Neil days. With so much at stake for the Orcs, on and off the pitch and with it being uncle Wattie’s last Old Firm encounter in charge of his glorious second and likely final (depending on how Super Ally gets on next season) reign at the bigot dome they were always going to be fired up. That they were and they dominated the majority of a rather muted and inconsequential first half. Clearly we were there for the draw. Considering how good we looked in ripping apart Kilmarnock on Wednesday night last week I must admit I was slightly annoyed at this. It’s in Celtic’s DNA to attack and to resist anti-football. As a result of this , Gordon Strachan’s reign is not afforded much credence by many Celtic fans despite the glut of trophies and consistent European progress he delivered in his 4 seasons. But through a combination of understandable nerves and facing up to the realities of big game tactics , Celtic decided to invite Rangers to attack in the first half and sat off. Rangers had most of the ball, and marched forward often without ever really creating much. Forster looked uncomfortable early on but soon settled down. Scott Brown carved out a decent opening and just when it looked like he was sizing up a repeat of his beautiful curler back in February, he suddenly seemed to become aware of his surroundings and defaulted to his standard blast 5 yards past the post. Samaras toiled up front. Hooper was equally redundant. In fairness so was Jelavic who outside of his 25th hour league cup winner against us has pretty much done sweet FA in all the Old Firm games he’s been involved in. Though the laptop loyal still insist he’s the man to fear in a somewhat identical fashion to how we were being constantly reminded that ‘Boydy’ was due a big performance and some goals against us every time we rolled up to play them. In the end he scored one in five seasons and is by and large fondly remembered by the Celtic faithful for not being able to kick his own arse in the Glasgow derby.
There were 2 penalty shouts. Ledley put the ball past Whitaker and then ran into him in the box. Anywhere else and it’s obstruction but it would have been a soft penalty. Papac did his best diving swan impression after Brown tapped him on the shoulder during an inappropriate game of tag in the box but thankfully the officials weren’t having it. Still an unnecessary risk and the kind of thing that usually gets merit points at the shit pit.
In the second half, things brightened up. To be honest they had to as the first half had delivered precious little in the way of chances, skill, endeavour or excitement. Just a typical weekend at Ibrox in that sense.
Rangers created 2 excellent chances. Lafferty missed a point blank rushing header he should have scored and Naismith flashed one past the post when he to really should have done better. Thankfully the 8 thousand, blood baying knuckle draggers behind the goal in the Copeland road end put him off and we breathed a big sigh of relief.
At the other end McGregor delivered a wonderful save from a Majstorovic header which was near identical but not quite as good as the wonder stop he pulled off from a Samaras header in the 2-2 cup draw. A later save from a well worked move in the box which ended in an Izaguirre shot looked nice on TV but was pretty much bread and butter. Then of course came the penalty. Stokes skinned Bougherra and then clattered into Steven Davis. There was contact and Stokes was entitled to go down but it was soft. After denying 3 stone-wallers in Mowbray’s first Old Firm game, I felt Craig Thompson probably felt he owed us something. To be honest he does….2 more penalties. Of course the actual penalty itself fell to Samaras. Having scored the lost time at Ibrox from the spot and with Hooper off, Stokes pish at them and Commons not keen on taking them he was probably the best option. Alas big Sammy blew it. He picked his spot and drove it with enough power but the height and distance from the corner were perfect for an in form McGregor, who has proved somewhat of a specialist at compromising situations, to deliver a fine save and effectively deny us 3 points. We had another, probably more legitimate penalty shout a few mins later when John Fleck’s knee clipped Stokes in the same place. However there was more chance of a minutes silence for Mother Teresa than there was of us getting a second penalty at Ibrox.
Right at the end , the ever present non entity that is ‘Diouf’ stepped up and almost did the unthinkable by scoring a goal and contributing something to Rangers season but it whistled past the post and game ended goalless.
Before the game I would have taken it. But with such a golden chance to leave the dragon’s den with the beast’s heart on a spike squandered one gets back to that word again….disappointing.
As for the personal itself, if truth be told , few did themselves justice. Kayal and Izzy were good throughout and have been all season. Mulgrew also strolled through events and looks a fine player. Commons also upped the pace a bit when he came on for the injured Ledley who’s selection was a strange one. Ki came onto a game in the 2nd half but needs to provide more in the way of offence.
Majstorovic was skinned by Jelavic a few times but for the best part reduced him to a cameo role. Hooper was snuffed out and looked isolated and frustrated. Stokes was bright and proved a real threat when he came on. Brown put in a shift befitting of a captain.
So for the best part, pretty average but the 2 main offenders were Samaras and Wilson. Though he did his defensive duties okay, Wilson’s distribution was very poor and he looked off the pace. On the whole he’s had a fine season and there’s been a touch of Lazarus about it. For some time I thought he was dead wood and covered in a glass case with an ‘Only break in emergencies’ sticker over it. But with Hinkel being knackered early doors, Cha-Du Ri showing little if any capability to defend and Juarez being so far out of the picture he’s probably still training at Barrowfield, Wilson has seized the moment and made the position his own. Just a bad day at the office I think we can safely say. Samaras though is a different story. He was fantastic in the last two league games against Rangers but yesterday he was God-awful. When I saw him on the team sheet I presumed he was being deployed on his own which seemed understandable as this was a game they had to win and would likely leave Weir exposed. But an understanding between him and Hooper in a 2 man front line never developed. When he did have the chance to run at defenders he passed them up for a safer pass to midfield and continuously lost the aerial battle with Weir and Bougherra. At one point he had a perfect chance to play the fresh legged Stokes through but didn’t bother to look, panicked and blasted a wild shot 20 feet over the bar. The penalty miss was by no means the worst spot kick I have ever seen but he needed to bury such a golden chance and he failed to do so.
In the end up we have our own destiny in our hands and they don’t. We emerge from Ibrox unbeaten and unscathed with a week’s break. But we have some potential banana skin mid-week away games at Inverness and Swinecastle to go in the coming weeks and could yet rue that 82nd minute spot kick miss. Let’s hope not because it will be a bloody sore one to take if we do.
As for the muppet who reported Lenny for the ear gesture…away and bouncey yourself up the road and stop wasting police time!