Celts sparkle in league opener
Saturday, July 29 2006
Celtic Park, Glasgow
(Zurawski 25, 90, Jarosik 38, Nakamura 75)
CELTIC raised the curtain on the 2006/07 season with a sparkling four-goal show against Kilmarnock at Celtic Park on Saturday.
Goals from Jiri Jarosik, Shunsuke Nakamura and a double from Maciej Zurawski capped an outstanding performance from Gordon Strachanís champions, one that was perhaps unexpected by those who have followed their fortunes in recent pre-season games.
The day kicked-off with Brian Quinn and club captain Neil Lennon, who was suspended for todayís match, unfurling the league flag with the Celtic Chairman serving what proved to be a timely reminder about the realities of pre-season football.
Last year had similarly uninspiring beginnings for Celtic and eventually resulted in a league and League Cup double.
And during the course of the ensuing 90 minutes, Gordon Strachanís men went a long way toward silencing some of the doubters.
Several questions have been raised about the depth and overall quality of the managerís squad, but in this match there was plenty of promise with the partnership of Maciej Zurawski and Kenny Miller looking particularly healthy.
Throughout the opening 45 minutes their industry and energy was simply too much for a Kilmarnock back four who were dragged from pillar to post in pursuit of the elusive frontmen.
Miller in particular enjoyed a number of good chances, most notably a free shot at the back post which was turned wide of the target and both men were to prove central players in Celticís two first half goals.
As a whole, the Celtic team looked like a far more composed and better organised outfit and in defence, the partnership of Stephen McManus and Gary Caldwell was unflappable.
The considerable threat provided by Kilmarnockís Steven Naismith on the left wing was effectively negated by Mark Wilson who, having been moved to his natural right-back position following an injury to Paul Telfer, was a model of consistency.
The one opening that Naismith did enjoy in the first half was provided by Caldwell who, in attempt to walk the ball out of defence, lost possession some ten yards from the halfway line and left the winger with a clear break at goal.
But the big defender had Artur Boruc to thank for saving his blushes, with the Polish shot-stopper blocking the first attempt and then scrambling across his goal to deny Naismith a second. Then five minutes later Celtic took the lead through Zurawski.
The move was sparked by the running of Miller who broke down the left wing and, spotting the goalbound run of his partner, lifted a well-placed pass across the edge of the box and into his path.
Breaking into the area, the Pole struck his shot first time, beating Graeme Smith in the Kilmarnock goal and opening both his and Celticís account for the 2006/07 season.
But having secured the lead, Celtic continued to harry and harass Kilmarnock and in the 38th minute, Millerís running again paid off as he again played a leading role in Celticís second.
The striker had only caught a glimpse of the ball as he chased the Kilmarnock defence into their own penalty box and, having nipped in to rob the covering centre half, pushed his pass back out to Zurawski.
The Pole looked up and lifted his first time cross perfectly on to the head of the influential Jiri Jarosik, who then powered it home beyond Smith.
The goal came at the perfect time for Celtic, just minutes from half-time and went some way toward demoralising a Kilmarnock side who appeared to have been caught unawares by Celticís power and sense of purpose.
There was no let-off after the interval though as Zurawski fired off an early warning shot, which was followed a period of one-touch possession play by Celtic.
Chances also came in this second period, with Gary Caldwell rattling the bar with a header after rising to meet a Shunsuke Nakamura corner, although it was left to the Japanese midfielder to add Celticís third with a textbook set piece finish on the hour mark.
The free kick, from around 30 yards out, curled beautifully over the Kilmarnock wall and left Smith without a prayer and the strike now stands as Nakamuraís third set piece effort against the Ayrshire club.
Despite the fact that Celtic were in full control of the game, Naismith did managed to snatch a crumb of consolation, latching on to a loose ball in the box and powering it beyond Boruc.
However Celticís lead was again extended in the final minute as Zurawski latched on to a Derek Riordan cross and drove the ball home from six yards out.
This convincing victory was just what was needed for Celtic after a preseason of perhaps justified complaints and forewarnings of impending doom.
What a difference 90 minutes can make.
WEBSITE MAN OF THE MATCH: Jiri Jarosik
CELTIC (4-4-2) Boruc; Wilson, Caldwell, McManus, Camara; Nakamura, Petrov, Jarosik (Sno 84), McGeady; Zurawski, Miller (Riordan 88).
Subs: Marshall, Thompson, Varga, Lawson, Wallace.
KILMARNOCK (4-4-2) Smith; Wright, Lilley, Greer, Hay; Invincible, Johnston, Fowler, Naismith; Di Giacomo (Leven 69), Nish (Wales 63).
Subs: Bell, Murray, OíLeary, Hamill, Murray.
Re: Celts sparkle in league opener
Lucky, if you ask me!,heehee, wait until the day the mighty Blue Brazil walk into Celtic Park.. saying that that'll be some years yet, unless Celtic get relegated of course lol