For those Celtic fans, I will keep you updated here :)
For those Celtic fans, I will keep you updated here :)
Thommo guns down brave Bairns Stephen Sullivan
Saturday August 13, 2005,
Hartson 49, Thompson 75, 90
They got there in the end, with Alan Thompson’s 50th and 51st Celtic goals ensuring that Gordon Strachan’s side kept the heat on Rangers and Premierleague pace-setters Hearts with a 3-1 victory over Falkirk.
It was, though, far from a vintage Hoops performance and, while Strachan will doubtless have been buoyed by the spirit his players showed in battling back from finding themselves a goal behind, he’ll surely have been just as concerned with the cracks in their make-up that were, at times, painfully evident.
Falkirk had crumbled on their last visit to Celtic Park, eventually succumbing to an 8-1 defeat, but John Hughes had warned in the days leading up to kick-off that lessons had been learned, and so it proved.
Indeed, there was much to admire in the play of Hughes’ well-organised side during an opening period that saw the SPL new boys composedly soak up Celtic pressure, while, on occasion, giving the Hoops rearguard more than a little cause for concern.
The home fans, meanwhile, were looking to Shunsuke Nakamura to provide the spark from which their own team’s performance might catch fire but, despite getting the thumbs-up following a pre-match fitness test, the Japanese playmaker looked a shadow of the player who, admittedly, had set the highest of standards on his debut against Dundee United.
Ironically, the one Celt to emerge with credit from the opening half was Bobo Balde, who - roared on by a home support intent on making a mockery of speculation that the defender would be jeered - proved with a few crunching early tackles that, after the midweek muddle in Marseille, his mind was now firmly on the job.
At the other end, Matt Glennon - Falkirk’s second choice goalkeeper - was evidently intent on making a name for himself, something Maciej Zurawski – himself with a point to prove - found to his cost in 10 minutes when he watched the unknown journeyman deny him his first Celtic goal with an agile one-handed save.
Yet, if that stop was good, it was comfortably bettered by that which thwarted Paul Telfer two minutes later, one which saw Glennon leap across goal to tip over a dipping right-foot volley the former Southampton utility man had cleverly teed himself up for 25 yards from goal.
Of greater concern to Strachan that Glennon’s brilliance, however, will have been his side’s failure to test the former Bolton trainee for the remainder of a dismal opening half.
Indeed, it was the visitors who went into the break a goal to the good, with last season’s scoring sensation, Darryl Duffy, once again the toast of the Bairns.
The former Rangers youth player might have scored from open play were it not for the combined attentions of Balde, Boruc and Camara, but once referee Alan Freeland adjudged that he’d been halted illegally, there was nothing Celtic’s Polish keeper could do to prevent Duffy placing the resultant penalty just inside the right-hand post.
God only knows what Strachan said to his players at half-time but, whatever it was, it yielded the desired effect almost immediately.
Just three minutes of the second period had elapsed, in fact, when Nakamura, finding space on the left flank, delivered a tantalising cross to the back post which Hartson diverted expertly home, low to Glennon’s left.
The improvement in the scoreline was not, though, matched in Celtic’s overall play, which remained disjointed and lacking in conviction.
In fact, the next goal should have been Falkirk’s, with Duffy guilty of shocking profligacy in screwing his shot wide from 10 yards after finding himself in time and space inside the area.
It was a poor and, ultimately, costly miss because, with 15 minutes remaining, Thompson broke Falkirk hearts with a brilliant goal, lashing a 25-yard volley high into the net after the ball was chested intelligently into his path by Hartson.
The Geordie midfielder wheeled away in delight, cupping a hand to his ear to make a thinly-veiled jab at those who’d reacted less than charitably to his previous efforts, and he was to have yet more reason to celebrate before the game was out.
In injury time, and with the now-traditional exodus of Hoops fans having long since begun, he curled a superb free-kick round the wall and in at Glennon’s right hand post, leaving the scoreline more than a little flattering to a Celtic side that will need to improve considerably for next week's trip to Ibrox.
Website Man of the Match: BOBO BALDE
CELTIC (4-4-2): Boruc; Telfer, Balde, McManus, Camara; Petrov, Lennon, Nakamura (Beattie 81), Thompson; Hartson, Zurawski (Maloney 61)
Subs: Marshall, Aliadiere, Virgo, McGeady, Wallace
FALKIRK (4-4-2): Glennon; Lawrie, Rodrigues, Ireland, McPherson (Andy Thomson 86); Steven Thomson, Lima, O'Neil (O’Donnell 79), Latapy; McBreen (Gow 66), Duffy.
Subs: Hill, MacKenzie, Milne, McSween
Where's the champions league qualifier result???
That was a cracking game ;)
Alan unsure of Hearts' chances Stephen Sullivan
eyes will inevitably fall on Ibrox on Saturday as the Old Firm clash for the first time this season but, for once, neither of Glasgow’s titans will begin the game atop the Scottish Premierleague.
That honour will belong instead to Hearts, the only team still boasting an unblemished domestic record after victories over Kilmarnock, Hibernian and Dundee United that have seen the Tynecastle side chalk up an impressive early season tally of 11 goals.
The comprehensive nature of these victories, allied to the calibre of players tempted by Vladimir Romanov’s millions, has sent a surge of optimism rushing through Gorgie, where - despite George Burley’s attempts to downplay his side’s prospects - many fans have come to share the view of Paul Hartley that the Old Firm are “there for the taking.”
Alan Thompson, however, feels that he’s seen and heard it all before.
Indeed, while the possibility of Hearts mounting an unlikely title challenge seems to becoming steadily less fanciful, the Geordie midfielder considers Scotland’s search for ‘a third force’ to have become something of a national obsession, and believes we would all be well advised to wait ‘til nearer the end of the season before declaring that one has emerged.
Asked about the challenge to the Old Firm, he told the Celtic website: “It’s something that’s always been talked about ever since I’ve come up here and, to be honest, I don’t think now’s the right time to look at it.
“Hearts have made a very good start and, from what I’ve heard, it seems that they’re pretty confident of splitting the Old Firm.
“All I’ll say is that time will tell. You judge these things in May, not after two or three games, and if Hearts are up there challenging come the end, they’ll deserve an awful lot of credit.
“But I’ve been here five years now and no-one has ever managed to maintain the same consistency as the Old Firm over the course of an entire season.
“Hearts might be the first, but let’s wait and see before getting too excited.”
/What's clear is that it remains the midfielder’s view that the champions will come from a select group of two sides, both of whom will be on show at Ibrox this weekend.
Nevertheless, neither Celtic nor Rangers can claim to be going into Saturday's match in sparkling form and, while Thompson claims that confidence in the Hoops ranks has been boosted by three wins on the bounce, he concedes that the derby represents a ‘massive’ task for Gordon Strachan’s new-look Celts.
He said: “I’ve always said that winning breeds confidence and it’s the fact that we’ve got a few decent results that’s allowing us to go into this game in a positive frame of mind. But Ibrox is going to be massive for us.
“I don’t know if we’re the underdogs, but all I’ll say is that we’ve been there many times before and got results when people haven’t fancied us to come away with anything. It’s a game the lads are looking forward to and I’m sure both sets of fans will be exactly the same.”
For much more from Thompson, exclusive interviews with Gordon Strachan, Mo Camara and Jim Blyth, plus a chance to win a free Setanta subcription ahead of Saturday's Old Firm derby, don't forget to pick up your copy of this week's Celtic View, on sale tomorrow.
Strachan hints at change Stephen Sullivan
Strachan has dropped his biggest hint yet that the form of Shaun Maloney and Craig Beattie could force him into making an imminent change to his starting XI.
The Celtic boss has thus far opted to keep faith with mis-firing Pole, Maciej Zurawski, in an attempt to afford the £2.2 million summer signing time to adjust to the Scottish game, but with Beattie having scored in three of his last four substitute appearances and Maloney continuing to offer boundless energy and invention, Strachan admits that Zurawski could soon find himself on the bench.
He said: "Maciej is showing us he has a good brain and a good attitude, but things are not falling for him. We will work at that to make sure we see the player I know he is.
"But we are fortunate we have Beattie and Maloney who have done really well when they come on, and time will tell if they can get a regular situation. The way they are playing, that might happen reasonably soon."
David Fernandez, meanwhile – who found himself behind Zurawski, Maloney, Beattie, John Hartson and Jeremie Aliadiere in the queue for a starting place – has rejected suggestions that he wasted his three years at Celtic Park.
Spaniard started on just eight occasions under Martin O’Neill and, after moving to Dundee United on Friday having been deemed surplus to requirements by the Irishman’s successor, he insisted that his time in Glasgow has made him a better player.
Fernandez said: "My time at Celtic wasn't wasted because everyday I went into work and trained with good players.
"When you are a footballer you always learn new things and even more so at a club such as Celtic. What I did miss out on was games and I just felt the time had come to leave.
"It's difficult when you don't play, you get frustrated. It's not easy training with the guys all week knowing you will end up on the bench or in the stand.
"You have a responsibility towards your team-mates and they don't want people just hanging around feeling sorry.
"I made my decision near the end of last season and even when the new manager came in I knew I would have to go. I don't think Celtic are too sad to see me leave either.
"I don't think I have to prove anything because I did well at other clubs but in football you are constantly being judged, so this will be a new start."
Still won't win the league:tongue: