Archive for the ‘Celtic’ Tag

Jumpers for Goalposts – Episode 2 – It’s a Rich Man’s World (Everton Excluded)

Stef Meens bumbles his way through another episode of our critically panned show.

This week he’s joined in the studio by Ewan McQueen, Sahil Jaikda and Stu Martinez.

Topics on the agenda include Man United’s ominous start to the season, the never ending gloom at Arsenal, Everton’s desperate financial state, Jose Mourinho’s eye gouge and Michael Owen’s new found passion for jigsaws.

Apologies for the lack of a musical intro. We shall endeavour to have one next week.

Click on the link below to listen. Alternatively, you can catch us on Itunes. Search for ‘Champions Chat.’


Smith’s final Hampden appearance ends in style

After weeks of anticipation with ‘Old Firm summits’ and fear of another escalation between Lennon and McCoist and/or El Hadj Diouf and Scott Brown, football prevailed as the winner after a thrilling cup final which went into extra time.

Ashleigh McGuinley takes us back to Sunday’s clash at Hampden for the first piece of silverware in this season’s Scottish Football.

Nikica Jelavic was Rangers’ hero as he grabbed an extra-time winner over old firm rivals Celtic in a pulsating Co-operative Insurance Cup final at Hampden.

In a dramatic match credited for being a great advert for Scottish football, Rangers took the lead when Steven Davis tapped home the opening goal in the 23rd minute but Joe Ledley quickly headed Celtic level on the half hour mark.
Three penalty claims – two for rangers in the first half – were ignored by courageous referee Craig Thompson.

The second half was filled with tension with Celtic’s Fraser Forster denying Steven Whittaker and Rangers Neil Alexander smothering a ball in from Ledley.

Extra time was needed with no further goals in normal time allowing Jelavic to fire in off the post seven minutes into extra-time, winning it for Rangers.

In the dying seconds of the game, Celtic left-back Emilio Izaguirre was deservedly shown a straight red card for bringing down Vladimir Weiss.

Rangers’ victory ends Neil Lennon’s hopes of a domestic treble in his first season as Celtic’s manager. However, with each team frantically chasing the Scottish Premier League and Celtic still in the running for the Scottish Cup, each side remains in contention for a double trophy.

The win over Celtic means a 20th trophy win for Rangers’ manager Walter Smith, before he steps down at the end of the season.

After the events of the Scottish Cup replay at Celtic Park earlier in the month, both teams received a visit from Strathclyde police warning them about the consequences of their behaviour on the pitch.

The first moment of controversy came in the 15th minute when referee Craig Thompson was faced with a difficult decision when Mark Wilson went crashing to the ground inside the penalty box after a challenge by Sasa Papac but referee Thompson instinctively denied the first penalty appeal of the match.

Izaguirre was finding some joy down the left side with his cross ins and flicks and left Kyle Lafferty struggling to keep up.

In the 21st minute Celtic nearly took the opening goal when Kris Common’s cross from the left hand side gave Skipper Scott Brown a chance to dive in but his header slipped past the post.

Two minutes later Rangers’ made the break through when Steven Davis made his way by David Forster with a long ball from the 25 yard point.

But seven minutes later at the half-hour mark Celtic equalised when Izaguirre’s deflected cross found Georgios Samaras and Ledley arrived to nod the ball past Alexander.

Rangers thought they had been awarded a penalty a few minutes later when Jelavic went down just inside the box after a tackle from Rogne. Referee Thompson appeared to be awarding the penalty when he pointed to the spot but after some advice from his assistant he issued a free kick to the Parkhead side and booked ger’s striker for simulation.

The first half ended with two strong teams determined to win, not defend.

Rangers started the second half on top form with Forster forced to make a quick dive to save a strong drive in from Whittaker. Ibrox skipper David Weir and Jelavic both threatened the Celtic side by quickly pushing the ball forward into the midfield section.

Celtic were quick to find their feet again and got straight back on the attack leaving Papac inches from scoring an own goal after attempting to clear a ball in from Commons’. However, Ibrox defender was out of danger when the ball swung wide.

The Rangers side tried to claim another penalty in the 60th minute when Wilson appeared to use his hand to block Maurice Edu inside the box but referee Thompson shook his head and signalled play on.

Ki Sung-Yueng and Loovens replaced injured skipper Brown and Rogne while Kyle Hutton came on to replace Madjid Bougherra.

A few moments later, substitute Loovens caused problems for the Rangers’ defence after a Celtic corner gave Ledley a chance from 10 yards only to be smoothly saved by Alexander.

In the final seconds of normal time, Weiss came on to replace Lafferty for extra-time.

At the end of the second half Celtic looked to have the advantage over the injured and tired Ibrox’s side but just five minutes into extra-time Celtic goaly Forster was forced to act quickly to a free-kick from Jelavic, tipping it over the bar into safety.

The Croatian striker did not give up easily and two minutes later returned after pacing out Mulgrew to latch on to a swiftly taken free-kick from Weiss and slipping the shot past Forster, the ball hitting the post before rolling along the goal-line and spinning into the net as Izaguirre desperately tried to clear it.

In the 110th minute Rangers had the chance to seal the deal as Jelavic tried his luck again but was pulled to the ground at the edge of the box by Mulgrew who consequently picked up a yellow card.

El-Hadji Diouff replaced Jelavic and set up Weiss with another Rangers breakaway in the final minutes but the ball was superbly brought to safety by Forster.

Celtic fans prayed for a last minute equaliser but Gary Hooper was denied his moment of glory by a block from Whittaker.

Just minutes before the final whistle, Celtic left back Izaguirre was shown a straight red card for fouling Rangers’ substitute Weiss as he tried to take advantage of an open goal, leaving the desperate Celtic side with just 10 men.

This was the last incident in what proved to be a great spectacle which saw Walter Smith’s side leave Hampden victorious with the first trophy of the season.

Jumpers for Goalposts Episode 6

Here we have it, the 6th episode of the podcast. Stef is joined by the usual crowd – Stu Martinez, Colin Stone and Elliot Busby – to discuss everything football; from Arsene Wenger’s smoke-screen and the pronunciation of Dirk Kuyt to contentious refereeing decisions and the Old Firm furore.

Listen below, or download from the usual site here.

Also from this week we are now available on iTunes. So make sure to subscribe so you never miss an episode of JfG.

Back to Parkhead and looking forward to Eindhoven

After the Old Firm cup tie, enough has been said about the managers and the players getting into fights and arguments. So before we forget about the most important thing (football) here is a recap of the game.

Don’t worry folks, next Tuesday, the Jumpers For Goalposts lads will debate settle the debate on the Old Firm once and for all so tune in for the podcast on Champions Chat.

We will also discuss Rangers and their chances against PSV Eindhoven in Europe, with a special contribution by host and professional Dutchman Stef Meens on PSV, a team he knows inside out. Ewan McQueen will provide a preview from a Scottish point of view so keep an eye out for the Champions Chat blog page!

In the meantime, let’s go back to Parkhead with Ashleigh McGinley

Celtic  1 – 0  Rangers

Ally McCoist and Neil Lennon bust up as 3 Rangers players are sent off in a stormy Scottish Cup fifth round replay.

Steven Whittaker was the first to be sent off by referee Calum Murray in the 35th minute after picking up his second booking for fouling Emilio Izaguirre and consequently the remaining time became an almost impossible uphill struggle for the injury stricken visitors.

Mark Wilson became the hero of the night three minutes into the second half when he fired home what turned out to be the only goal of the night.

Rangers defender Madjid Bougherra, was sent off in injury time after picking up his second caution of the night for a foul on Kris Commons, and after the game, the unruly El-Hadji Diouf’s dissent came when he approached Murray as the two benches clashed.

With a victorious win at their home ground, Celtic booked themselves a place in the quarter-finals away to Inverness Caledonian Thistle and will be firm favourites to win the tournament and end the season with a domestic treble.

With Rangers losing two players in the run up to kick off, as Nikica Jelavic dropped out with a knee injury and Kyle Lafferty with tonsillitis, Walter smith opted for the same side which battled through the Europa League tie last week against Sporting Lisbon. The 5-4-1 formation was for strong defence.

Celtic manager Neil Lennon drafted in Georgios Samaras at the expense of Anthony Stokes who was dropped to the bench.

In the early stages of the match, it was clear that the injury ravaged Rangers side were struggling as they barely managed to get out their own half and Sasa Papac escaped an early yellow card after felling Wilson.

However, in the 12th minute, the away side were faced with a half chance when former Liverpool striker, Diouf raced through right wide leaving Zaluska off his line and his goals unprotected. Diouf’s cross in from the byline was quickly cleared by a swift header from Celtic defender Daniel Majstorovic.

Skipper, Scott Brown who continued his on-going feud with Diouf in the first half, took advantage of a clear run with the ball through the away sides defence but was unable to get past McGregors quick grasp.

Celtic midfielder Ki Sung-Yeung took a chance with a fierce left foot from the distance without any success.

Murray’s patience began to wear thin in the 28th minute and Whittaker picked up the first yellow card for fouling Ki. The Rangers midfielder made his early walk down the tunnel just seven minutes later with a reckless challenge on Izaguirre resulting in a further yellow card and then a red card.

The incident threw the game into further disorder after a touchline confrontation between Diouf and Lennon resulted in the Rangers striker being booked and both Neil Lennon and Ally McCoist receiving a warning from referee, Murray.

When play resumed a nearly costly mistake by Maurice Edu helped Georgios Samaras with a free shot at the Rangers goal but goalkeeper McGregor made a good block and the ball ended up out of play.

As the eventful first half drew to a close, Brown became the next player to join the book shortly followed by Rangers John Fleck who was also cautioned.

The tension on the pitch was carried on down the tunnel at half time when another altercation broke out between Celtic assistant, Johan Mjallby and Rangers defender, Kyle Bartley.

Celtic were in the driving seat at the start of the second half when Wilson took them into the lead just 3 minutes in.

Izaguirre’s cross from the left found fellow full-back, Wilson at the far side of the box but was superbly headed off the line by Papac – but the ball rebounded back to Wilson who quickly found the target.

Papac failed to recover from his headed clearance and was stretchered off the pitch and replaced by Gregg Wylde.

Bougherra was given his first caution of the night for a foul on Celtic striker, Gary Hooper who required treatment off the park before returning to play.

It was clear the home side were dominating and in the 63rd minute Samaras fired a shot against the left hand side of the Rangers post. The Hoops striker had a further two chances to score which were quickly cleared by McGregor and Wylde.

Rangers only real shot at a goal came in the final stages of the second half after a foul on Bartley gave Diouf a free kick, but the striker fired the ball straight at Zaluska.

In the last few minutes of injury time, Bougherra was given his marching orders after fouling Commons.

As the final whistle went, Diouf quickly followed Bougherra after approaching referee, Murray and another touchline clash between Lennon and McCoist ended in both being separated as the controversial match drew to a close.


What’s all the fuss about Emilio Izaguirre?

Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish is reportedly interested in bringing Celtic’s Honduran defender Emilio Izaguirre to Anfield.

The 24 year-old left-back signed for the Hoops from Motagua in his homeland in a £600,000 deal last summer and has made 21 appearances for the Glasgow side this season.

With Celtic apparently sticking a £10m price tag on Izaguirre’s head after little more than six months in Scotland, it shows how highly manager Neil Lennon rates the diminutive defender.

Arguably Celtic’s best player this season, the Honduran has impressed with his pin-point crosses, running, dribbling, ability to take on his man and his role in setting up crucial goals.

His most recent contribution was to set up striker Gary Hooper’s second goal during the 3-0 win over Rangers on Sunday. The left-back ran from inside his own box, beat the offside trap spectacularly and played a delightful ball across the box for the English forward to poke home.

Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish was at Sunday’s game to cast his eye over the World Cup star, whilst Manchester United supremo Sir Alex Ferguson was in attendance at the 2-2 draw between the Old Firm earlier in the month to see whether or not the defender could be a potential long-term replacement for Patrice Evra.

But with the Frenchman having signed a new deal in the past few days, it seems like Liverpool could be the Honduran’s next destination.

And with Glen Johnson out of form and Paul Konchesky out on loan, Izaguirre may soon be moving to pastures new.

“He’s incredible,” Celtic boss Neil Lennon said recently. “He’s had an incredible season. He gives me the heebie-jeebies sometimes. He just wants to play, he does Cruyff turns in his own box at times but he’s been wonderful.

“Our chief scout John Park saw him play in the World Cup for Honduras and he brought us some DVDs. We had a good look at him and I thought ‘yeah, he looks decent’.

“But again, you just don’t know what you are going to get. You don’t know the temperament is going to be like, what the character is going to be like and we’re very lucky because what we’ve got is very solid.”

Lennon’s New Year resolutions beginning to pay off

There can’t be many New Year resolutions that survive the month of January. Quitting the cancer sticks. Sweating Tennents lager onto a treadmill five days a week. Flipping 50p’s into an old jam jar every time a profanity slips out your gub. I’ve heard them all, but will power alone just doesn’t cut it.

For those still hanging in there come the end of February, it usually takes discipline, hard work, sacrifice and a dogged determination to mute your doubters.

I can’t be sure what Neil Lennon promised himself as the big hand embraced the wee hand at midnight on December 31st, but it was probably along the lines of “I promise to keep my mouth shut and let my team’s football do the talking.”

As we wave goodbye to February and step into March, Lennon’s New Year vows remain intact. 11 games played, 9 wins, 2 draws and no defeats, with his Celtic side conceding just five goals. It’s been a hugely credible 2011, combining a run which has booked his team’s place in the League Cup final, maintained their presence in the Scottish Cup and extended their lead at the SPL summit to eight points, with just 12 league fixtures to fulfil.

Neil Lennon deserves credit for the turnaround in Celtic's fortunes since the turn of the year

But perhaps most significantly for Lennon, and certainly for his band of hooped followers, Celtic have inflicted successive Old Firm league defeats on their greatest adversaries, Rangers. By twice reversing a morale sucking 3-1 loss at the hands of their city rivals on their own patch in October, Lennon has instilled belief and excitement amongst Celtic supporters for the first time since he took his place in the Parkhead dugout.

Yet it was all so different at the tail end of last year. The removal from European competition was followed by some insipid home performances in the SPL that appeared to show the first sign of cracks at the once fortress building on London Road. Some distasteful touchline antics and misjudged comments to the press heralded a six-match touchline ban for Lennon, and when his side travelled to Ibrox on January 2 there weren’t many Celtic supporters who envisaged such a bruising defeat of their neighbours.

But gradually, the team that Lennon has built almost single handedly (of Celtic’s starting eleven against Rangers on Sunday, only Scott Brown and Giorgios Samaras started in the defeat to Ross County last April) have established a togetherness, a fluency and a work ethic which has superseded all who have come before them.

So impressive is Celtic’s current form that when you sit back and measure the impact Lennon has had in his inaugural season as a coach, it is impossible not to praise his performance level thus far.

Some of his signings have been nothing short of a revelation. “Izaleftback? No, Izaguirre.” Few people had heard of this galloping, nimble Honduran before he checked into Scotland in the close season. Gary Hooper’s Scottish profile before signing for Celtic was reduced to a name on a team sheet in a Sunday newspaper sports section.

There are, of course, a gluttony of other signings who have quickly embraced their flame topped manager’s ethos, but Izaguirre and Hooper have been particularly outstanding. The early form of Kris Commons, signed in January, continues to support the theory that Lennon has an ability to spot raw talent when it comes to player recruitment.

Beyond the signings, though, Celtic have benefitted from some bold decision making on the part of their manager. Hampered by the inability of some of his defenders to keep a clean sheet in the early stages of the season, Lennon refused to obsess over this deficiency and instead concentrated his side’s focus on doing what they were good at: going forward.

While some managers may have choked their side’s attacking advances to concentrate on building from the back, Lennon instead signed a further attacker in January in the shape of Freddie Ljunberg. Defensive signings weren’t forthcoming, so instead Charlie Mulgrew was picked to hold the hand of Daniel Majstorovic in central defence. The former Aberdeen player has so far enjoyed great success tucking into a more central role. Such decisions, which may once have appeared baffling to the club’s supporters, now look decidedly shrewd.

It’s amazing to think that just 10 months ago the same club, coached by Lennon on a short-term basis, limped out of the Scottish Cup after a comprehensive defeat to Highland minnows Ross County.

Off the field, Lennon appears to be focusing his energies on coaching his team as they look to wrestle the SPL title from the hands of Rangers, where once his mind was on other things. As he awaits the outcome of his touchline ban appeal, referees have been off his agenda of late. Sports hacks have been scratching their heads for a golden quote, but even this has been side stepped by the Northern Irishman. Even his Twitter account has been inactive for over a month.

Lennon continues to divide opinion in Scottish football, and some of his outbursts earlier in the campaign were inexcusable. However, he appears to have cleaned up his act of late. One would suspect this has been on the back of the advice of some senior figures inside Parkhead.

If there is anything at all that can be taken from this, it’s that his team and their supporters have built up some kind of siege mentality against all and sundry. This has manifested into a team who have recently shown an astonishing level of energy and commitment on the field, with some of their attacking play being a joy to watch.

Lennon deserves great credit for what he has achieved on a limited budget after inheriting a substandard team. But as he said himself after the 3-0 thumping of Rangers on Sunday, the title race is far from over.

If his passion and drive continue to flourish, there’s no reason why his New Year resolutions can’t continue until the end of the season.

Paul Barnes

Why Rangers MUST win Sundays Old Firm game

Is my heart ready for another one?Yes, folks on Sunday it’s round four of SEVEN Old Firm games that will be played this season.

As a fan of the visitors on Sunday, I feel we must go there and win. As much as it pains me to admit, Celtic are playing some superb free-flowing football at the moment, having been unbeaten in 16 games since losing to Hearts in November.

I was one of the harshest critics of Lennon when he lost big games such as Ross County in April, Utrecht in August and the first Old Firm game. However, after winning the New Year game at Ibrox, he really has got them motoring.

On Sunday we must put the brakes on their supposed charge to the title. We had a big chance to do so last Sunday, but we blew it big time. No matter who we are playing, if they go down to 10 men, we must put the game to bed. It was criminal that we didnt and for the first time in a while, I started to doubt Walter. He must put that right on Sunday.

Forget all this rubbish about we have games in hand. We need points on the board and fast.

We put down a marker earlier in the season when we went there and won 3-1 in October. Usually I say I dont care how much we win by or who scores but I think we need to go and win by a similar scoreline to knock the stuffing out of them. If you look at their results after that game, they dont make good reading for Lennon. They lost to Hearts, only won in injury time against St Mirren and drew at home against Dundee Utd and Inverness.

Im looking at the timing of the game as well. Win this and we are two points behind with 2 games in hand. Lose it and we go 8 behind with fixtures piling up.

There is also the small matter of the cup replay at the same ground just 12 days later. Win on Sunday and we go into that with renewed momentum, lose on Sunday and the curtains on Walters final season could be drawn by April.

Smith will know he has been outwitted in the last two games and he’ll be hurting as much as the fans. Get it right, like he has so many times on Derby day and Lennon’s inexperience in a title run-in as a manager could be cruelly exposed.

Put simply, Walter is the greatest manager that Rangers have had in my lifetime. He will want to go out with a bang, not with a whimper. The run-in to a potential domestic Treble begins in 6 days.

We have signed players that are too good not to win a league title. Nikica Jelavic, El Hadji Diouf and Vladimir Weiss are all proven internationals and Premiership quality. I have freely admitted that some of Lennon’s signings have been superb such as Izaguirre and Hooper. However, they havent experienced a title-run in like most of the Rangers squad have and like Lennon that could prove fatal for the team in the East End.

I hope Rangers go there and attack. None of this 5-4-1 or 4-5-1 rubbish. We need to go there and put them under pressure from the first whistle. Look at their forums and some are already predicting the title is on the way to Parkhead. Some are saying they will win 5-0 on Sunday. We were the same around the New Year game and look what happened.

Lets hope history repeats itself as Ill end with this. Can you imagine Lennon’s celebrations in May if he does win the SPL?

That is a nightmare that I hope doesn’t become reality.

Ewan McQueen

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