Five takeaways from Celtic-Hibs

Captain, Leader, Legend: Scott Brown scored two goals against Hibernian on Saturday, as the Celts cruised to a 5-2 victory over Hibernian at Hampden on Saturday in the Betfred Cup semifinal. (Photo: The Celtic Star)

To be honest, I really, really like the 12 noon (or thereabouts) kickoff times in Scotland. Yes, I have to drag my sorry butt out of bed at some ungodly pre-sunrise hour, but at least I get to watch the game live and, for the most part, unfettered.

The 5:30 p.m. (10:30 a.m. Pacific) kickoff puts me right square in the middle of a workday on a Saturday or a Sunday (yes, I work weekends. Don’t ask). And, generally speaking, while the Bhoys seem to excel when I’m away from the screen — thank God for Celtic TV and their rebroadcasts (best $18 a month I’ve ever spent, and I highly recommend it) — I’d really like to be there watching when the action actually happens.

So I get home from a fun-filled work day — yes, that’s sarcasm — and spend two hours watching the game, start to finish, and head over to The Celtic Noise to talk about it with the merry band of forum denizens who have had a head start. One thing I always look forward to is Sandman’s ratings, which are posted first on the Noise and then posted on The Celtic Star; quality analysis and it can only be found here.

But anyway, my five takeaways from the Celtic-Hibernian game are as follows:

1. Captain. Leader. Legend.

Broony. Damn. Just damn. You worry as the seasons pass that a guy who carries the team might– just might — be feeling the trappings of the twilight of his career, and you think to yourself, but dare not say aloud, that he may retire before the 10 in a row. But then he pulls something like this to make you feel like a complete idiot. Two goals. Two brilliant goals, as a matter of fact. And instead of buying just one Broony DVD, you’re tempted to buy a whole case and give them out as Christmas presents (“Here, Mom, Merry Christmas!”) because . . . damn. Scott Brown has definitely earned his place in Celtic history, and the process for commissioning a sculptor to create his statue outside Parkhead should start soon.

2. Mohammed Elyounoussi should stay

Mo Elyounoussi is a goal-scoring machine. Full stop. It must be a blessing to know where to be, showing up at the right place at the right time, as Elyounoussi seems to do. Both of his goals were impeccable, whether it was a header on a cross from James Forrest or a pass from Odsonne Edouard in front of the net (more on this in a bit). I would like to think that the board will pony up the money to keep Big Mo wearing the hoops, but that remains to be seen. One can always hope, no?

3. When Boli is out, an attack vector is lost

First things first: This is not a knock on Jonny Hayes. Hayes is a solid player and can start pretty much on any other team in the league. His speed and ball handling are impeccable, and we’re lucky to have him wearing the Green and White. However, when Boli Bolingoli was taken out at halftime — I understand it’s a hamstring — the Celts lost one of its two threats down both the left and right side that kept Hibs unbalanced for pretty much the first half. Here’s hoping it’s not a serious injury.

4. Unselfish Edouard shares the wealth

No doubt goalkeepers everywhere have nightmares about Odsonne Edouard. Those nightmares — at least the ones that don’t involve the goalkeeper standing in the goal mouth in his underwear — probably consist of Edouard coming down the pitch with the ball and eluding all the goalkeeper’s defenders and delivering a Celtic goal. But add one more layer to this nightmare: French Eddy passing the ball to another Celt for the assist instead. It happened twice against Hibernian: One went to Callum McGregor and the other was on Elyounousi’s second goal. Eddy ended up with a grand total of zero goals and two assists; not that he was complaining. When Edouard approaches the goal, defences start to collapse around him, freeing up one or two teammates who are ready to score. So now, not only do goalkeepers have to worry about Edouard scoring, they have to worry about him passing it away to open teammates.

5. Hibernian is not really that bad

At the moment, Hibernian is staring relegation in the face in the standings. But truth be told, the 5-2 score betrays the fact that they played Celtic fairly strong in the Betfred Cup semifinal. Sure, Celtic should have won 8-2 if not for some unlucky bounces — damn goalposts! — and Melker Halberg was clearly offside in their first goal. But never mind. I am sure that the coaching staff have some positive takeaways from the semifinal game. Also, completely unrelated, “Sunshine on Leith” is a great song — probably second to “You’ll Never Walk Alone” as far as football songs go.

Meanwhile, Celtic takes on Nazio — sorry, Lazio — in Rome this week, and it would be great to steal a win away from the fascists.

Hibs-Celtic: Three takeaways

Sunshine on Leith: The Celtic end of Easter Road during the Hibernian-Celtic game on Saturday.

Normally, I would have five takeaways from Saturday’s game at Easter Road. However, since it was a draw, we’re going to knock out a couple and just end up with three today, on a lackluster performance — with a little help from abysmal officiating (which we will most definitely get to later) –against the other team in green and white, Hibernian.

[An excellent post-game review is always given by the Sandman at the Celtic Noise forum, which of course is the always cleaned up and appears on The Celtic Star here.]

1. So, about the offside rule . . .

OK, so there IS an offside rule, right? And as long as I have been following football — and this goes back to the ’70s to the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the North American Soccer League, and then off-and-on during various World Cups until I started following Celtic last year — the offside rule has been a mystery to me. To be honest, the rule seems almost arbitrary, like, oh I don’t know, how it was applied (or actually NOT applied) on the Hibs’ Christian Doidge, who bounced the ball off Kris Ajer and into the net for the home team’s only goal. From my vantage point, thanks to Celtic TV (best $18 a month I have ever spent), the Hibs forward was offside, yet there was no call. Which, of course, was only one small part of a wide range of poor officiating at this game — we’re still waiting for two penalties (at least) — and Kevin Clancy and both linesmen really need to turn in his referee card.

2. Pity goals aren’t 20 feet high

Celtic took several shots which were . . . let’s just say . . . just a bit high. No, let’s correct that. They were astronomical. If this were American football and the ball goes over the crossbar between the posts, that would be 3 points each and Celtic would have won handily. However, it’s not, so we still have a draw. However, a silver lining in this cloud — where you can find some of the Celtic shots, even now — is that the ball movement in the Hibs game was still on the mark. We just couldn’t convert those passes into goals.

3. You’ve been tossed, but you really haven’t . . .

Hibs gaffer Paul Nothingbottom — sorry, Paul Heckingbottom — got tossed from the game, but went up to the stands and stayed in touch with the sideline from the improved vantage point of the stadium. In most American sports, once you’re tossed, you’re stuck in the locker room or out at the local pub and nowhere near the stadium, unless you’re crafty like former New York Mets baseball manager Bobby Valentine, who returned to the dugout wearing a disguise after being ejected. The idea, at least on these shores, is that removing the manager is a sort of punishment, however if the manager is still able to control things, it sort of defeats the purpose.

One more thing: A hat tip to Celtic TV’s Paul Cuddihy, who squeezed in a variety of puns about the Proclaimers at the outset of the Celtic TV broadcast — good humour to wake up to when watching the Celtic game.

[59 degrees. Wildfire threat level today in rural Santa Cruz County: Low.]