Colin Watt with A Celtic State of Mind – 5 games that secured the 9th successive league title

Now that the dust has settled and Celtic have, absolutely correctly, been declared the Ladbrokes Premiership champions for season 2019/20, it’s time to look back at those pivotal games which secured the title for Neil Lennon’s side.

Season 2019/20 will go down in the annals as one of the most unique in Scottish football history, not only for the coronavirus pandemic but also for some of the results across the league.

Teams like Hearts, with the fourth-highest playing budget only managed to win four out of 30 games before the league was ended – two of them against Hibs! Interestingly, there was a BBC Documentary team filming at Tynecastle throughout the season, so that will be worth a watch if it ever makes it to air.

In Glasgow, natural order was established early into the season and, although there were some slip-ups along the way, by the time the last game was played on 7 March 2020, Celtic had dropped only 10 points all season and even that would’ve been less if it weren’t for some interesting refereeing decisions. Celtic were certainly strolling towards a 9th league title before this very unfortunate world pandemic hit and football quite rightly took a back seat.

With absolutely no outlook for the season to be finished, and opposition from those on the other side of the city not to play behind closed doors, the league finished with an average points calculation deciding the final league positions.

Celtic are Scottish Premiership champions for season 2019/2020 and will go into season 2020/2021, whenever that comes around, on the march again, as we wait in hope for title number 10. Here is a look back at 5 games which proved pivotal in the hunt for the 9th successive league title.

Listen to SPENCER VIGNES with A Celtic State of Mind here:

1 September 2019

Rangers 0
Celtic 2 (Edouard 32, Hayes 90+2)

Looking back, this is probably one of Celtic’s most impressive performances all season. A makeshift defence of Elhamed, Jullien, Bitton and Bolingoli was only further hampered when Bitton went off injured and Bauer made his Celtic debut. Rangers were certainly up for this game and were backed by 49,000 of their fans as they tried to lay a marker down early in the season. Celtic, though, were clinical, they defended like warriors and Neil Lennon’s
tactics outweighed those of Steven Gerrard.

As the game kicked off, Celtic launched the ball into the touchline near the Rangers box, cries of “Wayyyyyyyy” went up from the Ibrox faithful… little did they know, though, that this was the start of Rangers being on the back-foot.

Although the team from Ibrox dominated possession, they could do absolutely nothing with it, playing five central midfielders to try and dominate the middle of the park, as well as dropping Morelos, it all came back to haunt Gerrard. A slack pass from James Tavernier, who gave the ball to Mikey Johnston who in turn drove forward, slipping a decisive ball into the path of Odsonne Edouard. The Frenchman broke the offside trap to leave himself one-on-one with McGregor before coolly slotting past the goalkeeper to give the Bhoys the lead with just over half an hour gone.

Celtic almost made it two early in the second half, but a neat save from McGregor’s foot kept out Chris Jullien. Then, with time running out and Rangers pushing high for an equaliser, Celtic broke. Man of the match, Olivier Ntcham won the ball on the edge of the Celtic box, he fed Hayes before some lovely one touch passing between the Irishman and the French Connection of Edouard and Ntcham, left Hayes towering down on goal. His shot, a weak effort, rebounded back to him. Calm and composed, Hayes picked up the rebound before slotting it home with his weaker foot – cue the celebrations amongst the 750 travelling fans packed into the corner. A fantastic start to the season, and a memory that will live on for those lucky fans, one of whom is definitely Johnny Hayes.

27 October 2019

Aberdeen 0
Celtic 4 (Edouard 10, Frimpong 15, Forrest 37, Elyounoussi 45)

Arguably Celtic’s greatest 45 minutes of the season in what is traditionally a very difficult place for most teams to go to. With barely 10 minutes on the clock and tackles almost non-existent, Odsonne Edouard drove in towards the Aberdeen box before launching a shot past Joe Lewis to give the Celts the lead. Jeremie Frimpong, one of the new success stories of the season, doubled Celtic’s lead mere minutes later, scrambling home after a defensive mix-up left the Dutchman with an empty net and the Celts were strolling to victory in the north east.

Another beautiful passing move from Celtic involving Rogic, Frimpong, Elyounoussi and the eventual goalscorer Forrest put the game beyond doubt. Forrest was left with the ball on the penalty spot and only Lewis to beat with the defenders absolutely nowhere to be seen – a very tidy one-touch passing move from the Bhoys. Sealing the points was loan star Mo Elyounoussi who connected with Rogic’s cross just before half-time. We weren’t shy of opportunities in the second-half but, having just beaten Lazio on the Thursday night and with a midweek tie at home to St Mirren coming up, it was understandable for the Bhoys to take the foot off the pedal.

4 December 2019

Celtic 2 (Christie 13, Brown 90+2)
Hamilton 1 (Ogkmpoe 90)

There was a sense of optimism in the air on a cold Wednesday night in December at Celtic Park as Celtic took to the field to face a struggling Hamilton side, whilst Rangers, who were level on points with Celtic, travelled to the north east to face Aberdeen. It was at this point of the season where the Lewis Morgan experiment was still well underway but Celtic were still fancied to comfortably win this tie and hope that Aberdeen could pull something out the bag. Things started on the right path as Ryan Christie bundled home from a Lewis Morgan rebound as Celtic’s domination eventually broke through. Further north, however, Rangers looked like they were sailing towards victory as they went two goals up inside 30 minutes. It looked as though there could well be a genuine title race in Scotland again.

Celtic pummelled the Hamilton goal with the final stats showing 21 shots for the champions, but the lack of clinical finishing meant that going into the later stages of the game, we were open to a sucker punch. Aberdeen had somehow clawed back the two-goal defecit at Pittodrie and the chance to open a gap at the top of the table looked a real prospect… well, that was until said sucker punch came in the form of big Marios Ogkmpoe. The Greek striker
had caused our defence trouble in the previous encounter between the clubs at New Douglas Park earlier in the season and it was him who out-muscled Kris Ajer and scored on the turn to seal what looked like an incredible point for the Accies… but this Celtic side never know when they’re beaten.

With mere seconds left on the clock, and what looked like a missed opportunity to stretch the lead at the top of the table, Captain Fantastic Scott Brown popped up with an extremely rare and very tidy finish as he dragged the Hamilton defence across the box to create space before slotting the ball into the opposite corner. Cue absolute scenes for the remaining fans who didn’t give up on the side and absolute agony for the Rangers fans who had left Pittodrie believing they had got away with one. A pivotal point in the season and the start of the gap which lead to title number nine.

16 February 2020

Aberdeen 1 (Taylor 27)
Celtic 2 (McGregor 10, Ajer 81)

Another big game at Pittodrie and another step closer to securing the 9th Premiership title in-a-row. It was a 9th consecutive league win for Neil Lennon’s men with a wonderful late goal from Kris Ajer extending Celtic’s lead at the top of the table to 13 points, the eventual margin of victory.

Things started really well for the Celts, a break left Celtic with a man over in the box and Forrest’s shot was rebounded by Joe Lewis right into the path of Callum McGregor, who slotted it home into the empty net. Aberdeen didn’t collapse like they did earlier in the season and, to be perfectly honest, had one of their much better games against Celtic in recent years.

The home side eventually got their reward when Lewis Ferguson’s cross was flicked on by Matty Kennedy into the path of Ash Taylor, who chested the ball down before dispatching it beyond the helpless Fraser Forster. Aberdeen continued to threaten throughout the first and second halves with Celtic not really coming too close to breaking through, with the exception of Johnny Hayes’ missed chance, after some neat interplay with Odsonne Edouard.

As previously mentioned, this Celtic side do not know when they are beat, and with 10 minutes to go the visitors broke on the counter. A lovely backheel from Edouard found McGregor, who fed the ball to James Forrest. Forrest calmly held the ball against the tackles of the retreating Aberdeen defenders before feeding Kris Ajer, who was playing right-back, and who coolly slotted the ball over the advancing Joe Lewis to secure a vital 3 points for the Bhoys.

On the ground where Celtic had secured the title in 2019 – their 8th consecutive league title – Kris Ajer’s goal in such a vital game, in the tricky windy conditions, put one hand on the trophy for the 9th consecutive year.

4 March 2020

Livingston 2 (Guthrie 24, Robinson 46)
Celtic 2 (McGregor 16, Rogic 90+1)

It’s interesting that one of the biggest results of the season for Celtic was a draw, but events in other games around the country meant that the last-minute equaliser for Tom Rogic carried that extra special meaning. The Tony Macaroni Arena is Celtic’s bogey ground – since Livingston’s promotion back to the Scottish Premiership, we have never won there. Looking further back, Celtic’s last win at Almondvale came back in February 2007, a 4-1 victory in the Scottish Cup.

Celtic looked like they might finally get the hoodoo off their back when McGregor struck home from the edge of the area with only 16 minutes gone. The lead didn’t last long, though, and Livingston’s long-throw tactic proved successful as Jon Guthrie got in front of Fraser Forster to hook the ball over the Englishman and into the net. Forster had come a long way off his line without looking too confident and it did look like he was fouled in the buildup, but the goal was given regardless.

In the loss at Livingston earlier in the season, Chris Jullien admitted himself that he had one of his worst games of his career and Livi striker Lyndon Dykes was once again giving the big Frenchman some nightmares, none more so that directly from kick-off in the second half. Jullien was dragged wide before slipping on the artificial surface which left Dykes to square the ball to Scott Robinson who slotted the ball home and give Livingston the lead.

Alarm bells were ringing all around the Tony Macaroni Arena and that was more than just the fire alarm, which seemed to last the whole second half! Celtic continued to pound the Livingston goal, there were several occasions where the final pass was lacking or refereeing decisions seemed to go against the Bhoys but, just when the light seemed to be going out, Odsonne Edouard picked up the ball, drove towards the goal and found Tom Rogic on the penalty spot. The big Australian had the whole of the net to find, and find it he did.

A thunderous joy pounded around the 8,000 travelling fans at Livingston, which was further compounded by the news filtering through from Glasgow… Hamilton Accies had held on to a 1-0 lead at Ibrox and Celtic had extended their lead at the top of the table to 13 points.

13 points, 25 goals of a difference and championship-winning form. The gap between Celtic and Rangers when this pandemic brought world football to a premature halt was unassailable and those who really understand football know why Celtic have been handed the Scottish Premiership title. There is no asterisk or tainted title, Neil Lennon’s side won the 2019/20 title by playing incredible football and turning up when it really mattered. Had the season been allowed to finish as planned at the start of the season, Celtic would’ve won the league by at least the 13-point deficit they held at the point of the virus causing a lockdown. Don’t let anyone from that side of Glasgow tell you otherwise. People who really understand football and those whose opinions really matter know the score!

Stay safe, stay at home and enjoy your celebrations!

Colin Watt

Watch A Celtic State of Mind at the Stevie Chalmers Auction here:

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