Inverness defeated as Celtic set domestic treble record

Goals from Kyogo, his 34th of the season, and second-half strikes from Liel Abada and Jota ensured that Celtic emerged victorious in the 138th Scottish Cup final.  After a two-year hiatus, the famous old trophy has been returned to the Parkhead trophy room for the 41st time; and for the 8th time as part of a domestic treble-winning season.

The performance may not have been vintage Celtic, but the outcome was all that really mattered yesterday as Celtic claimed a world-record 8th domestic treble.  The Hoops 5th treble in 7 seasons saw Ange Postecoglou join the ranks of Jock Stein, Matin O’Neill, Brendan Rodgers, and Neil Lennon in bringing a domestic treble home to Paradise.  Regardless of what the summer brings, the Aussie has written himself into Celtic folklore.

Early frustrations

Celtic dominated possession in yesterday’s final and was always in control of a game they were expected to win against lower-league opposition.  However, slack passing and a rare lack of cutting-edge in the final third led to the outcome of the game being closer than it had to be.

Ange’s team selection threw up no real surprises, Iwata maintained his place in the backline alongside Carl Starfelt, Daizen Maeda returned out wide in place of Liel Abada, and Kyogo started up front despite missing a large chunk of training during the week.

The flow of the game was clear right from the off; Inverness sat deep and in numbers, conceding possession and territory to Celtic, while trying to limit any path to goal.  The plan was to block the passing lanes and frustrate Celtic as much as possible.  And, for most of the first half, the plan worked.

Celtic struggled to find the killer pass in behind the defence and when space did open up, the final ball was often found to be lacking in quality.  That Celtic’s first effort of the game came on 19 minutes after Matt O’Riley pounced on a loose, bouncing ball at the edge of the area tells its own story.

Ange made his frustrations known around the half-hour roaring his disappointment as another attack faltered at the feet of Maeda; both wingers had failed to make much of an impact by this point despite much pre-match excitement that they could be the key to victory.

Kyogoal does it again

The breakthrough finally came 7 minutes before half-time and it was a typical Ange goal.  O’Riley showed good close control and skill in the inside channel to fashion space to cross low and hard to the near post area.  Kyogo, not for the first time, was alert to the situation and darted in ahead of the Inverness defender to lash home past Ridgers.

Kyogo almost doubled Celtic’s lead two minutes later, stabbing an outside-of-the-boot effort wide off target after being set up by Iwata.

The relief at being in front at half-time was met with renewed enthusiasm that Celtic would turn the screw in the second half and run out comfortable winners.  However, that wasn’t exactly the case as the second 45 played out in a similar vein to the first.

Celtic continued to dominate possession but struggled to create many clear openings.  With Inverness posing no obvious threat at the other end, Starfelt and Iwata added their presence to attacks as Celtic pressed for the second.

The goal came on 65 minutes as Callum McGregor once again grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck when it needed a leader to take action.  The skipper was quick to react to an advantage played by John Beaton, starting a swift attack after Hatate had been taken out of the game.  Collecting a return pass from Jota, McGregor burst into the box and squared for half-time substitute Abada to knock into the net.

A bolt from the blue saw Inverness pull one back with 5 minutes left to play, Mackay heading past Hart from close range in a rare Caley Thistle attack.  However, any nerves or jitters about a comeback were soon ended as Jota rounded off the scoring to give Celtic a 3-1 win.

Body language experts

Naturally, after the game, the body language experts – we all become one during the lockdown season – began reviewing incidents during the game and post-match celebrations for any hint of where Ange’s mind is at.

Did he give Kyogo and Jota extra long hugs as they were being subbed off because this was goodbye, or was it because of the emotion of writing a piece of history?

Was he too subdued during the lap of honour, taking it all in one last time, or simply done in after a gruelling season?

We’ll find out soon enough in the coming weeks. For now, though, we’ll enjoy the moment and the realisation that Ange and his team have just written another chapter in the illustrious and unbroken history of Celtic Football Club.

Kevin McCluskie

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