PAUL JOHN DYKES:
I remember hearing the grumbles of fellow supporters, unhappy at the news that Neil Lennon had been given the Celtic job on a permanent basis for the second time.
An almost miraculous trio of trebles had just been clinched in dramatic fashion at Hampden Park on one of the most magical days in the club’s history – the 25th May – but the disappointment from some fans was palpable as I made the short walk from the national arena to The Beechwood in something of a daze.
Little over five months later at that same stadium and Lennon’s scintillating Celtic should have those naysayers eating their words tonight. The 5-2 victory over Hibs should leave those cynics in no doubt that the Hoops’ gaffer has built what has the makings of an outstanding Celtic side.Watch Professor Willy Maley with A Celtic State of Mind
Jeremie Frimpong looks to be the find of the season. Having made his senior debut just two months ago, the Dutch teenager has bags of potential. The way he ghosts past defenders gives him two yards of space at times and his work-rate allows him to get up and down the pitch with far more frequency than Mikael Lustig ever managed in his final couple of seasons. Did anyone honestly expect anyone other than Bauer or Elhamed to feature at right-back this season?
Mo Elyounoussi won ACSOM’s Player of the Month in October and he is carrying that form into this month. He is now oozing confidence, is technically excellent, and isn’t afraid to track back and get involved physically. Players like Elyounoussi and Forster are worth bringing in on loan, even if there is no possibility of making the deals permanent (although Forster has hinted otherwise in his case). The Norwegian winger may have struggled to settle in England but he has hit the ground running up here and will be a hugely important performer for us on four fronts this season.
Finally, a special mention for Scott Brown, who continues to prove his critics wrong. I’ve previously called him, ‘The Ringleader of the Tormentors,’ and he made sure that Hibs’ Scott Allan didn’t lay a glove on him tonight, after a fairly even tussle last time round at Easter Road. He is still the driving force behind Celtic’s charge towards nine-in-a-row, but he’ll be looking to lift a remarkable 20th trophy with Celtic when we meet Hearts or Rangers in the League Cup final at Hampden next month.
Walking up to Hampden today, I was quite confident that we would be in another final come full-time. The only concerns I had were that we wouldn’t apply ourselves correctly and this would give the opposition an opening, that our fantastic cup run must come to an end at some point, that we would have an off-day and lose… but today wasn’t that day.
On a previous post, I said that if we turn up then no team in the country will stop us, we have too much fire-power going forward and a now-settled defence that looks reasonably solid.
To score five today without Edouard getting on the scoresheet just shows that we are capable of scoring from all over the park.
We are more relentless this season; in seasons gone by, after going a few goals up we may have taken the foot off the gas, but not this team. We may not score again but it’s not for the lack of trying. In all seriousness we could have won today by more than the three goals we did – we looked like scoring from each attack we made.
A few stand-outs today: I thought Brown was terrific, a commanding performance where he got his first two goals of the season. Jeremie Frimpong showed that he may be our number one right-back after another accomplished display from such a young man who is improving every game.
But my man of the match was Elyounoussi, the loan singing from the summer is really starting to find his feet and looks a real threat going forward in every game he plays. He bagged another two goals today and, if he keeps putting in these type of performances week in week out, then hopefully a permanent transfer to the Hoops is possible next summer.
The early evening kick-off may have been a little unusual, but by the time Bobby Madden blew the full-time whistle, the familiar cheer of the Celtic fans echoed around Hampden Park after another fine display of attacking football from the Scottish champions.
An early knock for Christopher Jullien looked like curtailing his involvement in the match, but a lengthy stoppage and new headband ensured our towering Frenchman was able to complete the 90 minutes at the heart of the defence.
In recent weeks, the quick interplay of our attacking players has been a joy to watch and today was no different. The player movement and ability to find space made it look like we had an extra player against a team we struggled to breakdown a few weeks ago.
Two first-half goals from Elyounoussi and a strike from McGregor secured a 3-1 lead at half-time but Hibs always found a way back into a match that really should have been out of reach after 50 minutes.
The frame of the goal had already come to Hibs’ rescue twice early in the second half before Celtic opened up a three-goal lead thanks a close finish from our Captain, Scott Brown. We maybe lost our shape for a short 10-minute spell at 4-2, as Hibs looked to build for a grandstand finish, but Celtic regained control and momentum.
It was probably fitting that our captain and man of the moment secured the win by adding our fifth goal and his second in the closing moments.
A wonderful evening of attacking football and another final on the horizon, truly how it feels to be Celtic right now.
🍀 A CELTIC STATE OF MIND
⭐️ Man of the Match
🏆 Hibernian 2 Celtic 5
1️⃣ Mo Elyounoussi
2️⃣ Jeremie Frimpong
3️⃣ Scott Brown