We’ve won the league again, fly the flag

“Gone by Christmas (2021)” they said.  “The Asian players will be too weak for Scotland”, they said.

Four trophies later – with another one pending – Ange Postecoglou’s Celtic was today crowned Back2Back Champions of Scotland after a 2-0 win at Tynecastle against Hearts, the goals coming from Kyogo Furushashi and Oh Hyeon-gyu.  The critics have been silenced.

It may not have been a vintage performance or one that will live long in the memory.  Today was always all about the outcome, and the outcome was Celtic being crowned Champions on the Sunday before a Bank Holiday dedicated to celebrating a coronation.

Celtic’s title coronation

Giving credit where it is due, Hearts started the match the brighter of the two sides, taking the game to Celtic.  The home side adopted an aggressive and direct approach that caught Celtic unawares.

The back two of Starfelt and Kobayashi, both of whom had come in for pre-match praise from Liam Carrigan and Kevin McCluskie, looked nervous and unsure in the opening exchanges.  Both were guilty of stray passes and poor clearances as Celtic struggled to get to grips with the occasion and Hearts’ aggression.

For all Hearts early endeavours, they failed to trouble Joe Hart, making his 100th appearance in the Celtic goal.  The closest they came was a long-range effort from Rowles that went wide of Hart’s right-hand post.

With Celtic finding it hard to gain a foothold on the game, Callum McGregor stepped up in true Captain’s style to pull Celtic into the contest.  A bursting run from midfield set up a chance for Hatate that the Japanese playmaker fired off target.  It was the start of Celtic growing into the game.

The true turning point began with three minutes of the first-half remaining.  Daizen Maeda was sent in behind the Hearts defence by a ball over the top from Ralston, only to be brought down by Alex Cochrane.

A freekick and yellow card were awarded to few complaints.  However, after a lengthy VAR review, Cochrane’s yellow was upgraded to red for the denial of a clear goal-scoring opportunity.  Celtic had the ball in the net from the resulting freekick, only for the goal to be correctly chalked off for an offside call against Anthony Ralston.

Captain Cal, the man for the big occasion

Goalless at the break but a man up, the view at half-time was that a goal would come. And that when it did, the game with come with it.

As with the first half, Hearts had other ideas and continued to make the game difficult for Celtic.  Hatate had a couple of half chances, but clear sights at goal were few and far between.

That was until Callum McGregor, once again, took it upon himself to decide the outcome of the game.  The skipper played a delightful ball over the Hearts defence to Hatate who, in turn, squared for Kyogo to knock home his 30th goal of the season.

The forward fell into the embrace of the Celtic support behind Zander Clark’s goal as he wheeled away in celebration. From that moment on the Hearts threat evaporated as Celtic took full control of the game, just as they have the season as a whole.

Champions again Óhle, Óhle

It took until the 80th minute for the second to come and when it arrived it had Ange Postecoglou written all over it.  Haksabanovic slipped Mooy in on the inside left channel before the Aussie sent a low cross in towards the near post.  Arriving on time to connect and divert passed Clark was Oh.  Three subs and three Ange signings combining to seal the title.

An 11th title in 12 years was celebrated like the first in a lifetime by a support that has learned to take nothing for granted.  A lesson learnt, in part from Ange himself, the humblest of leaders this club has known for many years.

We’ve won the league again, fly the flag. Fly the flag.

Kevin McCluskie

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