69 and not out – the highlights of Celtic's run

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1 Year, 7 months and 6 days on from their last domestic defeat, Celtic have finally lost. While it is not so surprising that Hearts beat the Hoops, given their busy schedule and the leaky defence, the manner of the defeat was quite something. As a Celtic fan, I suppose I would describe the game as brutal viewing. So to soothe my anger and sadness over today’s damning result, let’s look back at the top five games of Celtic’s unbeaten run. (I feel I should point out this all opinion based, the top three entries, in particular, are entirely interchangeable based on your personal preference)
 
5) Motherwell 3-4 Celtic
The earliest real threat to Celtic unbeaten run came in December 2016 when the hoops travelled to Fir Park for what would turn out to be one of the most dramatic games of the season. Motherwell took the lead early on through a fantastic lob from Louis Moult three minutes in. things went from bad to worse for Celtic in the 35th minute when Moult once again forced Gordon to pick the ball out from the back of the net, this time from a header.
The next 45 minutes proved to be completely and utterly mental. Rodgers switched to 3 at the back to give the midfield more strength by replacing Izaguirre with Calum McGregor, who made an instant impact scoring in the 48th minute. It was another twenty minutes before the ball hit the net again, this time Roberts on the end of an Armstrong cross. 2-2. One minute later, Celtic was behind again. Lionel Ainsworth fired the ball into the net from inside the six-yard box. 3-2. One minute after that, Roberts threaded a brilliant pass through to Armstrong who finished it into the bottom left corner.3-3. Madness.
The madness came to a head in the 90th minute when Tom Rogic drifted inside with the ball before placing in the right corner with his weak foot from the edge of the box. The away fans quite rightfully went daft at this, and after 6 minutes added time, the three points were on the bus back to Glasgow.
4) Celtic 3-0 Aberdeen, League Cup Final 2016/17
While this game wasn’t perhaps as exciting as the previous entry, there was a lot more on the line for both clubs: the first trophy of the season. Aberdeen had the chance to lift a domestic trophy for the second time under McInnes and Brendan Rodgers had the opportunity to claim his first as Hoops gaffer, in what would also be the clubs 100th major honour.
The game was pretty open and shut when it came down to it; Celtic pretty much-dominated start to finish, with Aberdeen, only getting the odd counter-attack in. Celtic had 61% possession and 15 shots, and Aberdeen looked totally inept in the face of Rodgers’ rampant Celts. Goals from Rogic, Forrest and Dembélé sealed the deal for Celtic and saw them well and truly on the way to securing a historic 4th treble in the clubs history.
3) Celtic 5-1 Rangers
I think what Chris Davies said on the Celtic Underground podcast about this game perfectly sums it up: “The game against Rangers was a statement game. It was a statement of ‘We are here’ basically, and we blew them away”
This was a truly fantastic game to watch as a Celtic fan. The atmosphere was that savage, aggressive passion which only a game against Rangers could foster. Celtic had been the better side of the two throughout the first half, and deservedly went into the second half 2-1 leaders, Dembélé putting two past Foderingham and totally exposing the ineptitudes of Rangers defence.
The second half was even better than the first, Dembélé sliding through Scott Sinclair to make it 3-1, then firing in his third goal of the game in the 83rd minute to become the first player to score a hat-trick. Senderos was also sent off on the 75-minute mark for the most blatant handball you’ll ever see. Then, to top it off, in the 92nd minute Stuart Armstrong caused the Rangers TV commentator Tom Miller to utter the famous words “Its Armstrong…five…” after getting on the end of Kieran Tierney’s low cross into the box.
There were many things which made this game special, the four years wait for a league game between them really built up the animosity and passion which is the driving force behind all enjoyable Old Firm games, Brown beating Joey Barton in the contested drop ball and generally running over the top of him all match, Dembélé’s hat-trick, Lustig’s beach ball celebration and perhaps best of all, that picture of Joey Barton picking the ball out of the net after one of Celtic’s many, many goals.
2) Rangers 1-5 Celtic
Well, 7 months, 3 managers, 3 derby losses and 1 derby draw on from the first Old Firm match of the season, it was time for the last one of the season, to be played at Ibrox in front of the passionate home support, it was a chance for new Gers boss Pedro Caixinha to show what his team learned from the last defeat to Celtic (occurring 6 days prior), for the unit as a whole to show what they had learned from the first drubbing against Celtic, and to end the season on a high for the fans’ sake.
They didn’t. Not even close. If anything, they were worse.
This game was brilliant, start to finish. The Rangers team were levels of ineptitude previously thought impossible, and Celtic was on fire. Sinclair slotted home the penalty from Myles Beerman’s ridiculously idiotic tackle on Patrick Roberts in the 7th minute, before Stuart Armstrong bullied the ball from Emerson Hyndman and on to Leigh Griffiths who netted his first ever goal at Ibrox, rifling the ball past Foderingham with authority a little over ten minutes later.
Celtic broke through Rangers sieve defence yet again, this time Callum McGregor getting on the end of Roberts’ pass to place it into Foderingham’s bottom left corner. At this point in the game, it became clear that Rangers were in line for yet another drubbing at the hands of their rivals.
Things went from bad to worse for Rangers as the game went on, in the 66th minute Dedryck Boyata turned Leigh Griffiths cross goal ward and, despite getting a goal back from former Celtic player Kenny Miller as a consolation, fan favourite Mikael Lustig produced the best goal of his career (probably) when jinked the ball past two Rangers men before curling into the bottom corner. He was promptly booked for over-zealous celebration.
Honourable Mentions
Celtic 1-0 Rangers (League Cup 16/17), Celtic 2-0 Rangers (Scottish Cup 16/17), Rangers 1-2 Celtic (Premiership 16/17), Aberdeen 0-3 Celtic (Premiership 17/18) Rangers 0-2 Celtic (Premiership 17/18), and finally, the game that started it all, Celtic 7-0 Motherwell (Premiership 15/16).
1) Celtic 2-1 Aberdeen, Scottish Cup Final 2016/17.
The passion. The stakes. The drama. This game was everything that the Scottish Cup Final, or indeed, any domestic cup final should be. The two best teams in the country in one final showdown, Celtic looking to make it the perfect season, Aberdeen hoping to end a season of silver medals with a gold. This blockbuster showdown had all the makings of a Hollywood ending, like Balboa vs Creed. Which one was which? Depends on where you stood, I suppose.
The game certainly got to off to a Rocky start for Celtic, Aberdeen frustrated them from the start and got the first goal of the match in the 9th minute with a superbly struck volley from current Celtic player Jonny Hayes, and for all of two minutes, Aberdeen was in Scottish Cup heaven.
Then Stuart Armstrong scored less than two minutes later and in the interim between the two goals, the Dons failed to get a touch on the ball.
The game continued in this vein of Celtic controlling but Aberdeen frustrating and breaking up the play for a while until Celtic were forced to make some tactical changes when Jayden Stockley battered his elbow into Kieran Tierney’s jaw. The full-back immediately had to go off, and Stockley was lucky not to be shown red. Rogic came on for Tierney, and McGregor moved to left back.
Looking back had Rodgers not brought on Tom Rogic, and shifted the team around by putting McGregor at left back, the game might’ve been totally different. Celtic might still have won, after all, they were the better team over 90 minutes, but who would’ve got the breakthrough? Would it have gone to penalties? Would we have lost?
Thankfully these questions are ones that don’t need answering. Tom Rogic was brought on, and just as the commentators were pondering whether or not it would go to extra time, Rogic powered through the Aberdeen line-up, drifting past weary Dons as if they weren’t even there, before finishing it past Joe Lewis’ near side, and into the net.
I wasn’t at the game, I wasn’t even in Scotland at the time. I was in a pub in Derry, Northern Ireland, but the noise there was just as passionate, just as relieved, and just as ecstatic as the noise generated in the Celtic end of Hampden that day, the noise of people who have just witnessed history made for them, and by them, who have just seen their team join the level of clubs known as, invincible.
When I returned to Scotland people told me that when Rogic’s shot hit the net a bolt of lightning struck, like there was some kind of divine force behind Celtic’s success that day, and I’m not the most religious of guys, but I thought yeah, I can believe that, because if you were to choose one word to describe Celtic’s performance that day in May 2017 or their performance across the 2016/17 season, that would be it.
Divine.
 

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