Written by Dr. Grant Campbell – @stato_grant
The host of Campbell’s Footballs Dr. Grant Campbell has been casting his eye over an incident packed week in Scottish Football, giving his comments on some of the major talking points over the weekend’s matches. Feel free to discuss and debate the views on various social media channels.
HELTER-SKELTER PITTODRIE ENCOUNTER SEES CHAMPIONS DROP POINTS
Where do you start with that game at Pittodrie on Sunday between Aberdeen and Celtic?
It looked like the first forty minutes today was shaping up for a damp squib of a match. However, the game exploded into life when Celtic conceded a penalty after Oliver Ntcham’s poor challenge inside the box which was converted by Lewis Ferguson (pictured) whom he fouled in the build-up.
That set the tempo for an explosive second half in which Celtic levelled through Callum McGregor. The Dons never gave up though and went back in front after Ryan Hedges bundled home from close range before a quick fire double from Leigh Griffiths and a Ryan Christie penalty looked to have guided Celtic to a much needed victory. However, right at the end, Ferguson scored his second from the spot after a foul by McGregor to earn a share of the spoils and heap more pressure on manager Neil Lennon.
It was a helter-skelter game where defences were most certainly not on top at Pittodrie. Celtic’s defenders had a nightmare. Shane Duffy, a man brought in to bring stability to the Champions back line had a disaster. Kristoffer Ajer did not fare much better. Jeremie Frimpong and Diego Laxalt looked decent going forward but not good enough defensively. For the Dons, Tommie Hoban had a tough afternoon giving away the penalty which put Celtic in front and Ash Taylor was culpable for at least one of the goals as well. It certainly was not a game for razor-sharp defending that was for sure.
For much of the game though Aberdeen were superb. They hustled and harried Celtic and caused their defence all sorts of problems with their pace and power in wide areas. Their impact players played well too. Scott Wright was excellent today off the bench as was the returning Sam Cosgrove. Ryan Hedges showed a lot of good touches in and around the box too, being a constant threat. For the Champions, Leigh Griffiths showed a lot of quality for his goal and Tom Rogic popped up with two assists. Ryan Christie was also one of Celtic’s better players.
It was a game with so much drama and no shortage of talking points for referee Willie Collum to contend with. I felt McGregor (pictured) was lucky to stay on the pitch for persistent fouling and in my view, there was a clear foul on Sam Cosgrove at 2-1 in the build-up to Griffiths equaliser that he missed too. That aside though, I felt the referee had a good game today. He got all three penalty decisions right and ultimately, those were important moments in a pretty unpredictable encounter.
Both teams will meet again in next week’s Scottish Cup semi final carried over from last season. If Aberdeen play as well as that again, they have a genuine chance of stopping Celtic winning yet another treble. The Dons put a lot into Sunday’s game and I think overall Derek McInnes will be pretty happy with the performance of his players.
If they were to go forward and defeat Celtic in that semi final, where does that leave an ailing Neil Lennon? Back to back defeats against bitter rivals Rangers and AC Milan on Thursday plus losing more ground in the title race must surely leave his position as Celtic manager close to untenable.
Celtic look a lost team right now in their quest to win ten in a row and their season is in danger of imploding in quite spectacular fashion. It promises to be an interesting next few days and weeks to see how the Champions respond to the crisis they are currently clearly in.
300 NOT OUT FOR DEFOE AS RANGERS CRUISE PAST LIVI AT FORTRESS IBROX
Rangers took full advantage of Celtic’s slip on Sunday by opening up a six point lead at the top of the Scottish Premiership with a 2-0 win over Livingston.
It’s been a good week all round for Steven Gerrard’s side. After dismantling Celtic in the derby last Saturday, this week they won their opening Europa League campaign in Belgium before returning home and blowing away Gary Holt’s side at Ibrox. Joe Aribo got back in amongst the goals and Jermain Defoe netted his 300th club career goal in a ruthless display. That is some return and the mark of a truly wonderful player. Defoe may not have the pace and engine he once had but he is still ruthless in finishing chances. Most clubs would love to have him you can be sure of that.
Rangers have been dominant at Ibrox so far this campaign.
They have yet to concede a domestic goal at home so far in the league which is quite remarkable now that we are at the end of October. They are winning with a bit to spare too and seem to be conserving energy well for harder tasks which lie in wait throughout the season, both domestically and in Europe. It all seems very measured and controlled by Gerrard’s team. Many will want them to be more ruthless and score six or seven week in week out but the fact of the matter is, winning is fundamentally all that matters at the moment and Rangers are absolutely in the driving seat as the title race heads towards the midway point.
Rangers head to Kilmarnock next weekend, a venue they have struggled at in the past (pictured). If they were to win that they would be nine points clear before Celtic play again in their match away at a resurgent Motherwell. At this stage in the season, you’d rather have points on the board than games in hand and Gerrard will be determined to make sure that his side do not let their rivals back in with any slip ups of their own.
For Livingston, they acquitted themselves well but ultimately were well beaten by Gerrard’s men. They face Motherwell at home next week (pictured) before a big match away in Dingwall against Ross County the following Friday night.
These next two games are the matches where Holt’s team will be judged upon rather than on Sunday at a venue where, for the moment at least, is like a fortress.
WATT A RETURN FOR WELL AFTER COVID ABSENCE
After almost a month without football, Motherwell are back and how!
Due to COVID circumstances affecting planned matches against Kilmarnock and St Mirren respectively, as well as another positive case at their own club this week, you can understand how frustrating the last few weeks have been for fans, players and connections associated with the Steelmen. Stephen Robinson’s side have not played a competitive league match since the 27th September when they were humbled by Rangers 5-1 at Fir Park.
The Fir Park side channelled their anger out in some fashion as they thrashed Stuart Kettlewell’s Ross County side 4-0 at Fir Park on Saturday. After an initially slow start which saw regular goalkeeper Trevor Carson having to be replaced by debutant Aaron Chapman, Tony Watt opened the scoring with an impressive finish in what was an overall excellent display the former Celtic play maker.
Watt, for me, has often flattered to deceive at times throughout his career. However, Saturday showed that, on his day, he can be absolutely unplayable. Watt was directly involved in both boxes, scoring one and assisting two as well as superbly heading off the line from Ross Stewart in the second half. Further goals by Mark O’Hara from the penalty spot, Callum Lang and Devante Cole contributed to an almost perfect afternoon for Robinson’s men, moving them up to 8th in the table, just a point behind the Dingwall team. Motherwell will hope that performances like Saturday are a more regular occurrence from here as when they play like this they can give any team in the league problems.
For the Staggies though, it was another display of defensive problems for Kettlewell’s side. They haven’t won in the League since September and are just conceding far too many goals. They’ll need to arrest this slide quickly and face two huge games against Dundee United and Livingston in their next two matches – Both these sides have already beaten Ross County so far this season – so it’ll be interesting to see how they respond.
NISBET JOLLY ON THE SPOT AS HIBS WIN ON THE ROAD AGAIN
Kevin Nisbet is quickly becoming a massive player for Hibernian (pictured).
With seven goals in his first ten games, the former Dunfermline Athletic striker really is becoming the Edinburgh team’s go-to-man in matches in the Scottish Premiership. His winning penalty at Kilmarnock on Saturday settled a scrappy game between the two sides at Rugby Park and gave Jack Ross’ team a massive three points in their quest for European football.
This was a big match for both teams and as I said in my blog last week, had Kilmarnock won this game, I think we had to be talking about their chances in the European shake-up come the end of the season. However, Hibernian have now opened up a ten point lead over their Ayrshire rivals with this victory yesterday and even at this early stage in the season, that looks like a big deficit already to claw back.
I didn’t think Kilmarnock played badly on Saturday. They just did not create too many clear cut opportunities in what looked like a match where both teams threatened to cancel each other out. It certainly did not have the thrills and spills the reverse fixture had on the opening day of the season in my view. There was also a hugely concerning moment where Clevid Dikamona was seen leaving the pitch on a stretcher. Let’s hope the Congo international makes a speedy recovery and is not out for too long. He’s been excellent so far this season for Killie in my view.
Hibernian are a really good side to watch away from Easter Road right now. So far this season, they have accumulated double the amount of points on the road than they have at home which is a quite interesting stat in itself (16pts away compared to 8pts at home). Their form is pretty good too with five wins and a draw from their last six games in all competitions which will give them a lot of confidence heading into two huge games coming up.
Next Saturday evening, they will take on Edinburgh rivals Hearts (pictured) in a huge Scottish Cup semi final (carried over from last season which you can watch on BBC Scotland) before facing Aberdeen away at Pittodrie in the Scottish Premiership. If Hibernian were to win both of these games, I think fans can start getting a little bit optimistic for a successful season for the team down Leith way.
PREDICTABLE PERTH STALEMATE
When I saw that St Johnstone and Dundee United were playing each other in Perth on Saturday, there was little doubt in my mind this was going to be a pretty tight affair between two evenly matched teams.
There is just two points covering the two sides in the Scottish Premiership table, both have conceded the same amount of goals so far (16) and St Johnstone have scored just one more goal than United (9 compared to 8) thus far.
The game itself will be a frustrating one for both teams on reflection I would think. St Johnstone were excellent last week down at Hamilton but could not break down a well drilled United defence and their finishing let them down.
United have issues too. Despite keeping three clean sheets in a row, Micky Mellon’s side have scored just once in their last four games in all competitions. The Terrors have also just two league wins from their last ten played which is also an area for concern.
St Johnstone don’t play again till November when they play Kilmarnock but United will want to get back on the winning run again quickly and next week’s match against Ross County provides a big opportunity for them to do so.
ROOFE RAISER IN BELGIUM FOR RANGERS
I, like so many football fans, was in awe at Kemar Roofe’s amazing goal in Belgium in midweek.
The former Leeds and Anderlecht striker scored an absolute screamer from inside his own half to help Steven Gerrard’s win to a superb 2-0 opening win in their Europa League group. Rob MacLean and Alex Rae’s commentary on BT Sport gave it the justice it deserved. It is worth watching again and again!
The game in Liege was a decent watch although the rain threatened to spoil a fascinating contest. James Tavernier’s penalty gave Rangers the lead but the Scottish Premiership leaders rode their luck in the first half as the Belgian’s caused problems, notably, hitting the bar twice. Rangers weathered the storm though and got the job done.
Roofe has had a slow start to his Rangers career so far but if anything can give him a major boost to kick on and have a fruitful time in Glasgow, that goal should be the catalyst for it. Have a read of James Rowe’s latest chat with Roofe on Football CFB which came out earlier this week. It was uncanny timing but fantastic too! This is a great insight into Roofe’s time in the game so far and an excellent read by one of Europe’s finest writers.
The timing of this was perfect for me too as I chatted shortly afterwards to the guys from This Is Ibrox podcast, a discussion which is coming to my Campbell’s Footballs podcast very soon.
SCOTTISH LADIES GREAT FORM CONTINUES
It would be amiss of me to forget the superb win for the Scottish women’s team on Friday night as they swept aside Albania 3-0 in a comfortable evening at Tynecastle.
Shelley Kerr’s side were in superb form throughout the match and Aberdonian Rachel Corsie opened the scoring with a fine finish before a double by Caroline Weir completed a thoroughly professional display. Scotland currently sit second in their qualification group, four points behind leaders Finland, who have played two games more than the Scots, and who Kerr’s side play in midweek.
It was a great team performance again by the girls and along with the men’s team on the international stage, it just feels like there is a bit of momentum happening right now.
Long may it continue in Helsinki on Tuesday night!