Celtic 4 Hamilton 0: Bhoys give Hamilton a battering
THIS was no great advertisement for the dear old SPL. God loves a trier but Hamilton were annihilated, absolutely battered from first whistle to last and it wasn't all that comfortable watching it.
Having conceded four against Falkirk last week, only a raving lunatic would have given them the earthliest chance of survival here but they were gone even before they started and the only wonder was that Celtic didn't get more goals on the board. Four was a respectable but not a spectacular return on the number of chances and the amount of possession they had. Eight might have been more in keeping with their superiority.
Celtic top the league now, level on points with Rangers, who play St Mirren this afternoon, but ahead of them on goal difference by a solitary strike. Every Celtic fan who witnessed this will surely agree that three points will scarcely come any easier than they did yesterday. Shunsuke Nakamura got the first, Georgios Samaras the second (his tenth of the season), Scott McDonald the third and Aiden McGeady the fourth.
Any number of others could have scored but didn't. It could have been an infinitely uglier, almost record-challenging scoreline but it wasn't. That's the extent of the positives as far as Hamilton are concerned. They didn't slump into the history books. That was their small mercy.
McGeady's goal and his two assists marked him out as the outstanding player. Gordon Strachan might disagree with that. We know their relationship is testy at the best of times and Strachan did nothing to dispel that view. When asked to sum-up McGeady's contribution, the manager offered an enigmatic "aye, he works" before going on to praise others in his team. Barry Robson could have been man of the match playing at left-back instead of the injured Lee Naylor, said Strachan. Garlands, too, for Nakamura and Marc Crosas, who was "fantastic".
Save for the odd breakaway which yielded nothing, Hamilton didn't exist. You can't blame them for that. Can't get on their backs, can't put them down for not being anywhere close to the same level as their hosts. It's just the way of the world. Celtic were the small fry to Villarreal's big fish midweek. Now Hamilton had replaced them as the minnow and they were out of their depth.
At 3-0, though, they miraculously won a penalty, a soft award given against Gary Caldwell for a supposed foul on James McCarthy. James McArthur took it (weakly) and Boruc saved low to his right. McArthur followed up with a header and Boruc saved that too. "He's gutted," said his manager, Billy Reid. "That was the worst game he's ever played for me but he's a very talented young player and he's got a huge career ahead of him." McArthur will be 21 on Tuesday. Er, congratulations.
The game was less than a minute old when Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink keeled over and it could be a month before we see him again. That was the height of the excitement for a long while apart for a few early tricks by McGeady who put the frighteners on Brian Easton every time he ducked and dived in the full-back's territory. On top of that there was a bit of a scramble in the Hamilton penalty box when Robson put in a lovely cross for Samaras who then forced a save out of Tomas Cerny followed by a hoofed clearance on the rebound from Martin Canning. Beyond that, not much.
What the game needed was a goal and there was only team capable of getting it. The opener was no surprise and neither was its provider, McGeady getting free again on the right and curling in a cross which dropped over David Elebert's head to Nakamura, standing unmarked near the back post. Nakamura took it down and cracked it past Cerny.
Players are taught to avoid complacency in situations like this, they're told from a young age that no game is won or lost at 1-0. But this one was. It was done and dusted the moment Nakamura scored. What was left to decide was not the identity of the winner but the scale of the victory. Scott McDonald, whose waistline has been the subject of some chat among those who obviously have very little to chat about, almost doubled Celtic's advantage five minutes later when his close-range shot came back out off the inside of Cerny's left-hand post but we didn't have long to wait for the second goal to arrive.
It came from out wide once again, this time from the left side where Nakamura supplied the ammunition. It was easy, though. So easy. Nakamura simply waited for a runner sure in the knowledge that Hamilton wouldn't pick him up. Samaras was that runner. He strolled into the penalty area unhindered, Nakamura rolled it into his path and the Greek internationalist side-footed it past Cerny. The words candy and baby sprang to mind.
So did the words blood and bath. Seven minutes after Samaras scored, McGeady ought to have made it three. If he wasn't such a mediocre finisher (still a problem in his game despite his advances last season) he'd have tucked away a glorious chance, set up by McDonald. The Republic of Ireland international tried to place it gently in the corner beyond Cerny's reach instead of giving it a proper smack. Cerny got down quickly and finger-tipped it away.
Reid made two changes at the break and at least they managed to stem the bleeding. Celtic had chances and didn't put them away. Then they fell into a brief sleep before rousing themselves towards the end. McDonald got the third after McGeady slipped a ball into the space where McDonald and Canning were running. Both men slipped but McDonald was up sharply and he made light work of beating Cerny. The Hamilton penalty followed, a surreal moment in some senses. The notion that Hamilton would actually score a goal didn't enter the head until that point but here they were about to do it. Alas, they failed. "The boys are saying it wasn't a penalty," said Strachan, "but it brought Artur into it and he played his part in the win. But he was practically a spectator today."
And there was a last kick in the teeth for Hamilton, the substitute Shaun Maloney jinking through on the left and setting up McGeady for the fourth, slotted away in the corner from a dozen yards out. Mercifully for Hamilton, it ended soon after.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Aiden McGeady was central to the creation of two Celtic goals last week and he did the same again here. Plus he added a goal of his own. Getting back to his best form.
This was the third time in five domestic games that Celtic have hit the opposition for four goals and there's been seven different goalscorers in that run. Pity none of them can do it at Champions League level.
Straight-talking honesty of Billy Reid in the aftermath. Reid admitted his team got destroyed. No ifs or buts about it, he said. The talking point comes in trying to remember when we heard a manager being so truthful about his own team.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Thursday 23 May 2013
Temperature: 5 C to 10 C
Wind Speed: 25 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 3 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 20 mph
Wind direction: North east