Stefan Johansen paid tribute to Scott Brown last night after the Celtic skipper’s powerful performance, combined with the Norwegian’s man-of-the-match display, helped secure the first part of the domestic treble at Hampden Park yesterday.
Johansen described Brown as Celtic’s “captain with big letters” after the 2-0 League Cup final win over ten-man Dundee United. There had been speculation that Brown’s place in the team was in doubt after photographs emerged of the midfielder slumped on a pavement eating takeaway food in Edinburgh on Wednesday night.
But Brown retained both his place and the captain’s armband and contributed to a victory earned through goals from Kris Commons and substitute James Forrest. Forrest also missed a penalty as Celtic turned the screw following the dismissal of Sean Dillon shortly after half-time for a late challenge on Emilio Izaguirre.
Dillon had earlier been off the park receiving seven stitches after a clash with Virgil van Dijk when Commons put Celtic ahead. The United defender later accused Van Dijk of “leaving his leg in” as the simmering feud between the teams continued following a stormy Scottish Cup tie seven days earlier. The sides meet twice more this week, starting with Wednesday’s Scottish Cup quarter-final replay.
Johansen confirmed that no night out was planned following the victory, with reference to Brown’s reported activities in Edinburgh last week. “I don’t think so, we’ll take it easy,” he said. “We have a game on Wednesday. It’s a professional club and we’re professional players.”
On the subject of Brown, who received the trophy from singer Rod Stewart and looked generally in command of the midfield from the start, Johansen was effusive. “I think Broonie showed what a captain he is today,” he said. “I thought he was absolutely fantastic. He’s 100 per cent in training every day so when that came up I wasn’t concerned, not even a little bit.”
With all eyes on Brown, the Celtic and Scotland skipper seemed to take the reports of his night out in Edinburgh in his stride. While Johansen appeared to agree that late night drinking was not an ideal way to warm up for a cup final, he stressed that Brown had atoned with the quality of his performance yesterday.
“It’s not what you want to see happening, but it’s happened and you have to move on,” he said, with reference to the night out. “But what he did today was unbelievable. He’s a captain with big letters. He showed today what a player he is.”
Johansen’s own contribution to his side’s first success of the season was substantial. He was again lively as Celtic dominated, helped hugely by Dillon’s misfortune. Johansen has improved markedly under new manager Ronny Deila this season and is a lynch-pin of their treble hopes.
“I won the league back home but this is my first cup final as a professional so it was fun to play in,” he said. “The atmosphere was really great and it’s extra-special when there’s a trophy on the line so it was a good experience.”
Johansen was even caught in the middle of an argument yesterday as Forrest and fellow substitute John Guidetti squabbled over who should take a penalty, after Forrest was bundled over by United full-back Paul Dixon.
Johansen seemed to suggest that Guidetti should be the one to convert the award. In the end no-one converted because while Forrest won the argument, his strike was saved by United goalkeeper Radoslaw Cierzniak.
“It’s a good thing that everyone wants to take it,” said Johansen. “It’s a cup final and we’re leading 2-0 and everybody wants to score. I was actually surprised that Craigie [Gordon] was also not up there wanting to take it. That’s normal. Jamesy took it and he missed but that happens sometimes. Everyone’s friends now. Sometimes you miss sometimes you score, the most important thing is that we won the game.”
The Norwegian looked ahead to Wednesday’s replay and was relieved to do so on the back of a win that secured part one of a hoped-for treble.
“It feels good, of course,” he said. “We have said we want the treble and we’ve known since the season started that this is the first one towards that. It’s a great feeling to have the first one and now it’s two more to go. Now we have Dundee United again on Wednesday and we have to focus on that now.”
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