Killen (9), Samaras (39)
IF THE Tony Mowbray effect continues to be as revitalising to Celtic as it has been at Wembley Stadium in recent days, then the club's Champions League third-round qualifier at home to Dinamo Moscow on Wednesday may not prove as fraught as has been assumed. Although, let's be clear here to add the caveat that often pressure-free, pre-season winning form proves about as reliable as horoscopes in the Daily Sport.
Even allowing for such caution, however, it was still pretty remarkable that Celtic required only seconds to be first at England's national stadium yesterday. Mowbray made no fewer than ten changes from the team that tanned Al Ahly 5-0 on Friday night, and yet walked off with the Wembley Cup after his second string saw off a fairly strong Tottenham Hotspur side with some conviction.
As if it matters, Celtic finished as the only team on full points in the four-club tournament. Avoiding Champions League winners Barcelona in the scheduling no doubt had a part to play in that. Whatever, it was a faintly embarrassed Celtic squad that climbed the Wembley steps to collect a tiny trophy at the end.
Having flown to and from Moscow the previous two overnights to catch Dinamo's draw with Lokomotiv on Saturday afternoon, Mowbray was expected to spend yesterday afternoon rubbing his eyes. Ultimately, he may have been moved to so do by the surprising efficiency and enterprise of a side only selected to protect the fitness of the first choices he will send out at Celtic Park in midweek.
Just as Massimo Donati the other day showed he just might have more to offer than last season suggested, so Darren O'Dea and Georgios Samaras suggested the same with storming displays against Spurs. The Irish centre-back, captain for the day, was robust and commanding. His display was central to Celtic's fourth pre-season encounter bringing them a fourth clean sheet.
Samaras, meanwhile, marauded with the sort of purpose that utterly deserted him as Celtic relinquished their league crown. It was one of the occasions for the Greek when the ball stuck, and his sashaying past defenders worked. He put the whole package together in a peach of goal that earned his side a 2-0 lead after 39 minutes. Picking up the ball in his own half, he zipped forward fully 40 yards before lashing an angled effort high past Heurelho Gomes from 14 yards out.
In fielding a shadow side, it seemed that the priority for Celtic would be escaping the afternoon without suffering a sore one. Only Glen Loovens featured from the probable Dinamo line-up; indeed, it spoke of decent strength in depth that Mowbray could rest his first team and still send out a second string comprised of so many experienced, fringe players.
It was the nature of the opposition that engendered the belief Celtic would struggle. Harry Redknapp elected to run with at least half his first team, and that meant such as Robbie Keane, Darren Bent and Aaron Lennon were expected to show their class against a souped-up reserve side. It gave the contest all the appearance of a mis-match.
Indeed, the distinct impression was that the 5,000 or so Celtic supporters in Wembley shared that view. The way they simply could not wait to indulge in their tedious pantomine-villianry whenever Alan Hutton touched the ball, suggested they had decided that baiting the former Rangers player would be their major source of entertainment against the Londoners.
It turned out only to be the warm-up act. The disciplined manner in which Celtic got on top of their opponents soon had their supporters swapping Hutton jeers for jolly ditties about their team. Inside only nine minutes, they were able to exercise their vocal chords in goal celebration.
It was a strike that must have had Redknapp issuing every oath imaginable. Not one of his defenders bothered to get anywhere close to Chris Killen as Paul Caddis powered down the flank and when he whipped in a ball asking to be attacked, the New Zealand striker headed in a gift of a fourth pre-season goal.
Koki Mizuno, Paddy McCourt and Samaras passed up further opportunities, while a Spurs side much reshaped at half-time themselves squandered openings to make a game of it. So neatly has everything come together for Mowbray ahead of the club's Champions League qualifier, it almost seems too neat. Only in three days' time will there be evidence to arrive at any judgments.
Tottenham Hotspur: Gomes, Huddlestone, Lennon, Bent, Palacios, Keane, Chimbonda, Hutton, O'Hara, Dervite, Asson- Ekotto. Subs: Cudicini, Pavlyuchenko, Modric, Naughton, Defoe, Corluka, Rose, Livermure, Bostock, Obika.
Celtic: Zaluska, Caddis, Fox (Conroy 46), O'Dea, Loovens (Caldwell 46), Crosas, Flood, Mizuno (McGowan 65), McCourt (Ferry 65), Killen, Samaras (McGinn 65). Subs: Boruc, Hinkel, Naylor, N'Guemo, McDonald, Fortune, Maloney, McGinn, Donati, McGeady.