A potential season-changer
There could be profound consequences arising from Celtic captain Callum McGregor taking the full force of Adam King’s forehead, at speed, on the side of his face. Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou, who cut a dejected figure over the loss of his on-field mentor, seemed to find it objectionable to offer a prognosis on the accidental collison in an aerial challenge, beyond stating the injury was “significant”. Even when it can be presumed the team’s medical team had communicated to him an early assessment.
On BBC’s Sportscene highlights programme, former Celtic midfielder Peter Grant was more forthcoming. He noted the manner in which McGregor held the side of his face as he left the field, patently in excruciating pain, and recalled experiencing similar in his player career when he suffered a broken bone in this area. It was a fracture that required “six to eight weeks” rehabilitiation time. Postecoglou finds the obsession with player availability for the title-tussle at home to Rangers on February 2 wearying. Fair enough, and were McGregor lost for a month, the man who sets the tone for his team both with presence and footballing poise would miss a whole host of challenging fixtures beyond the visit of the Ibrox men to the east end of Glasgow a week on Wednesday - these including the Conference League play-off against Bodo/Glimt in a month.
However, in the short-term, beginning away to Hearts on Wednesday, with Tom Rogic’s Australia call-up and David Turnbull’s hamstring sidelining, Celtic will be deprived of the trio that represented their first-choice engine room for the opening half of the season. Suddenly, Postecoglou could require to lean heavily on new playmakers in Reo Hatate and still-to-debut Matt O’Riley, and most likely the redoubtable Nir Bitton, as that combination in the middle of the park. The squad strains placed on Postecoglou and his club by cruel and consistent injury misfortune could yet have as telling a say in this title campaign as any opponent.
Failure of referee Don Robertson and Alloa to remain fully in control
When a lower league part-time team faces up to a more illustrious foe in a cup tie the ‘make sure they know they’ve been in a game’ mantra can looms large. No-one is suggesting Barry Ferguson sent out his team to confront Celtic with wild abandon. However, with Callum McGregor, Liel Abada and Yosuke Ideguchi forced off by injury, the home team pushed the physicality of the contest to the limits. There was a throwback element to the tie - reinforced by the antiquated nature of the Indodrill Stadium - that made for some red-meat tackling, which now tends to be quickly clamped down on by officials in the modern age.
Robertson did not do this and failed in his responsibilities when Mouhamed Niang studded the ankle of Ideguchi on flying into a challenge that resulted in the Japanese debutant limping off. Ridiculously, on Sportscene Richard Foster claimed Ideguchi was hurt because he sought to pull out of a 50-50 rather than go in full pelt. The more thoughtful Grant rightly called the tackle as a straight red card in the third decade of the 21st century. And it clearly breached the threshold for such an offence – the Senegalese crashing on through after slamming in for the ball in a manner that left him both out of control and endangering his opponent.
Liel Adada posting serious numbers
As Celtic’s one available striker for the next week-and-a-half, the previously fitness-bedevilled Giorgos Giakmoukais finding the net for a second goal in Celtic colours since his summer arrival in Scotland will have cheered Ange Postecoglou. So too will the continued, superb, productivity of another of his close season captures. Liel Abada’s exquisite long-range curling strike on the stroke of the interval not only provided Celtic with the two-goal cushion that meant Conor Sammon’s late counter didn’t place the tie in real jeopardy.
It supplied further evidence of the deep-seated impact of a player it should be remembered was a teenager only four months ago. The £3m signing from Maccabi Petah Tikva, can seem to drift in and out of games, but he has now plundered 11 goals and contributed a further eight assists. He has scored in every one of the five competitions the club have appeared in - finding the net in both the Champions League qualifiers and Europa League as well as all three domestic competitions - for a debut season in Scotland that surely is exceeding any reasonable expectations.