Each weekend there are always moments to admire, as well as moments to cringe and laugh at. With a cup final and four league games to run the rule over, we choose the five best plays of the weekend, as well as the five worst.
Proactive management by Rodgers
Callum McGregor was limbering up on the sidelines, waiting to come on, yet the 30 minute mark had yet to be reached. Anyone paying a semblance of attention to the game at home, in the pub or in the stadium knew the player who would be making way.
Emilio Izaguirre put in a performance laced with self-deprecation. He was run ragged by Chris Cadden. The Honduran left-back, who found his way back into the team thanks to the injury to Kieran Tierney, had been a more than competent stand-in. But for his time on the pitch he had the sheepish look of a man trying to pick out something in Ann Summers for his wife’s Christmas.
Most managers would have waited until half-time to make the change. Not Rodgers. He has shown he isn’t scared to shake things up early in matches and make brave calls. McGregor slotted in at left-back to prevent any more Motherwell forays down the right.
Once Rodgers had time with his team at the break he got to work tinkering and making the team MORE attacking. McGregor was moved into midfield, while James Forrest and Patrick Roberts became wing-backs-cum-wing-forwards.
With belief in his team’s ability Rodgers took a risk that could have seen them picked off on the break. But such were the brave positions taken up by his players it pushed Motherwell back, deeper and deeper. At points all of Motherwell’s players were within 20 yards of their goal line.
This incessant pressure led to Celtic coming back from 2-0 and 3-2 down to record their 13th win of the league season.
Highlights here - https://youtu.be/elWoFhWVc68
Jack the Lad
Heart of Midlothian have been on the end of some terrific goalkeeping displays this season, from Scott Fox’s performance which encouraged Amy MacDonald to tout him for a Scotland start to Zander Clark’s notable display at McDiarmid Park.
In Dingwall on Saturday it was Jack Hamilton’s turn to keep Hearts in the game as they contrived to draw 2-2 with Ross County. With the hosts 1-0 up, Michael Gardyne found space in the box to get a shot away. The effort was blocked by Hamilton but it was his reaction which was most impressive. He was alert to get back onto his feet and close the angle on the rebound, making himself as big a target as possible, blocking the shot with a firm arm.
Then with Hearts 2-1 in front he showed his athleticism and agility to acrobatically tip over Liam Boyce’s point-blank header.
It was all in vain as County scored a penalty to equalise while Hearts missed one of their own to win it.
Highlights here - http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/scotland/38201726
Barrie McKay has found the step up from the Championship difficult. Such were his performances in the second tier he propelled himself into the Scotland reckoning. And such have been his performances on the top-flight he has duly played his way out of the national team.
Prior to victory over Aberdeen, McKay had been relegated to the bench for seven straight games, meaning any impact had to come in a short space of time. This urgency to impress saw McKay try to play penetrative and difficult passes. The frustration of Rangers fans has been noticeable when McKay loses the ball.
Yet, even with the fans’ frustration ringing in his ears he would still look to make a decisive impact rather opt for safer passes.
He was back in the starting line-up following Rangers’ deplorable showing at Tynecastle in midweek. And he was back to making a significant impact. It was his looping ball which allowed Lee Wallace the best chance of the first half, a link that worked so well last season.
He inadvertently set up Kenny Miller for the opener before playing the key pass for the key goal. Aberdeen’s defensive organisation was slightly askew but when the ball came to McKay he only had one thing on his mind, assist. Lee Hodson had found himself in a position usually taken by James Tavernier in the opposition’s box and, with the gap developing between Graeme Shinnie’s legs, McKay slipped it through. An extra 0.5 of an assist should be awarded for the nutmeg.
Highlights here - https://youtu.be/mnPulErMEhU?t=58
MacDonald’s chipper mood
Jamie MacDonald cut a frustrated figure for most of last season. His mood shifted from exasperation and to simply being offended by the defending in front of him. Although, ultimately, he was key in Kilmarnock’s survival.
His mood this season is more chipper as Kilmarnock are more organised and disciplined. They’ve already kept four league clean sheets. It took them until February to record as many last season.
They were worthy of their 2-0 win over Dundee and would likely have still won if Danny Williams had found the back of the net with his late header. However, he was denied by an improvising MacDonald. With excellent footwork and body movement, the Killie stopper was able to get across and thwart Williams with both his feet.
A lot has been made of goalkeepers and their feet. MacDonald showed how important they are in preventing goals.
The clean sheet will give MacDonald, Lee Clark and the defence more confidence.
Highlights here - https://youtu.be/ikZw04rtLsg?t=110
Louis Moult’s first goal? Well that would be obvious. A controlled volley coming over his shoulder, lobbing Craig Gordon to end Celtic’s long spell without conceding. Excellent.
However, the second was equally impressive. There was dogged work from Ross MacLean in the build-up which epitomised Motherwell’s positive approach to combat Celtic. While Mikael Lustig rolled around then appealed for a foul which he wasn’t getting, MacLean sent in a wonderful cross for Moult to put Celtic two ahead.
Kolo Toure spent the majority of the first half star-gazing... in Lanarkshire... in early afternoon. The Ivorian was caught out for the first goal and was equally susceptible to the second, unaware of Moult’s movement and failing to recognise where the danger was. But the cross was exceptional: the trajectory, pace and height.
Highlights here - https://youtu.be/elWoFhWVc68?t=19
WORST FIVE PLAYS OF THE WEEKEND
Vigurs’s defensive disregard
Inverness are currently in a bad way: four consecutive defeats, an injury-ravaged squad, reliable players under-performing, and too many weak individual performances. What they don’t need is experienced players losing focus.
Iain Vigurs is a technical and talented footballer. With play at his feet he is more than capable, but off-the-ball he has not displayed the required positional discipline to perform a central midfield role effectively.
St Johnstone’s first goal was case in point. Vigurs grappled with Liam Craig before the latyer shunted the ball to Steven MacLean. As the ball moved so did Craig, following the path of play, Vigurs on the other hand stayed put and ball-watched, making little to no effort to get back with Craig.
Lowlights here - https://youtu.be/qM-4ha_zmRg
Ade ‘Akinbiyi’ Azeez
Ade Azeez has made a positive impact at Partick Thistle. His pace stretches teams, his power allows him to hold up the ball, acting as a fine foil for Kris Doolan, and his willingness to run the channels opens up space and drags defenders into uncomfortable areas. However, his finishing . . .
He has had numerous clear cut chances but is still on one league goal. He was once again presented with a one-on-one as he raced on to a long ball. But once again he wasted the chance, lobbing over the bar. It was a similar opportunity to one he had against Aberdeen, but that time he chipped the ball into the goalkeeper’s arms.
These chances have cost Thistle. They could be enjoying a more comfortable existence in the league. Yet, at the same time, the qualities he brings to the team as a whole gets him into these positions. What is a manager to do?
Lowlights here - https://youtu.be/zMe36QhROWE?t=34
Ask a striker to describe a clear cut headed chance that they would want each game. They would describe the exact scenario passed up by Jayden Stockley at Ibrox.
With no scoring in the match, Jonny Hayes hared to the by-line before standing up a perfect ball for the Englishman, dead centre of goal, six yards out. He sent the header wide. Inexplicable.
Lowlights here - https://youtu.be/mnPulErMEhU?t=26
The Jambos are yet to win in their startling new kit. Hearts have won three away games all season. One was with the home top, the other two, Partick Thistle and Motherwell, were in LAST SEASON’S away strip.
It is a feeble excuse but it isn’t the first time it has been used. Remember Manchester United’s grey kit? 3-0 down at Southampton, Sir Alex Ferguson demanded his players switch the top.
The strip is a nice idea. Emphasis on idea.
McGregor slip and slide
Okay. This isn’t from the Premiership but it is too good to overlook. When Simon Murray was impeded, winning a penalty during Friday’s night top of the table Championship clash, one incident may have been missed as you debated whether Liam Fontaine had fouled the Dundee United striker.
Watch it again and again. And again. As Murray evades a challenge or two, you’ll see Darren McGregor slide into frame and vanish just as quickly as he entered. It looked like he was on a slip and slide, and at such pace he may still be going.
Just watch the valiant but redundant attempt. Do it again. Maybe from a different angle. And again. You’ll be transfixed.
Lowlights here - https://twitter.com/terracepodcast/status/804834314881998848