Alfredo Morelos is in the news for clashing with team-mate Greg Docherty in the tunnel following Sunday’s Old Firm Scottish Cup semi-final. But it is also getting personal between the Colombian striker and Craig Gordon.
There is no doubt Morelos is currently coming off worse in the latter duel. Eighteen goals in his debut season is a more than reasonable return from the 21-year-old striker.
It does seem, however, as if Gordon holds a sign over him. In four games against Celtic this season Morelos has been frustrated due to a combination of poor finishing and outstanding goalkeeping, by Gordon especially.
It can happen sometimes. Even the great Ronaldinho never scored against Celtic in six appearances against them for Barcelona.
Ronaldinho was not up against the same goalkeeper each time. Morelos, too, is being very egalitarian with his profligacy.
He also struggled to score against Scott Bain in the previous Old Firm derby before Sunday’s game. The on-loan Dundee goalkeeper clasped one shot on the line after it bashed back off the post. But Gordon’s heroics in denying Morelos have been particularly eye-catching. For the time being at least he appears to be the striker’s principal nemesis. Gordon realises this can change in an instant.
“I’d imagine he does hate the sight of me but it’s nice when you get an upper hand on a striker,” said Gordon yesterday, as he reflected on his third clean sheet against Rangers this season.
“It doesn’t always happen and I’m sure he will get more chances. I’ll try my best to keep them out even if the law of averages says he will get one eventually. It was pleasing for me to keep a couple of his efforts out and it helped the team which is the most important thing.”
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Morelos’ troubles began in the 2-0 loss to Celtic at Ibrox in September. But he really got sick of the sight of Gordon in December when the goalkeeper blocked a point-blank header with his leg to help deny Rangers a much-needed victory.
Morelos was given cause to look to the heavens in despair once more on Sunday when Gordon flicked another header over the bar with a spectacular, twisting save. The striker then had himself to blame a couple of minutes later for failing to capitalise on a chance after Mikael Lustig’s sliced clearance came back off the bar before landing at his feet. Morelos was unable to force the ball past Gordon, who recovered superbly.
“I was still on the ground after Mika sliced the clearance off the bar,” the goalkeeper recalled. “I had dived back towards the net to try to get to it and realised I wouldn’t get near it even if it was under the bar.
“When it crashed off the bar I was trying to get myself in front of the line to make some sort of barrier.
“The rest of the goal was quite open, but the angle he had I was just trying to give myself an opportunity to make a block. I stuck my left leg out to deflect it away.”
Gordon admitted his flying stop from Morelos’ header was the pick of the limited number of saves he had to make in a one-sided contest. “It was quite sharp – one of the best parts of my game is the reflex save and I’ve had quite a few this season,” he said. …“That was another to add to the list and it’s always good when you do it against your biggest rivals in a semi-final.
“I’ve had a few similar ones – one at that end in the League Cup final against Motherwell. It’s been a good end of the ground for me and hopefully I can produce a few more. If we play the way we do then maybe I won’t have to make many more.”
One of Gordon’s chief requirements in a potentially second successive treble season has been to keep sharp despite being inactive for long spells. This was particularly so during the first half on Sunday when Rangers failed to test him at all.
Playing only his second game since January due to injury, the 35 year-old longed for an early touch. But Rangers were being pinned so far back even the Celtic defenders were seeing little of the ball.
“I’ve not played a lot of football so I was looking for an early touch to settle and that didn’t appear,” said Gordon.
“Right through the first half I only had a couple of touches. Even when we are dominant normally we circulate the ball at the back.
“We didn’t need to as we were further up the pitch and the guys had it all under control. It was just about keeping concentration and making sure when I was called upon I was there to do it.”
Gordon’s re-emergence is well timed since Bain has been attracting admiration for some solid displays since being brought in after Dorus de Vries suffered a training-ground injury last month.
Bain, whose contract with Dundee expires next month, is in talks over a deal with the champions.
“I’ve always admired Scott in games I’ve played against him and he’s a talented goalkeeper,” said Gordon. “If he signs then it will be a challenge. It was nice to get out and play well and give myself a chance of featuring for the rest of the season.”