Andy Harrow gives his take on Celtic’s Scottish Cup victory over Morton.
Marvin Compper’s debut gives Rodgers food for thought
It was an inauspicious start for Marvin Compper on his Celtic debut. His loose pass under no pressure released Morton’s Gary Oliver and although he was eventually crowded out at the expense of a corner kick, it was an uncomfortable introduction to Scottish football for the former RB Leipzig man. Thankfully for him, and for the Parkhead crowd’s nerves, it proved to be a simple case of rustiness.
After all, Compper has played in only three games all season and none since his January move to Glasgow. With Lustig suspended for next week’s Old Firm game, Morton offered Rodgers an opportunity to experiment, deploying Compper on the left side of a back three alongside Simunovic and Ajer. As a natural left footer, this gave Celtic’s defence balance and, bar that initial mistake, Compper eased through the game. His performance will have given Rodgers something to consider for next Sunday, but it might be asking for too much, too soon.
Morton’s missing players might have made a difference
Morton began the game like a team who haven’t kicked a ball since Tuesday night. The adverse weather conditions affecting the entire country meant Jim Duffy’s men barely trained between their defeat to Livingston four days ago and their appearance at Parkhead, so perhaps it was understandable that they started this Scottish Cup tie with such relish.
Understandably, they struggled to maintain that early tempo and Celtic dominated the remainder of the match, almost unimpeded. Had the Greenock side not been shorn of four important attacking players, they may have offered a more consistent threat the home side’s back-line. With Ross Forbes, Jai Quitongo and Robert Thomson all injured and John Baird cup tied, Duffy had few options on the bench to change the game’s flow.
Edouard is still a useful option for Rodgers
The weekend before an Old Firm game is not a bad time to remind a manager of your qualities. That’s what Odsonne Edouard did against Morton, having appeared at half time for Scott Sinclair. The Frenchman has been on the fringes of Celtic’s starting eleven this season, but his performance against the men from Greenock showcased why he’s useful to have around. Where Celtic struggled to create opportunities in the first half, Edouard’s intelligent movement continually found him pockets of space and he tested Derek Gaston twice soon after entering the fray. His display energised the entire Celtic attack and his late goal was no more than he deserved.
Morton will be a difficult opponent in the Premiership play-offs
They may have lost, but there was ample evidence of why Morton currently sit third in the Championship table. They have one of the meanest defences currently in Scottish football, as Celtic found out during a stodgy first half. Marshalled by Thomas O’Ware, they are well organised and rarely make silly mistakes. Ahead of them, Gary Harkins is having something of an Indian summer. The 33-year old’s powers looked to be waning last season as he failed to stop Ayr United slipping into the third tier, but Jim Duffy took a chance on him and he’s been handsomely rewarded. Harkins has been both Morton’s primary player-maker and goal scorer this term and certainly didn’t look out of his depth in an impressive first-half display at Parkhead. Up front is where Morton currently look weakest, but young Scott Tiffoney will have taken confidence from a spirited display. There’s little doubt that Duffy’s men will have a say in the promotion race.
Next weekend might come too soon for Patrick Roberts
The team lines sent a ripple of excitement around the sparse environs of Parkhead, not only because it offered the first glimpse of Marvin Compper in a Celtic strip, but because it announced the return of Patrick Roberts to the first team squad. The winger has been out of action since suffering a hamstring injury in November against Motherwell and a brief appearance against Morton may have suggested he’d be in line to feature against Rangers. However, despite the game being won, Brendan Rodgers chose not to use Roberts as his final substitute, bringing on Callum McGregor instead. His appearance on the substitute’s bench may have been more premature than first thought.