5 things we learned from Celtic's Betfred Cup triumph over Motherwell
Consecutive trebles look to be on the way
That’s one trophy out of three already secured, and seeing as only a minor miracle on the part of Aberdeen would stop them winning the title, that would leave only the Scottish Cup for Celtic to secure successive trebles. The reigning champions already look unstoppable at present, and then you remember the fact that Brendan Rodgers is looking to strengthen the squad in January rather than wait until the summer window if he can. As good as they are, by the time we get to the fourth round of the Scottish Cup they could be even stronger.
Sunday’s final highlighted just how difficult it is to defeat this Celtic side. This season has already saw a smattering of passive performances in domestic football, and the first half of this match was another example. But they don’t have to play particularly well to win. Even though they struggled to create in the opening period, they didn’t look like conceding either, and once they turned it on after the interval they quickly broke the deadlock. As soon as they got the first goal, you just knew who was going to have their name on the cup.
Motherwell failed to make the most of their opportunities
The Steelmen will lament one big decision in the game which went against them, but when they analyse their own performance they’ll regret failing to capitalise on a first half where they managed to give as good as they got against the heavy favourites, and for failing to deal with Celtic’s reaction at the beginning of the second period.
Richard Tait was always going to have a vital role on the right for Motherwell. The full-back is one of the most accurate crossers in the Scottish Premiership and needed to prove that at the national stadium when the opportunity arose. There were three such instances in the first half, but he failed to find a Motherwell target with any of them. He also made a couple of poor decisions in similar circumstances where he could have put the ball into the area but didn’t do so. It’s harsh to single out the player, who’s largely been excellent for his side, but when facing Celtic it’s little things like this that make all the difference.
We are seeing peak James Forrest
Forrest’s form has always come in peaks and troughs at Celtic. Just when you think he might be heading out the door, or firmly behind the likes of Patrick Roberts in the pecking order, he comes through with a sustained run of form which shows why he’s made close to 250 appearances for his boyhood heroes.
In a first half where Celtic were largely frustrated by Motherwell’s man-marking system, Forrest still managed to shine. Unlike Scott Sinclair, who’d often return the ball from whence it came when he felt pressure coming, Forrest remained fearless. He was always looking to turn and run at the opposing defenders.
Nobody deserved to open the scoring more than Forrest, and he did so in style four minutes into the second half. Showing real confidence in his ability, he didn’t hesitant in cutting inside on to his weaker left foot and curling a terrific effort into the corner at the far post.
Craig Gordon showed his worth
This past midweek the goalkeeper’s long-term future at the club was once again called into question by BT Sport pundit Chris Sutton, who was critical of the Scottish international in the wake of Celtic’s 7-1 defeat in Paris. However, with Sutton watching on as part of the live broadcast team, Gordon pulled out one of those stunning saves that’s been his trademark since coming through the ranks at Hearts 15 years ago.
Louis Moult looked set to head Motherwell on level terms after moving between the centre-backs to get on the end of Andy Rose’s cross. The striker’s header was true, but Gordon denied him with a miraculous stop. This is why Rodgers stays loyal to his No.1, even in the face of criticism for doing so.
Two wrongs don’t make a right
Celtic fans could rightly point to the foul given against Cedric Kipre inside the penalty area and argue that the Motherwell defender was a little fortunate to still be on the park at that point. The Frenchman had gone right over the top of the ball and into the ankle of Moussa Dembele during an early challenge which, had it been spotted by referee Craig Thomson, could easily have warranted a red card.
However, that’s not the way it works. There are no “make-up” calls in officiating and Thomson got it badly wrong later in the game when he pointed to the penalty spot after Scott Sinclair went down after the lightest of touches on the arm by Kipre.
For the neutral watching at home it was a real shame. A match which took precisely 49 minutes to truly get going had sparked into life, with chances at both ends. The decision, and Moussa Dembele’s cool finish, ended the final as a contest.