Celtic had a potential banana skin game today at Gayfield Park. When teams like them have to play lower ones, there's always an established plot: a win doesn't show nothing nor won't give excellent sensations; however, a loss might mean a major crisis, a massive showing that the bigger team is not good enough, it can be a proof that their players didn't show the spirit they should according to their weekly wage and their talent. The Hoops disappointed at Celtic Park two weeks ago when they led Arbroath to equalise with a complacent display. Doris will always remember the goal he scored at Celtic Park, and today his team had the chance to shock the 'Bhoys'. The hosts looked for their first win over Celtic since 1937, and Paul Sheerin, a declared Celtic fan, believed his team could do it despite the favourites tag being on the visitors' side.
Matthews finally got his goal
During the first 10 minutes, both teams tested each other and accepted the predictable characters these ties use to have. Celtic were on the driving seat while Arbroath concentrated their efforts on defending the draw while they tried to hit the ‘Bhoys’ on the break. Steven Doris had a key role, he was the man to lead the line and hold on the ball while the wingers looked for some space behind Mulgrew or Lustig. He looked isolated during the first half but looked fine everytime his work on the ball was required.
Celtic wanted to avoid another draw and dominated even though they had some problems opening up the hosts’ defence during the first ten minutes. Once they moved the ball well, they scored after Lassad’s tap-in. The Tunisian’s goal was ruled for offside, but Celtic’s build up movements were fastly improving as Brown’s awareness and pace in the midfield was making the difference.
Arbroath were giving Celtic lots of space between the defence and the midfield, and the visitors took advantadge of that on the 18th minute. Adam Matthews run filled him with confidence, the required one to try a long shot from 18 yards, at the right edge of the area. His attempt hit the left top corner to give Celtic the lead. It was the Welshman’s first goal in the Hoops, a fairly impressive strike from a player whose attacking role has flourished since he’s been deployed in the right wing-back position.
Lassad could have buried the “Red Lichties” chances of progressing minutes later, the former Depor player's effort had the best answer coming from Scott Morrison. The local keeper rescued his team when the Celtic forward looked for his second goal this season after a great assist from Samaras. Neil Lennon’s men dominated but kept their skills for the second half while Arbroath barely troubled Forster during the first 45 minutes.
Arbroath troubled Celtic, but lacked a cutting edge
Celtic and Arbroath didn’t trouble each other during the opening minutes and this benefited Celtic, whom -as Lennon had told before the match- today fielded a strong team (almost the same one that played at Rugby Park on Saturday). The minutes passed and the 0-1 result was still there. Celtic had already felt the same when both teams met each other at Celtic Park. That day, the visitors didn’t look like scoring, but Celtic’s failure to get a bigger lead was the start of Arbroath’s recovery. For some tense, unexpected moments, the déjà-vu feeling invaded Celtic, mostly when Steven Doris looked for another stunning costless-kick shot, luckily for Celtic, the ball was way over the bar. The 'Bhoys' had large spells with the ball at their feet, but couldn’t really trouble Morrison, who reacted well when his team required his work between the sticks. The hosts had a goal disallowed for a foul on Forster, Sibanda had a good position to draw, but Celtic’s defence pressed well to avoid further damage.
Celtic’s mission in Angus looked over when Kayal headed a ball from 6 yards, the bladder was clearly on target and looked on its way through the net... only to see Scott Morrison make an impressive save. Seconds later, the hosts had the best chance of the match, their counterattacking move surprised Celtic, whose players weren’t on their own half yet. With only 3 men defending and two men in good positions, the surprising thing was that Arbroath couldn’t capitalise on their advantage. Fraser Forster saved and allowed Celtic to keep their narrow lead.
Hooper and Wanyama had been introduced on the 66th minute but they didn’t really make their mark on the game. But this wasn’t needed as Celtic raced through the final minutes to get their place in the Scottish Cup’s 5th round. Arbroath fought during the whole match but the gulf in class was too big to have a different outcome.