Football: Pleasure and Pain of the Beautiful Game; CELTIC 3 HIBS 2 Hoops and Hibs Serve Up Cracker for the Fans but It's Pure Torture for Strachan and Lenny

Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland), December 12, 2005 | Go to article overview

Football: Pleasure and Pain of the Beautiful Game; CELTIC 3 HIBS 2 Hoops and Hibs Serve Up Cracker for the Fans but It's Pure Torture for Strachan and Lenny


Byline: By Hugh Keevins

GORDON STRACHAN reckons the fans would have a restful night while he and Tony Mowbray would be the victims of insomnia as they fret over losing five goals.

What a financially rewarding but soul-destroying business club management must be for people who feel tortured in the midst of extreme pleasure.

This was the best SPL game of the season and it saw 59,895 people being entertained in a way they had forgotten was possible between the hours of 3pm. and 4.45pm on a Saturday.

It was a reminder of the reason why we all like football in the first place but the Celtic manager and his captain, Neil Lennon, were racked by guilt.

Maybe Strachan had given the game away the day before the match when he claimed Celtic were suffering from a form of emotional scarring that would need the league flag to act as cosmetic surgery.

Strachan and the Irishman - who made one, unpunished mistake in the match - were steely-eyed and cold-hearted in their assessment of something that was a source of enjoyment to everybody else.

The boss said: 'I was having palpitations. You name it, I was having it. The fans can have a restful night but coaches have to be quizzical over the way goals are lost.'

Celtic went ahead through a disputed header from John Hartson and then fell behind to a goal from a corner kick that Guillaume Beuzelin nodded in from close range.

Steven Fletcher put Hibs in front with a terrific, angled drive from the edge of the penalty box before Shaun Maloney performed his Lubo Moravcik impersonation at a free-kick to equalise.

The winning goal resembled the nearest the game got to a shambles when Maloney miscued his shot from Paul Telfer's cross on to the post and the rebound hit Hartson on the shin to bounce over the line without the Welshman knowing very much about it.

Even Victor Meldrew would have been up on his feet whistling and cheering by that stage, but Lennon had to adopt the mantle of a man in the midst of a serious business as he pointed out why his appreciation of the final result had to be diluted with frustration.

He said: 'We dominated the first half and then fell asleep for the first 15 minutes after the break.

'Complacency is what's beating us right now but the team did show courage to come back from being a goal down and that's the best we've played against Hibs for a while.

'The problem is we gave them a free header to score their first goal and then stood off to let them score their second from an unchallenged position.

'It was the same story against Aberdeen the week before when we went a goal down. We've got to cut it out.'

Our pleasure is their pain, obviously.

Lennon has managed to drive himself to fresh heights of endeavour as his 35th birthday approaches and he said: 'There can be no comfort

zone for players under Gordon because he owes no allegiance to anyone.

'Some people felt Martin O'Neill favoured the players he brought to the club during his time as manager, but that was never the case.'

From the stands it looked like those who were working hard to impress provided high-tempo, superior-quality football. And whether the goal originates from a mistake or a moment of genius, it still has to be applauded.

Shunsuke Nakamura and Ivan Sproule, a second-half substitute for the ineffectual Derek Riordan, terrorised the opposition.

Sproule tormented Ross Wallace and caused him to question his career move from winger to full-back. The Japanese star was masterly and intelligent every time he touched the ball.

Even his captain was forced to let the mask slip and allow himself a fleeting smile when he summarised his team-mate's performance. Lennon said: 'Naka brings creativity and freshness to the side. There's not much of him but he's a fit boy who has his own personal trainer. …

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