17/11/2017 Issue 35

Italy have failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1958.

Records were broken in this week’s Champions League ties. Paris Saint-Germain’s demolishing of Glasgow Celtic at the Parc de Princes on Wednesday night saw them become the highest ever scorers in the group stage of the competition, with 24 goals AND COUNTING (they still have a final group game against Bayern Munich); they have conceded just one. Out of the 25 goals scored by the French side, only ONE was scored by a player who came from their club academy; Moussa Dembele of Celtic scored against his former academy club.

Despite the heavy defeat, Celtic broke their own record when Moussa Dembele scored the hoops quickest ever Champions League goal within 56 seconds. God of Manchester, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, became the first player to represent 7 different clubs in the competition. His European journey has taken him to Ajax, Juventus, Inter Milan, Barcelona, AC Milan, PSG and, of course, Manchester United. Also, Basel continue to score goals against English sides at home. No English side has ever kept a clean sheet across all European competitions in the Swiss city of Basel. RotBlau defeated Man Utd 1-0 at home on Wednesday evening.

Liverpool’s crucial Group E Champions League clash with Sevilla looked to be all but over at half-time. Bobby Firmino scored a brace, including a no-look tap in, and Sadio Mane provided a third. Three goals up a half-time, the points were surely in the bag? But Sevilla had other ideas. During the break Sevilla coach, Eduardo Berizzo, informed his players that he had been diagnosed with prostatic adenocarcinoma (cancer of the prostate). The manager’s dreadful news was the catalyst that inspired a Sevilla come back. The game ended 3-3, when Guido Pizarro equlaised in extra-time (90+3′). The hosts have only been beaten once, by Juventus, in their last 25 home matches. Who knows what they can achieve if they perform with the team spirit they showed in the final 45. We wish Eduardo Berizzo all the best in his treatment and recovery.

Igor Akinfeev, goalkeeper for CSKA Moscow, kept his first clean sheet in the Champions League in 11 years and 43 games, following his sides 2-0 victory over Benfica.

Wigan’s Ryan Colclough scored an unofficial hat-trick on Tuesday night against Doncaster. The winger scored twice before being subbed off in order to rush to hospital to see the birth of his son. Colclough’s father was in the stands watching and gave his son the nod indicating that his partner’s water had broken. Colclough raced down the tunnel and made it to the birth, still in full kit, with 30 minutes to spare.

Everton were thrashed 5-1 in the Europa League against Atalanta of Italy. The Toffees have been left red faced with 5 games played, zero games won and one draw.

It was a dreadful week for English football as Koln, who haven’t won a single game in the Bundesliga this season, beat Premier League big spenders Arsenal 1-0 in Germany!

Former Manchester City, AC Milan and Real Madrid forward Robinho has been sentenced to nine years in prison following a sexual assault on a 22-year old woman in Milan. The incident took place four years ago in 2013, while playing for AC Milan. He had denied the charges, but was found guilty in absentia by an Italian court.

ONES TO WATCH

Ryan Colclough: https://twitter.com/LaticsOfficial/status/933409760057073665

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05nv3q4

 

 

 

 

Celebrating 130 Years of Celtic Football Club

Celebrating 130 Years of Celtic Football Club

In the same week that Celtic Football Club sets a new British record of 63 consecutive games unbeaten in domestic competition it is also celebrating it’s 130th birthday! The Champions surpassed their own 100 year old record, dating back to 1917 when Willie Maley was manager of the club.

The meeting to formally constitute Celtic Football Club took place on this day in 1887 at St Mary’s Catholic Church in the Calton, East End of Glasgow. The clubs first game took place on May 28th 1888, where the men in white shirts with green collars and a Celtic Cross on the breast competed for the very first time against Rangers Football Club. Neil McCallum was the club’s first ever goal scorer as the Bhoys went on to win the game 5-2.

Over its 130 years the club has won 102 major honours; lead by 18 different managers. The bhoys in green have secured the Scottish League Championship on 48 occasions, the oldest trophy in world football the Scottish Cup on 37 occasions and the Scottish League Cup on 16 occasions.

In 1967, on our 80th birthday, The Celts were crowned ‘Champions of Europe’. The Glasgow side became the first British club to lift the European Cup, beating Inter Milan in Lisbon by 2 goals to 1. A documentary shown by the BBC called ‘Glasgow 1967: The Lisbon Lions’ capturing the story of Glasgow, Jock Stein and Celtic was this week awarded a BAFTA in the single documentary category. Another trophy on the mantelpiece highlighting the nations fascination with one of the greatest sport stories ever told. The tale of the Glasgow District XI; the 11 men who lived within 15 miles of Parkhead, with the exception of Bobby Lennox who lived 30 miles away in Saltcoats, who lifted the European Cup.

Celtic have reached four European Finals; the European Cup in 1967 & 1970, the Intercontinental Cup in 1967 and, most recently, the UEFA Cup in 2003.

Regardless of the massive success the club has achieved over a century of football, the most fulfilling attribute of this proud Glasgow institute is it’s charitable work which stretches far and wide across the globe.

“A football club will be formed for the maintenance of dinner tables for the children and the unemployed.” – Brother Walfrid, November 6th, 1887

Celtic was founded for two reasons. The first was to raise money to provide food for the poor living in the East End of Glasgow. It is important to note that this poor population was, predominantly, made up of Irish immigrants. It is important because the second reason Celtic Football Club was formed was to encourage social integration and to remove the friction between native Glaswegians and the ‘alien’ Irish community. The club’s principal founder, a Marist Brother named Walfrid, envisioned a football club that would bring harmony to the Scottish, Irish, Protestant and Catholic communities living in the city. He believed that such a club could be used to bring these communities together.

This quote, and indeed Brother Walfrid, distinguished Celtic Football Club from every other club in Scotland and, widely, the World. This charitable tradition and the clubs ethos – ‘A club welcome to all’ – both remain of principal importance to the club and its supporters to this day. As a recent example, Celtic’s ultra group ‘the Green Brigade’ host an annual food bank collection keeping with tradition of providing food for the most vulnerable people in our society. This year’s collection took place on 28th October prior to Celtic’s league game against Kilmarnock at Parkhead. In the fight for social inclusion, it has been well documented that Celtic have stood for many anti-racist and anti-sectarian projects over the years. The launch of their Learning Center in 2006 was the basis of Celtic’s promise to provide education in order to develop and maintain relationships based on equality, fairness and mutual respect.

Today Celtic Football Club is celebrating its 130th year. Knowing that the purpose of the club in 1887 is still being fulfilled 130 years on fills myself and many Celtic supporters with great pride. Our ethos is one which is carried around the world, and it has affected my personal life in such a way that I may never have been born. Looking back at Walfrid’s founding principles, remembering that my family came across the Irish Sea to find a new life in Glasgow, and knowing that they were made welcome by the football club that I support 130 years on is bringing tears to my eyes as I type this passage. Significantly though, and looking back at Walfrid’s vision of a football club that would bring harmony to Protestant and Catholic communities in Scotland, there is a story even closer to home which I wish to finish with.

I was brought into this world by a Catholic Mother and a Protestant Father. And when I was 8 years old my Father took me to my very first game of football, at Celtic Park. The man is Celtic daft, always regaling stories of King Kenny and the Jungle. He tells me about the seasons he endured as Rangers, our bitter rivals, marched towards 10 in a row and now we both laugh about it. But it will always make me smile knowing that had it not been for one man, the bold Brother Walfrid, telling the native Glaswegians that you have no reason to fear, loathe or agitate the Irish-Catholic and, indeed, that you have every reason to love, cherish, celebrate and support the Irish-Catholic – in a long turn of events, my parents may never have wed. Glasgow was changed on the 6th November 1887. It was changed forever. In the same way that Scots accepted Celtic, my Protestant Father accepted his Catholic wife and in turn they gave birth to me and my brother. You may think I am mad, and I’m reading too much into history but there is no denying that Celtic Football Club nurtured an acceptance for a community that had long perished, and in some nations many Catholics continue to be discriminated against. But not here. Not in Glasgow. Because we are Glasgow Celtic, a club welcome to ALL.

 

IF YOU WISH TO SUPPORT THE FOUNDATION THIS CHRISTMAS

The Celtic FC Foundation’s Christmas Appeal is well underway and former vocalist for Glasgow band Yashin Kevin Miles has released a new track ‘Celtic, My Heart & My Soul’ to raise funds for the appeal. The Foundations Christmas Appeal is being used to help as many as 300 local families facing poverty, and has been doing so since 2006.

The song is available through iTunes, Amazon and Google Play. All proceeds from the sales of the song will be donated to Celtic FC Foundation’s 2017 Christmas Appeal. Get downloading!

 

03/11/2017 Issue 33

Real Madrid are having a terrible time of late. They’re poor run of form has been summed up by a mauling at the hands of Tottenham Hotspurs in the Champions League on Wednesday evening and their shock defeat to La Liga new boys Girona.

The sides met last Sunday night at the Estadi Montilivi; the stage of a historic victory for the Catalonian side. Cristiano Ronaldo was made to suffer, following his recent title as recipient of the FIFA Best award. The Girona fans showed no sympathy for the Portuguese talisman as he was made to endure the chanting of ‘Messi! Messi! Messi!’ for long spells of the match. Girona deservedly won the game 2-1, but in the first half alone they struck the post twice and could have found themselves in the lead before the break. Their magnificent intensity and pressing style continued into the second half. Goals from Cristhian Stuani and Portu gave Girona their first victory over Los Blancos. Madrid’s 2-1 defeat by Girona leaves them trailing Barcelona, at the top of La Liga, by eight points. At the end of the game Cristiano Ronaldo refused to give his jersey to Girona midfielder Alex Granel.  There will have been few who would have predicted a Girona win. This is their first season in the top flight and for obvious reasons this is by far the biggest result in the minnows’ history. The victory over the establishment team will no doubt be celebrated widely throughout Catalonia given the current political backdrop.

If you thought things couldn’t get any worse for Zinedine Zidane you were wrong. Real Madrid tasted defeat once again, this time against Spurs in their first game at Wembley Stadium in the Champions League. Madrid were blown away by Delli Alli, Harry Kane and Co.

Patrice Evra, the happy-go-lucky footballer who pops up on your instagram or facebook most mornings to do a wee dance or sing a wee song or sometimes both was sent off before Marseilles Europa League tie with Vitoria Guimaraes for kicking one of his own supporters in the head. L’Equipe have elaborated on the incident reporting that Marseille supporters had been taunting Evra while he was warming-up. The account states that Evra approached the supporters to talk to them and was insulted. Football journalst Julien Laurens stated that Evra was told: “Keep doing your videos, but stop playing football”. Marseille lost the game 1-0. Evra has been handed a one-match ban, for now.

Kieran Tierney signed an extended contract with Celtic. The 20-year old penned a six year deal keeping him at Celtic until 2023, unless bought out of his contract. A Celtic fan and a cracking left-back, compared with the likes of Danny McGrain and Tommy Burns, made veteran midfielder Arjen Robben look like a lost little school boy during their Champions League encounter on Tuesday night. The Hoops were disappointed not to pick up all three points at home against the German giants, having matched Bayern all over the park and creating the best of the chances. The defeat means that Celtic are out of the Champions League, but are in pole position to head into the Europa League knock-out stages. The infamous atmosphere at Celtic Park was later described by Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, former player and now chief executive of the club, as:

“Football in pure culture, like it was in the old days.”

Arjen Robben also wade in on the atmosphere at Celtic Park saying:

“That was a football experience of pure culture. Throughout the night we felt goosebumps.”

Celtic’s Supporter Liason Officer John Paul Taylor received a rather special e-mail from Bayern supporter Urns, which he shared on Twitter.

bayernfan

In other Scottish football news, Kilmarnock’s long wait for a home victory continues after their 3-0 defeat at the hands of Hibernian on Tuesday night. Rangers have parted ways with Pedro Caixinha; the caravan was towed but the dugs still barking (don’t sweat guys, the dogs alive -just about). It was appeal central at Hampden on Thursday as Motherwell boss Stephen Robinson was given one touchline ban but has been cleared for the cup final against Celtic. The date for the Scottish Cup Final between Glasgow City and Hibernian Ladies will not be challenged. Glasgow City were hoping to appeal the date due to the fact they will likely miss four of their Irish internationalists through World Cup qualifying duties. In a repeat of last year’s final, cup holders Hibs and City will meet at Livingston’s Tony Macaroni Arena, with BBC Alba providing live coverage of the 16:10 kick off. Dreadful time for a game of football. Especially when the men’s final takes place at 15:00 on the same day. Not great!

Everton crashed out of the Europa League following a 3-0 defeat to Lyon. Their losing streak continues. Arsenal reach the knockout stages of the Europa League despite a goalless draw against Red Star Belgrade.

Cowdenbeath’s Jordan Garden concedes a penalty after an unusual challenge during the the Blue Brazil’s Scottish League Two tie with Berwick Rangers last Saturday. With just 10 minutes remaining and the match tied at 0-0 Garden dives head first at the feet of Berwick’s Michael McKenna, bringing him down in the process. The referee awards Berwick a penalty which McKenna himself dispatches to seal a 1-0 win for the Gers.

Al-Ahly’s training session was cancelled on Tuesday as thousands of fans turned up at the club’s training facility in Cairo, hoping to watch their team prepare for the second leg of the African Champions League final against Wydad Casablanca this weekend. The final is tied at 1-1, from the first leg.

ONES TO WATCH

GIRONA 2 – 1 REAL MADRID: https://youtu.be/kP3LAT12_aM

PATRICE GOES MAD: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/41853841

HIBS 3 – 0 KILMARNOCK: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/scotland/41825785

STEPHEN ROBINSON: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/41848091

BIZARRE PENALTY: https://www.theguardian.com/football/video/2017/oct/30/cowdenbeath-head-first-tackle-penalty-berwick-rangers-scotland-video

PITCH INVASION: https://www.theguardian.com/football/video/2017/nov/01/al-ahly-abandon-training-session-fans-try-to-watch-video

 

 

 

 

 

 

15/09/2017 European Football Special

15/09/2017 European Football Special

Tuesday 12th September 2017 – Group A,B,C and D opening games

Celtic were absolutely hammered by classy PSG. We can’t be mad; the French side will likely win the tournament. I was amongst many a Celtic supporter last night who commented on the fact that no one in Europe, as it stands, is better than this side. They have world class players from back to the front. The newly formed MCN ripped the Hoops apart. Neymar scored the opener, Mbappe doubled the lead and Edinson Cavani scored two. Mikel Lustig’s own goal added the fifth.

This was to be Celtic’s worst European defeat at home. Neymar, the most hated man in the East End of Glasgow, has now scored five Champions League goals in five games at Parkhead, while also conjuring up seven assists.

This was the best bit of football I have ever seen at Celtic Park. I was mesmerized watching PSG pass the ball around the field so strategically, with a touch of elegance to every kick of the ball. I stood to applaud when the final whistle blew; they were majestic.

Celtic will have to battle it out with Belgian side Anderlecht, who also fell to an opening game defeat to Bayern Munich. Goals from Lewandowski, Alcantara and Kimmich gave Bayern a 3-0 victory at home against 10-man Anderlecht. Sven Kums, unfortunate name, was sent off 11 minutes into the game after conceding a penalty which Lewandowski consequently scored from. As they battle it out with PSG for the top-seed.

Lionel Messi continues to prove he’s the best in the world scoring a brace as his side breezed past Juventus with a 3-0 victory at Camp Nou. Sporting Lisbon saw off a late comeback after taking an early two goal lead in Greece. Bruno Fernandes added a third in the second half, which proved crucial towards the end of the game, following Felipe Pardo’s brace which wasn’t quite enough to salvage a point for the Greeks.

Chelsea battered FK Qarabag in their Group C opening game. Goals from Pedro, Zappacosta, Azpilicueta, Bakayoko and Batshuayi, including a Medvedev own goal, gave the Londoners a 6-0 home victory. Zappacosta’s finish to make it 2-0 is sublime! Check that out below. Roma and Atletico Madrid came away with a share of the spoils as they played out a goalless draw in the Italian capital. Both keepers were kept busy, saving shot after shot after shot.

Manchester United got a 3-0 victory at home to Basel. Goals from Fellaini, Lukaku and Rashford got the Red Devils off the mark in Group A. Fellaini was brought on to replace Paul Pogba who pulled up with a hamstring injury just 19 minutes into the game. This could be a concern for Mourinho going forward. The injury proved to be a blessing in disguise when the Belgian opened the scoring in the 34th minute. Group A opposition CSKA Moscow beat Benfica 2-1 in Portugal; a huge statement from the Russian side to take all three points away from home. Benfica will feel hard done by when a penalty was rewarded for a hand ball in the box. Almeida was the man who received a yellow card for the hand ball but he will feel aggrieved as his hands were clearly by his side as Berezutski’s shot was fired at him.

 

Wednesday 13th September 2017 – Group E, F, G and H opening games

Tottenham Hotspurs and Borussia Dortmund played out an exciing European encounter at Wembley Stadium. Son Heung-min opened the scoring then Yarmolenko equalized for Dortmund and then who else but ‘Arry Kane stepped up to put Spurs ahead four minutes after the score had been tied. Kane scored his second of the night an hour into the game but the talking point of the night was Jan Vertonghen’s sending off in stoppage time. It should be noted that Yarmolenko’s goal is a thing of beauty, get it watched! Don’t let the result fool you, this was a very close encounter. Pulisic was on fire! Definitely the one to watch this season. Should he continue to have such a huge impact on such a big game he’ll have big name clubs calling on him very soon. Dortmund will feel aggrieved after an Aubameyang goal was ruled to be offside. Should the goal have stood it would have been 2-2 with over half an hour to play. Things would have got very interesting indeed. But it wasn’t to be and Kane’s smart finish sealed all 3 points, and the Spurs go marching on on on.

No surprises that Real Madrid made light work of Apoel Nicosia with a 3-0 victory at the Bernabeu. No surprises again the Cristiano Ronaldo scored a brace. No surprises again that Real Madrid were awarded a penalty. However, It was a surprise that centre-back Sergio Ramos scored a over-head kick. CR7 may well have had a hat-trick if it were’t for goal line technology. Modern football eh?

Liverpool’s first Champions League game since 2014 ended in a 2-2 draw with their Europa League final opponents Sevilla. As he did in the 2017 final, Joaquin Correa cut through the Liverpool defence with ease to curl the ball past Karius to level the scoring at 2-2. Wissam Ben Yedder made a fool of the Liverpool back-line for the opening goal; scoring a tap in right in front of the mighty Kop End. Firminho equalized from a Moreno pass. Salah’s hard work paid off for the second goal, which was guided in as the ball struck the foot of Kjaer deflecting it past the goalkeeper Rico. Liverpool may well have taken all three points had Robert Firminho finished from the spot. The Reds were rewarded a penalty when Sadio mane was brought down in the box. But it wasn’t to be and Correa eventually scored the equaliser after many Liverpool chances went begging. The sour point of the evening was when Sevilla boss Eduardo Berizzo was dismissed for throwing the ball away when it went out of play. Ludicrous! Joe Gomez was also sent for an early shower, dismissed following a second yellow. Spartak Moscow drew 1-1 with Maribor in their Champions League opener. UEFA will have to take action following an incident in which a flare was fired at German referee Deniz Aytekin.

Manchester City won their opening game 4-0 in Turkey against Fenerbache. The goals come from John Stone (x2), Sergio Aguero and Jesus. Pretty standard victory, not much to say really. So many shots on target, not enough goals. Napoli fell to an opening game defeat, as Shaktar Donetsk seen the game out to win 2-1.

Besiktas sealed an away victory beating Porto 3-1 in Portugal. Tosun’s second is sublime! RB Leipzig played out a 1-1 draw with last years semi-finalists Monaco.

 

Thursday 14th September 2017 – Europa League opening games

AC Milan showed that their big summer spending wasn’t done in vain following their 5-1 win in their opening game against Austria Vienna. Their £34 million signing Andre Silva scored a hat-trick, Calhanoglu opened the scoring (£22 million) and Fernández Saez (Suso) scored the fifth. The Rossoneri are not here to mess about. 

It would appear that non of the Italian teams are there to take part, but there to take over. Atalanta absolutely hammered Ronald Koeman’s Everton with a 3-0 victory for the Seria A side. Lazio also got in on the act coming from behind twice to beat Vitesse 3-2 in Holland.

French side Lyon drew with Apollon Limassol from Cyprus. Dynamo Kiev defeated Skenderbeu 3-1. Braga came away with the bragging rights (see what I did there) with their 2-1 win over Hoffenheim in Germany.

Why always me? Mario Balottelli was on the score sheet for Nice as they bowled over Belgian side Zulte Waregem with a 5-1 victory.

Osterunds beat Zorya Luhansk 2-0 in Ukraine. Taking the Swede’s top of the table above Athletic Bilbao who managed a draw with Hertha Berlin.

Arsenal came from behind to beat FC Koln 3-1 at the Emirates. Alexis Sanchez scored a fantastic solo effort, not to be missed. While you’re at it check out Cordoba’s long range finish. Peach! The talking point of the night has surely got to be Arsene Wengers pink jacket. Crvena Zvezda drew 1-1 with BATE Borisov.

Slavia Prague beat Maccabi Tel Aviv 1-0. Astana lost 3-1 to Villareal in Spain.

Real Sociedad made light work of Rosenborg with a 4-0 home victory. Zenit won 5-0 in Macedonia against FK Vardar. The Spaniards and the Russians look set to battle it out for the top spot.

There are too many games to comment on, so you can see the results by clicking here.

 

ONES TO WATCH

Celtic 0 – 5 PSG: https://youtu.be/wnbN8yS24gA

Bayern 3 – 0 Anderlecht: https://youtu.be/vB1O3oj0Y60

Barca 3 – 0 Juve: https://youtu.be/ErL9WRKNJSY

Sporting Lisbon 3 – 2 Olympiacos: https://youtu.be/XqH-QnXs8-0

Chelsea 6 – 0 Qarabag: https://youtu.be/m4A4dAnM9mc

Roma 0 – 0 Atletico: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NGlGi-OO6w0

Man U 3 – 0 Basel: https://youtu.be/Lj8RjXAt2XE

Benfica 1 – 2 CSKA Moscow: https://youtu.be/ifTSrMo8umE

Tottenham 3 – 1 Dortmund: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iiQMT5UR9nU

Real Madrid 3 – 0 Nicosia: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GAWf5DXYtqo (fast forward to 2:42) OR https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zZiGetEoa3g

Liverpool 2 – 2 Sevilla: https://youtu.be/JGwZErMgUZc

CAN’T FIND HIGHLIGHTS FOR NK MARIBOR V SPARTAK MOSCOW

Fenerbache 0 v 4 Manchester City: https://youtu.be/T24uu3ZOllQ

Shaktar Donetsk 2 – 1 Napoli: https://youtu.be/H_Zv45Q8q5M

Porto 1 – 3 Besiktas: https://youtu.be/6JOBPE9upVI

RB Leipzig 1 – 1 Monaco: https://youtu.be/-T4KuwxvQi8

 

EUROPA LEAGUE

Atalanta 3 – 0 Everton: https://youtu.be/igtBOnIuSLE

Arsenal v FC Koln: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7uUEFiZ5ArM

25/08/2017 Issue 28

Gemma Fay has retired from International duty after almost 20 years between the sticks. Over her career she has made over 200 caps, making her the most capped Scotland player ever. Fay has captained the side since 2009 and led her nation to their first major tournament since 1998.

Leanne Ross and Ifeome Dieke also announced their international retirement this week. All three players were recently inducted into the Scottish FA Roll of Honour as one of just 12 players to have won more than 100 caps.

New Scotland boss Shelley Kerr picked her first international squad for the upcoming friendly against Hungary on Wednesday afternoon. The Scots face Hungary on the 14th September away in Budapest. Celtic’s Megan Cunningham has been called to the national squad in place of the newly retired Gemma Fay. Lucy Graham, who scored a brace for Hibs in their Champions League qualifier, has been recalled and will be hoping to gain her first cap. Squad regulars Kim Little, Jennifer Beattie and Lizzie Arnott are all still ruled out through injury however Manchester City’s Jane Ross, who got injured in the first European Championship tie against England, will return to the squad.

Kerr’s big task comes in the face of the 2019 FIFA World Cup qualifiers which take place in October. The Scots have been placed in a group with Belarus, Albania, Switzerland and Poland. The dates of these fixtures can be found on the Scottish FA website.

Celtic have qualified for the UEFA Champions League following a 4-3 defeat to Astana of Kazakstan. The Scots progressed with an 8-4 aggregate score-line and despite the nervy second-leg the Hoops were never in doubt to qualify. Astana’s opening goal came from an Ajer own-goal. The young centre-half was attempting to block the shot, but instead had to watch as it made it’s way into the Celtic net past Craig Gordon. Scott Sinclair then responded with an outstanding curling effort; the keeper stood no chance. Poor defending after the break left Celtic trailing by two goals as Astana went 3-1 ahead on the night. Things only got worse with just over 20 minutes to play when Twumasi scored his second and Astana’s fourth of the evening. However all was well in the final 10-minutes of play when Olivier Ntcham, who continues to impress in the Hoops, and Leigh Griffith scored to bring the score on the night to 4-3, with an aggregate win of 8-4.

Russian hacking group, Three Bears have released some very telling information regarding some 25 players given therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs) and failed drug tests. TUEs allow banned substances to be taken for athletes’ verified medical needs. Now there isn’t a lot wrong with this as long as protocol has been followed, but the leak may re-open the debate regarding whther or not anti-doping agencys are successful in dealing with drug use and whether the systems they set in place can be misused.

Wayne Rooney retires from international football. He ends his England career as the country’s top goalscorer, surpassing Sir Bobby Charlton, with 53 goals.

Scores in the 8th minute, ruptures his knee seconds later. Yup! Hamburg winger Nicolai Muller faces seven months recovering on the sidelines after a helicopter celebration caused damage to his anterior cruciate ligament. Ironically, Muller’s goal was the only goal of last Saturday’s 1-0 win over Augsburg. But the 29-year old admitted he felt rather foolish, and so he should. Regardless, we wish him all the best with his recovery.

David Villa has been selected in the Spain squad. Newsworthy because he retired three years ago in 2014. The MLS star retired from international football following the World Cup in Brazil, wrapping up a career in which he scored 59 goals in 97 appearances for La Roja. Villa has now came out of retirment to play for Lopetegui’s side in Spain’s upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Italy and Liechtenstein.

Oliver Burke has left RB Leipzig to go to West Brom. Strange move considering the German side are into the group stages of the Champions League, drawn against Monaco, Porto and Besiktas in Group G.

Celtic were drawn against formidable opponents in Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain and Anderlecht in Group B. Fans were delighted, expecting they would be drawn once again against familiar opponents Barcelona and Juventus who were drawn together in Group D.

Full Champions League draw

  • Group A Benfica, Man Utd, Basel, CSKA Moscow
  • Group B Bayern Munich, PSG, Anderlecht, Celtic
  • Group C Chelsea, Atletico Madrid, Roma, Qarabag
  • Group D Juventus, Barcelona, Olympiakos, Sporting
  • Group E Spartak Moscow, Sevilla, Liverpool, Maribor
  • Group F Shakhtar, Man City, Napoli, Feyenoord
  • Group G Monaco, Porto, Besiktas, RB Leipzig
  • Group H Real Madrid, Dortmund, Tottenham, APOEL

Full Europa League draw

  • Group A: Villarreal, Maccabi Tel-Aviv, Astana, Slavia Prague.
  • Group B: Dynamo Kiev, Young Boys, Partizan Belgrade, Skenderbeu.
  • Group C: Braga, Ludogorets, Hoffenheim, Istanbul Basaksehir.
  • Group D: Milan, Austria Vienna, Rijeka, AEK Athens.
  • Group E: Lyon, Everton, Atalanta, Apollon.
  • Group F: Copenhagen, Lokomotiv Moscow, Sheriff Tiraspol, Zlin.
  • Group G: Viktoria Plzen, FCSB, Hapoel Beer-Sheva, Lugano.
  • Group H: Arsenal, BATE Borisov, Cologne, Crvena Zvezda.
  • Group I: Salzburg, Marseille, Vitoria SC, Konyaspor.
  • Group J: Athletic Bilbao, Hertha Berlin, Zorya Luhansk, Ostersund.
  • Group K: Lazio, Nice, Zulte Waregem, Vitesse.
  • Group L: Zenit St Petersburg, Real Sociedad, Rosenborg, Vardar Skopje.

 

 

 

 

The King of Kings

The King of Kings

This morning I was greeted by an old friend; scrolling through my Twitter feed it came to light that ‘On this Day’ in 1995, Henrik Larsson (my hero) signed for Celtic football club and the rest, they say, is history.

Yet again he captured my imagination, I remembered with utter dread the feeling I felt that day on 16th May 2004 when he departed the Hoops and left to join FC Barcelona; a move he thoroughly deserved and one that he could, and should, have made many years previously.

I can never forget the goals he scored in the UEFA Cup final, his first equaliser truly was one of the great European cup final goals; scored from a near impossible angle with the glance of a head. Nor will I forget the goal he scored against Boavista in the semi-final which sent six daft Celts in my Auntie Eleanor’s front room into a tizzy and left Boavista goalkeeper Ricardo in tears as he sent the Bhoys in green to their first European Final since 1970. His chip over Stefan Klos, his touch, his brilliance and class is etched in my memory.

The greatest ever Celt; he understood what it meant to wear those colours, he knew the importance of stopping THEM getting ten in a row and more, he was the one who stopped it with a sweet, curling finish from 20 yards; the crowd going mad. This was just the beginning for The King of Kings.

“CHEERIO, 10 IN A ROW”, cried 50,000 Celts.

The day he cut his dreads made front page news. On our way to the UEFA Cup Final he silenced Souness who declared the first-leg, “men against boys”. Men against the King more like!

Men nil Bhoys two.

The Kings parting words certainly rang true: “This will learn them a lesson, never talk until the game is finished.”

In season 1990-2000 Larsson was gunning to be Scotland’s top scorer with 8 league goals in 9 games. Things were going oh so well until his leg-break against Lyon in the UEFA Cup 1999. Broke in two places, career over? No chance.

The King Returned, and had what was arguably his best season under new manager Martin O’Neill. He formed a formidable partnership with the brilliant Chris Sutton, and over the season Larsson bagged 35 goals in 38 games. That year he was presented with the European Golden Boot and was crowned the SPFL top scorer. Not to mention that Celtic won their first domestic treble since Jock Stein’s Lions in 1967 that same year.

Over 60,000 men, women and children wept as the greatest ever Celt played his final game in Paradise. The sun shone, his boy Jordan smiled on as Dad smashed two past Dundee United and then the legend himself cried as he walked onto the famous turf and said goodbye to his beloved Celtic support. I was there, and I buried my head in my Dad’s shoulder wishing it all away.

I was at Hampden Park a week later when Henrik scored a brace to help Celtic lift the Scottish Cup with a 3-1 victory over Dunfermline Athletic. It remains one of my favourite memories of Hampden to this day.

Purchased for £650,000, it was the best money the club has ever been spent.

In 7 years he made 313 appearances, scored 242 goals, won 4 Scottish Premier League titles, 2 Scottish Cups and 2 Scottish League Cups.

Beyond Celtic he has lifted silverware in England, Spain, Holland and Sweden.

After losing the Champions League final to Barcelona in 2006, Thierry Henry stated that one man made the difference and that man was substitute Henrik Larsson. The King came on in the 61st minute, Barcelona were trailing by a goal and within 4 minutes of play he assisted both the equalising goal and the eventual match winner. WORLD CLASS.

On the international stage, Henrik played his part in getting Sweden to the semi-final of the World Cup against Brazil in 1994. He featured in their third-place play-off against Bulgaria and scored a goal in a 4-0 victory for Sweden. This was Sweden’s best finish in a World Cup since finishing second place in 1958.

The King came out of international retirmenr for Euro 2004. He lead his country to the quarter-final of the tournament, scoring 3 goals in 4 matches. They were beaten in the quarters by the Netherlands in a penalty shoot out. We should note that the King won the best goal of the tournament for his diving header against Bulgaria.

In 16 years he scored 36 goals in 106 appearances for his country.

Henrik Larsson is the King of Kings, and don’t you bloody well forget it!

 

09/06/2017 UEFA Champions League Final Special

Real Madrid won the UEFA Champions League AGAIN. Ronaldo made mince meat of Juve, as the Italians were beaten 4-1 in Cardiff. This was Real’s 12th European title. It was the first time any club had won the competition in consecutive seasons.

Ronaldo was presented with the man of the match award with a brace, becoming the first player to ever score in three Champions League finals. However Mario Mandzukic can probably be rewarded with the goal of the game, the goal of the season, the goal of the decade and potentially the best goal ever to be scored in a European final (or any final for that matter). NAILER!!  Alas, the dominant Spaniards reigned supreme; a blow for Gianluigi Buffon, looking to lift old big ears for the first time in his career, and triumph for super human Cristiano Ronaldo who will likely win the Ballon d’Or.

Juan Cuadrado made some history of his own, becoming the first substitute to be sent off in a Champions League final after being booked twice in 17-minutes following some outstanding play acting from Real captain Sergio Ramos. I would have loved to have seen that guy come up against the likes of Roy Keane and Big Bobo Balde. The guys made of chocolate; melts as soon as you breathe on him.

Real Madrid scored in every single match they played this season – an incredible achievement. On their way to Champions League glory Real dropped points only to Legia Warsaw and Borussia Dortmund, accumulating three draws, one loss and winning the rest. They kept a single clean sheet in their first-leg semi-final tie against Atletico at the Bernabeu –  a game they won 3-0. Apart from the three points dropped, and the 2-1 loss to Atletico, everything else was victory for Los Blancos and goals galore as they racked up 36 goals throughout the competition. They conceded 18 goals but it won’t matter to them. The matches were won, the points were racked up and they continue to dominate the European stage.

Where they worthy winners? In the final – YES! But I think we can all agree they were given a helping hand in the quarter-final against Bayern Munich when Ronaldo scored NOT ONE, but TWO controversial offside goals to take his team through against 10-man Bayern with a 4-2 aggregate score. Then again, they did batter city rivals Atletico in the semi-final so credit where credit is due.

Congratulations to European royalty, Real Madrid!

 

ONES TO WATCH

Champions League Final: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lOCJdR8yJdw

Ramos embarrassing play acting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C2OaitCiMv8

Mandzukic goal: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GFSulXDTrVo

In the Heat of Lisbon.

In the Heat of Lisbon.

Simpson, Craig, McNeil, Clark, Gemmell, Murdoch, Auld, Johnstone, Lennox, Wallace and Chalmers.

These were the first Scottish men to lift the European Cup. Every player in that Lisbon Lion side came from within a 30 mile radius of Glasgow City centre.

John Fallon was an unused sub. John Hughes, Joe McBride, Willie O’Neill, Charlie Gallagher (Ireland) and Jim Brogan never made the squad. At the time Celtic did not wear shirt numbers, in fact they were sewn onto their small shorts. A second goalkeeper was the only substitute you were allowed at the time. Players didn’t listen to music through their headphones. They didn’t take selfies on their phone. They didn’t communicate via whatsapp, snapchat, or facebook messenger. They told jokes, and sang songs. The pulled practical jokes and lived a stone’s throw away from their supporters who laid awake in anticipation over the road from the team hotel the Palacio in Estoril.

Celtic flew to Lisbon as clear underdogs. The European Cup was the preserve of Latin clubs, such as Real Madrid, Benfica and of course Inter Milan and AC Milan, who had both lifted the trophy prior to 67’.

That night in Lisbon on the 25th May 1967, Celtic annihilated Inter Milan by a single goal. They did it playing football, “pure, beautiful, inventive football”. This is what Jock Stein had to say about his Bhoys after the famous victory. Prior to the game Scotland’s greatest ever manager played game’s with Helenio Herrera, who was considered to be the greatest leader in the game at the time. Two days prior to the final Jock named his team. He brought the press in, laid his cards on the table and shared what would be his European Cup winning team. The big man said, “I am now going to tell him how Celtic will be the first team to bring the European Cup back to Britain, but it will not help him in any manner, shape or form: we are going to attack as we have never attacked before,”. And attack them they did.

The Italians were cocky. They altered their training time so they could sit and watch the Glasgow bhoys. In an interview in 2007 captain Billy McNeil, Stevie Chalmers and Bobby Lennox all stated the advantage and boost that gave the players. It made them more determined, as the Italians laughed and mocked the green and white. Big Jock was aware they were watching and told his team to “muck about”. Bobby Lennox recalled that Jock had them “playing in different positions”. Lennox played left-back, Gemmell was up top and McNeil was put on the side-lines. Jock was cunning, and the cat and mouse tactics had begun. The big man played on Inters’ over-confident.

Jock didn’t allow the players to use the hotel pool, insisting that his players stay out of the sun. They were to wear clothing at all times, as to avoid getting sunburn. And Jock made sure that this time around the players would keep themselves to themselves; they wouldn’t mingle with fans, as they usually did, and they weren’t given the freedom to do as they pleased. Not this time. Nonetheless the players were happy with their preparations, and felt very relaxed.

The night before the game the Bhoys were invited for dinner at the house of Brodie Lennox. The players watched England play Spain on the telly and later that night they walked back to their hotel. John Clark remembers Celtic trainer Neil Mochan leading the team astray, insisting he knew a short cut. But it ended with the players climbing over a fence as they reached a dead-end. Could you imagine Real Madrid or Juventus players doing that in two weeks time the night before their big-game in Cardiff? I don’t think so.

The day of the game just happened to be a Holy Day of Obligation, so the players and the fans made their way to mass on the morning of the final. Jock Stein himself asked Father Bertie O’Reagan to lead the mass for his players, it was important to them. I can imagine the droves of Celtic supporters saying their prayers and dropping some extra money in the charity boxes, in the hope it would help their team succeed. The locals enjoyed the travelling supports religious ways, with many fans saying it won the locals over.

Jock lead the team talk back at the Hotel before they left for the Estadio Nacional. He told his players, “they had the chance to make history.” On the way to the stadium Bobby Lennox was sure the driver got a little bit lost, but noted that the Bhoys couldn’t give a jot as they continued singing songs at the back of the bus.

Billy McNeil recalls seeing the “magnificent” Inter Milan team in the tunnel in their “inspiring” blue and black kit. Jimmy Johnstone did the same, turning to his pal Bertie Auld he said “Look at them, wee man, they’re like film stars!” to which Bertie replied “Aye, but can they play?” Their admiration lasted only seconds when out of nowhere Bertie Auld began to sing “The Celtic Song”.

“For it’s a grand old team to play for. For it’s a grand old team to see.”

Everyone in green and white standing in the tunnel at the Estadio Nacional joined in. The expression on the Inter players’ faces was a right picture.

The Italians were very defensive. They’re man marking was exquisite but they didn’t account for Jock’s Lions who kept them busy all game. Tommy Gemmell, Celtic’s left-back had six or seven shots early on. The forwards were taking their defenders into silly areas making it possible for Gemmell and Craig to burst forward and attack. The game plan certainly had Inter on the ropes, but what Celtic didn’t want was to lose an early goal considering the Italians catenaccio style of play. The Hoops went a goal down when Jim Craig fouled Cappellini in the box and Mazzola converted the penalty just six-minutes into the game. Inter didn’t make much of an attempt to double their lead, they truly thought that one goal would be enough. This allowed Celtic to continue their siege on Giuliano Sarti’s goal. Auld hit the woodwork, Johnstone’s header was saved, Gemmell hit the woodwork, his free-kick saved by Sarti and the Hoops were even denied a penalty.

Ironically, the keeper Sarti was marked by Stein as Inter’s weak link. But the guy was having a blinder. He had to right enough, because Inter couldn’t get out of their own box. It was 9-men behind the ball, the bus was parked and Celtic was probing.

The second half begun; the two Celtic full-backs, Gemmell and Craig, had got up the park at the same time, this should never have happened. Craig passed to Tommy and like a bullet being fired from a gun the ball was in the back of the net. The equaliser was scored and everyone knew Celtic were going to become European Champions. The belief was there, the hunger was evident. Inter had no chance. A thunderous strike from 25 yards out; it was unstoppable. The Estadio Nacional erupted!

Sarti was helpless, there were five minutes left to play when Chalmers poked in Murdoch’s drive. It was 2-1, and Celtic were about to become the first British European Champions. Stevie Chalmers notes that this is a move Stein made him practice at least three times a week. Lennox concurred stating: “Stevie must have done that a thousand times in training – the ball came through and he pushed it in the corner of the net.”

CELTIC WERE CHAMPIONS OF EUROPE.

After the final whistle supporters flooded the field. They ripped grass from the pitch, took players boots and jerseys, the claw marks on Billy McNeil’s neck was one of the most unsavoury souvenir’s the captain received. The pitch invasion meant that the European Champions could not be presented with the trophy on the pitch. Instead, captain Billy McNeil was ushered around the stadium, protected by armed guards, to received the trophy on top of a podium in the stand. It remains to this day to be one of the most iconic images in sport. In fact I am looking at it right now as it hangs from my wall in work.

This incredible feat, this extraordinary journey was courageously done by local Glasgow men. When you consider the magnitude of it, it really is enough to bring a tear to your eye. Look at the squad and you’ll know it almost certainly should not have happened. Jock Stein was fortune enough to be asked back to Celtic Park in 1965, following a dismissal from his job as Celtic youth and reserve coach. Stein was dismissed on the grounds that he was a Protestant and therefore would not go further in his position at the club. Imagine? The match winner, Stevie Chalmers, almost died in his early 20s. He was given three weeks to live following his tuberculosis-meningitis diagnosis. Bobby Lennox may never have become a footballer, at all, had he not got over his shyness as a child. As a young man he was embarrassed to play in front of his peers.

The team were back in Glasgow the following day. Supporters turned up at the airport to celebrate their European triumph. The Hoops sang “Hail, Hail” with the supporters as they left Glasgow airport. Over 65,000 supporters greeted their heroes on the stands and terraces at Celtic Park. The team were taken around Glasgow on the back of a lorry and were waved, cheered and celebrated by the people of Glasgow. The city belonged to Celtic.

They were the greatest team in Europe. Jock Stein’s Celtic entered five competitions that season, and won all five. Two weeks after the final Celtic were invited to play against Real Madrid for Di Stefano’s testimonial. Real had won the European Cup in 1966, and were bumping their gums about how they were the still the best team in Europe. So for good measure we beat them as well. Bobby Lennox scored the goal in front of 135,000 at the Santiago Bernabeu. After that, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that Glasgow Celtic was the best team in Europe.

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