It had been a long wait, but Linfield and Celtic belatedly got to play their 2nd Round European Cup tie, a few days after the designated matchday.
In recent years, Linfield have played UEFA Cup games on a Tuesday and a Wednesday, so a European Cup tie on a Friday shouldn’t have been that much of a surprise. Linfield just play European football whenever we feel like it. Monday lunchtime next season?
With the match taking place on a Friday, it meant both teams went into the match still digesting the draw for the next round, which offered Linfield and Celtic the incentive of a tie against Dundalk or Rosenborg, with the home leg first.
Linfield and Celtic have both faced Dundalk and Rosenborg in the past in Europe, so whatever the result of both ties, there was going to be a reunion for the winner in the next round.
Linfield went into this game hoping to end a rotten run of results against Scottish teams, after friendly defeats against Rangers (numerous), Kilmarnock (2011), Cowedenbeath (2014), Hearts (2017) and a Scottish Challenge Cup defeat to Queen Of The South last year. The last win I can think of was a 1-0 friendly win over Hearts in 2003.
The last time I saw a Scottish team play in Europe, they lost 5-0, so I was hoping that would be an omen.
Fans arriving at Windsor Park hoping to see a shock certainly got one, but not on the pitch, as they arrived to the sight of a couple of hundred Celtic fans in The Kop, who had bought tickets for the North Stand but were granted amnesty and allocated a section of The Kop.
The game began with Celtic having a lot of possession and pressure, unsurprsingly. It looked like it was going to be a long afternoon/teatime/evening for Linfield’s players. I’m not sure what the correct terminology is for a 5pm kick-off.
It looked like being a long 90 minutes for those on Linfield’s left, as Jame Forrest was getting a lot of joy and space down Celtic’s right. Unsurprisingly, Celtic were looking to make the most of this.
Scott Brown was lucky to get away with a talking to after making a scissor tackle after he lost possession. Brown strikes me as the kid at school who picks on kids three years younger than him but runs crying to the Teacher is someone a year older tells him to cut it out. If he was as good as he thinks he is, he would have signed for a mediocre English team like Aston Villa, Southampton or West Brom five years ago.
On 17 minutes, Celtic took the lead when a Scott Sinclair header was deflected in. It was at the end I was sat and it looked like an own goal to me, though most media outlets are giving it to Sinclair, although Sky Sports have credited it as a Mark Haughey own goal.
It didn’t matter, Celtic were in front.
After the goal, we finally got to see Linfield as an attacking force, with Mark Stafford having an effort saved and a Paul Smyth run being halted by a cynical Scott Brown foul. Europe or Domestic, it seems that Paul Smyth is the target of cynical fouls.
Linfield’s hopes of getting an equaliser took a blow when Tom Rogic scored after running onto a low drilled corner. It was, if you will, the “Tottenham Mid 90s” corner goal.
Ironically, David Healy once scored a goal like that at Windsor Park, albeit in front of The Kop, set up by recently departed Linfield player Sammy Clingan.
Another irony, was that Linfield were on the end of a quick goal blitz, having done the same to Glenavon, Coleraine (x2) and Cliftonville in the last four games of last season.
Despite Celtic’s dominance, they didn’t have Linfield on the ropes at 0-0, it was frustrating to fall behind to two bad goals.
The first goal was unlucky, the second goal showed why you have to be switched on at all times at this level.
While there might be a dispute about wether he scored Celtic’s first goal, Scott Sinclair was denied twice by Roy Carroll towards the end of the first-half as he went about making sure he could be credited with a goal beyond dispute.
The first save came when he was played in behind Linfield’s defence. He really should have scored.
Leigh Griffiths had a goal disallowed in the early minutes of the second-half, as Linfield won some set pieces, hoping to make one count and get back into the game.
The was one moment at a Linfield set piece that summed up the difference at this level. A set piece was headed clear and was going back to Jamie Mulgrew. As he waited for the ball to come to him, a Celtic player sniffed the danger and got to the ball first. In the Irish League, Mulgrew strikes the ball into the back of the net when it goes to him.
The closest Linfield came to scoring was when a rogue backheader from a Celtic defender concerned Craig Gordon enough into making a diving save, while a low cross into Celtic’s box caused concern for Celtic, with tow Linfield attackers agonisingly unable to get to the ball to put it in.
You got the feeling however, that if Linfield had pulled a goal back, Celtic would at worst have held on for a 2-1 win, or got a 3rd goal to restore the two goal lead.
Once it went to 2-0, it was a case of job done for Celtic
That, and the fact that Roy Carroll was on form.
In the last quarter of the game, the referee went a bit card happy, including a long overdue yellow card for Scott Brown.
One of those yellow cards came for Leigh Griffiths for timewasting as he was evading bottles being thrown at him as he took a corner.
It was all at the corner where South Stand and Kop meet. I just fucking despair, I really do. There’s not much I can add to what has already been said. I just wish people like that would just fuck off, as they give people who are no better than us the opportunity to stick the boot in.
That includes certain media outlets acting with a sense of moral superiority that they forfeited with their antics in the aftermath of the draw.
I’m not going to go into some “Superfan” rant, we all support our team in different ways. The way they were “Supporting” the team yesterday is not the way to do it.
I won’t be defending them. Whatever punishment they get from Linfield and the law of them land, it won’t be enough. Fuck em.
You can guarantee they won’t be there when Linfield are playing their next home European match at Mourneview Park. If we’re lucky.
However, such behaviour is not a Linfield problem, or even a football problem, it’s an overall societal problem. If any politician even tries to lecture us, they’re your hooligans and much as they are ours.
I also noted that an MLA from Delivering Unity Promptly bought a ticket for the Linfield end and tried to enter the ground via the Boucher Road. A perfect metaphor for Northern Ireland politicians trying to get involved in football.
There are a few things that should be noted and not overlooked. It was a small percentage of the crowd. They were booed by their own when the incidents happened. The reaction on Social Media from Linfield fans, has been total condemnation. Nobody is supporting them, and rightly so.
A word, on Eventsec. I went to the game straight from work. I took a backpack to work (to hold scarf, ticket and some food) and wasn’t even searched going in. So clearly, it wouldn’t have taken a lot of effort to smuggle a bottle in.
Unfortunately, i’m not going to the second leg in Glasgow on Wednesday. Hopefully, the Scottish Challenge Cup draw will give us a kind away game to make up for that.
If you are going, enjoy yourself. My advice would be to check out the Street Art and visit Missing, a record store beside Central Station.
If you’re heading over on Tuesday and are groundhopping minded, all I can say is Merry Christmas, as there is a full fixture list in the Scottish League Cup Group Stages.
There’s no game in Glasgow, but Albion Rovers, Dumbarton, Kilmarnock, Morton and St Mirren are all under an hour away from Glasgow.
I’ll be in Edinburgh in a few weeks, so at least i’ll be getting some taste of Scottish football, most likely Edinburgh City, who have Craig Beattie playing for them, a tenuous link to both Celtic and Linfield.
I’m over for the Fringe Festival, which has some football offerings. I’m doing my “To See List” and hope to see a stage version of The Damned United, while i’m going to have Don’t Cry For Me Kenny Dalglish on my Back-Up List.
Linfield’s inevitible exit means they won’t be postponing recently announced friendlies away to Newry (27th July) and Dundela (1st August).
Haven’t been to Newry since 2010, but undecided if i’m going to that as I head to Dublin the following morning for an overnight stay.
I was supposed to be doing a day trip to Dublin yesterday, but decided i’d be better off going to Linfield v Celtic. So, i’m going to go to Dublin in two weeks time instead.
The plan for Dublin is Street Art and catch a football match. If I was in Dublin last night, I would have went to see Shelbourne v Wexford. Wexford won 2-1 if you care.
When i’m in Dublin in two weeks, i’m hoping to catch UCD v Cabinteely.
Then i’ll be back in Dublin (briefly) the following midweek for Manchester United v Sampdoria, with Dundela v Linfield sandwiched inbetween.
It could have been Dundalk rather than Dundela. Could be worse, could have blown a 3-0 lead in the UEFA Cup against a team from Latvia.