Joyous Jota, improved McCarthy; 3 things we learned as Celtic beat Raith Rovers

By Euan Davidson

September 23, 2021

We all surely hoped for a routine Celtic win against Raith Rovers tonight in the Premier Sports Cup.

No bizarre set-backs, no new injuries, nothing to worry about; just a run of the mill victory under the disco lights.

Thankfully, that’s what we got.

Let’s be clear; we will face far tougher teams than Raith Rovers most weeks. However, for a cleansing exercise, this was much needed for everyone at the club, the supporters, and a manager who’s had his fair share of critics this week.

Job done, and swift progression into the semi-finals of the Premier Sports Cup. A big test for Celtic awaits at Hampden, but it’s the kind of showpiece event that the manager came to the club for.

Let alone the numerous new players, who would’ve hoped for the big events, the massive matches and the chances to shine for an increased audience.

Celtic finally give Ange what he wants | Anton McElhone joins as Head of Sports Science

Celtic finally give Ange what he wants | Anton McElhone joins as Head of Sports Science
67 Hail Hail (Youtube)

So, what did we learn as Celtic dealt with Kirkcaldy’s finest?

Wham! Celtic attacker Jota shines again

It blows my mind that Celtic wouldn’t have a Wham! or George Michael song lined up for when Jota got his first goal in the Green and White.

He did exactly that tonight, cooly finishing to make it 1-0. But his overall contribution was even more impressive than his goal. Taking on players for fun, Jota was full of tricks and running, causing constant bother for Reghan Tumilty.

Combining well with Adam Montgomery, Jota is continually impressing for Celtic. Fine, he didn’t have the cutting edge against Livingston, but concerns about his end product may have been unfounded.

He’s going to come up against higher-calibre defenders. But as he proved against Betis [FotMob], he has the confidence to take on anyone, and has the pace to bother them.

His best moment, the goal aside? On 48 minutes, he takes the ball from Adam Montgomery with absolutely zero space, pulls off a step-over, and plays a great pass to Tom Rogic in acres of space.

This guy is a lot of fun.

Photo by Mateo Villalba/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Let’s not write off James McCarthy yet: Celtic midfielder much improved against Raith Rovers

James McCarthy, in his second start for Celtic, was far better than his performance at Livingston would suggest.

In West Lothian, his play was laboured. He looked off it, fitness-wise, and seemed to keen to pass it either to the side or behind him. Totally understandable for a debut, but it slowed Celtic right down in the midfield.

Not so much tonight. Granted, he was on a far better surface, against an inferior team, but his control of this game was excellent throughout.

His assist for Jota was as good as it gets, while his ability to mop up any loose passes and assert Celtic in possession was exactly what he was brought in for.

He got the backing of both his manager and Stiliyan Petrov this week, and his confidence showed throughout. Just as it was on Sunday, it’s still too early to say whether he was a good signing or not; these things take a season to judge fairly.

But this was an accomplished performance, timed perfectly after his struggles on Sunday.

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Celtic boss makes perfect 60 minute call against Raith Rovers

We were hoping to see some debutants, at long last. Up 3-0, and with Raith Rovers a man down, there couldn’t have been a better time.

Postecoglou brought Liam Scales on at the hour mark. The Irishman was immediately in the thick of things, making an excellent interception and starting a move in the 64th minute.

With little defending to do, Scales was heavily involved in build-up play. Quickly, his positioning would dictate that he’s learned plenty already under the Celtic management, with excellent runs into the middle.

In fact, after the changes were made, Celtic looked so much more fluid. Players were rotating with ease, swapping positions based on where the ball was, and generally putting on a show for the supporters.

Suddenly, it looks as if Celtic have even more options. While the team has been hamstrung by injuries, there was plenty of quality on the pitch tonight.

If may “just” have been Raith Rovers. Tougher tests will, inevitably, come. However, it’s hard not to feel that wee bit better about things after another convincing win at home.

In other news: Ange Postecoglou explains the 3 changes to his Celtic defence