Celtic v Falkirk should’ve been much easier, but we got there. It’s possible that watching this club is bad for our collective resting heart rate.
This isn’t an official WHO report or anything, it’s just my educated guess. Throughout the first half of Celtic v Falkirk, the Bhoys were so profligate in front of goal that you could genuinely fear the worst. Wouldn’t it have been typical of this season if instead of 5-in-a-row, the absolute worst-case scenario happened?
Luckily, it didn’t [BBC]! And on reflection, this was a really enjoyable Celtic performance. In the second half, the relentless pressure Celtic put on Falkirk told, and by the end it was comfortable.
That’s not to say there was nothing to learn, though. Here’s what we picked up on as Celtic progressed in the Scottish Cup.
James Forrest’s welcome return saves Celtic blushes v Falkirk
Oh, wee James Forrest.
Wee James Forrest, you beautiful man. How we’ve missed the diminutive wing wizard. I remember taking absolute pelters when I suggested we missed Forrest, and that his absence had an enormous impact on the season at large. It’s not my job to say “look at me, I got it right”, especially in what ended up being a routine win against a League One side, but it’s so good to have him back.
Simply put, we’re more entertaining when James Forrest plays, generally speaking. That was especially true tonight; for all the frustrations of the first half, it wasn’t down to the Celtic lifer. He was everywhere – wing to wing and in the middle. Playing probing passes, facilitating attacking moves and crucially, using his movement to force Celtic players into the opposition box.
There seems to be more confidence going forward when he’s there. It’s been a frustration in prior matches that the service is there, but so few Celtic players were well-placed to take advantage. Tonight, though, Celtic players flooded Falkirk’s well-defended 18-yard area, and eventually that pressure told.
James Forrest is back on the scoresheet for Celtic. That’ll do for a Saturday night’s work if you ask us.
Kristoffer Ajer and his Beckenbauer act are only fun if the net bulges
Kristoffer Ajer, especially for a central defender, is bizarrely fun to watch. If, at times, immensely stressful.
Given his history as a forward player, then a midfielder, then a centre-back, his positional sense and confidence further up the pitch are self-explanatory. But jeezo, he didn’t half waste some good moves for Celtic tonight.
We are big fans of the Norwegian defender, and his confidence is fantastic, but it comes at a bit of a price. Certainly, his roving movement did have some good moments. Drifting off to the left in a first-half move, he very nearly found Christie’s run just outside the 6-yard box. On one or two occasions, he dragged Celtic forward as a whole, forcing the Bairns to camp inside their own box.
But it didn’t feel like selective attacking movement. In the first half, he seemed to be dribbling for the sake of it. In games against better opposition, he’s going to get caught out doing that, unless he becomes more willing to move the ball on. Even if it is to one of the 3 No.10s that were playing – we’ll get to that.
Too many cooks, as Celtic midfielders jostle for opportunities in first-half
We really ought to have been a few goals up by half-time.
Ryan Christie, Tom Rogic and David Turnbull all had opportunities in the first 45. That was via excellent wing-back play, with Laxalt and Kenny spreading the game out on the flanks. The return of James Forrest is more than welcome, as he dominated down either wing and dragged defenders out of position.
Too often, though, for all that great work, our attacking play looked congested and confused. It cost us, as we went in to half-time goalless.
A lot will be made of Ryan Christie’s efforts, particularly in the first 45, but he wasn’t alone. Granted, he ended up scoring, and upsetting Falkirk’s Twitter admin in the process. Turnbull had opportunities, and Rogic didn’t seem able to stick to a position. Sometimes he’d come deeper to help out Broony, but more often he attempted to cause problems for Falkirk’s incredibly young defence.
That’s fine if it leads to something. However, Celtic, while entertaining, didn’t seem entirely sure of what to do when half-chances presented themselves. The final ball wasn’t quite there for Griffiths, who fluffed his lines when the ball came to him, and the end result of that is three players who like to occupy the same space trying pot-shots from range.
Christie eventually got his goal, but that first 45 was immensely frustrating. Better teams will take advantage.
Celtic really should’ve put Falkirk out of their misery much earlier on. Job done, though, and it’s a much-needed confidence boost for John Kennedy’s side.