It was a beans on toast kind of day for Celtic even as they swept aside Raith Rovers 4-0 at Celtic Park to progress into the quarter-finals of the Scottish Cup, while Christopher Jullien made his first appearance in 410 days.
Since returning from the winter break, we have been so used to devouring the fillet steak served up by Ange Postecoglou and his threatening and merry men.
Celtic have been vivacious, playing with a verve and intensity which truly engages and excites supporters. The type of football which gives fans a skip in their step when heading to the stadium. Pressure on the ball to win it back quickly suffocating the opposition, moving it forward quickly and with numbers, midfield rotations to bamboozle opponents.
The success over Championship side Raith, thanks to a Liam Scales rocket, plus goals from Giorgos Giakoumakis, Daizen Maeda and Nir Bitton, was a professional job.
That is not to say Postecoglou would have been content with that. That’s not in his nature, to settle. Nor is it in Celtic’s.
That was exemplified in the 27th minute. A backwards pass provoked an angry reaction from the Celtic boss. He spun on his heels in the dugout, roaring “f***ing hell”, his hood coming down as he fired his arms into his legs from him.
Credit has to go to Raith Rovers. It’s not been a great time for the team from the Lang Toun. They may have been backed by a small pocket of fans in the south east of the ground but they made themselves heard, expressing their support for John McGlynn before and during the game.
The former Celtic scout set up his side in a 4-5-1 system and they were very well organized and competitive for long periods. There was a real synergy to their defensive play. Mikey Johnston was forced down routes without an exit. James Forrest was stuck in neutral, while there were few gaps for the midfield to exploit.
Yet, even on slower days there remains a confidence which courses through the team, displayed in an incredible moment where Joe Hart found himself in the corner passing the ball into his own box to Stephen Welsh before taking the return and dinking it over to Scales.
Celtic also have Reo Hatate. A Rolls Royce of a midfielder. There may have been wayward moments but he is one of the most positive players in the country, his passing of him as accurate and measured as a surgeon with a scalpel. The one delivered to Jota opened up Raith and allowed Giakoumakis to double the lead and secure the victory before Maeda agreed in a third and Nir Bitton converted after missing a penalty.
Celtic: Hart; Ralston, Carter-Vickers (Jullien 74′), Welsh, Scales; Bitton, Hatate, Rogic (Ideguchi 69′); Forrest (Abada 69′), Johnston (Jota 55′), Giakoumakis (Maeda 69′).
Raith Rovers: MacDonald; Tumilty, Musonda, Benedictus (Mackie 80′), Dick; Connolly (Varian 64′), Matthews, Williamson (Zanatta 46′), Stanton, Ross (Arnott 85′); Gullan (Poplatnik 64′).
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