Sunday, 30 November 2014

Gomis Red Card Ruins Intriguing Cup Tie

After the meaty challenges of their match versus Rangers last week – both the one punished with a red card and the others that should have been – it was disappointing to see Hearts captain Morgaro Gomis dismissed for a two-footed lunge on Scott Brown with only seven minutes gone in Sunday’s Scottish Cup tie.

Even more disappointing given the vulnerability of Celtic immediately after European matches, with Ronny Deila’s side winning only one domestic match following a Champions League or Europa League night so far this season. Celtic looked far from impressive when they went down 3-1 at home to Red Bull Salzburg on Thursday night and, with Hearts still preserving a 100% record going into Sunday’s match, there was a feeling that they had the potential to not only vastly improve on the 7-0 between the two sides in exactly the same fixture one year ago, but that there was the potential to upset the champions and progress to the next round.

Hearts didn’t necessarily start the game on the front foot, but they looked assured in possession, particularly when passing the ball out from the back – with the exception of a terrible Alim Ozturk pass – and showed that they had talent in forward areas to at least concern the Celtic defence.

Even though you may be aware of my persuasion when it comes to Scottish football, I think I can speak for most supporters of the game in this country when I say that this match was set up as a cracker for the neutral. This fixture is invariably a fiery encounter with much history and promised to be a lot closer than it eventually turned out.

I had hoped to be posting something about two of the more tactically astute managers clashing for the second time this season, be it through describing the way one side as a whole dominated possession or even the way one individual’s movement settled a chess-like cup tie. Instead I’m writing about an idiotic challenge that ruined the match before it had started.

Thanks Morgaro Gomis.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Jonny Hayes: The SPFL's New Most Versitile Player

Dundee 2 Aberdeen 1

Another clever set-piece – one designed to catch the Aberdeen defence off-guard – and a customary strike from David Clarkson gave Dundee the victory at Dens Park in a pulsating Scottish Cup tie. It was, however, the man-of-the-match performance of Aberdeen’s Jonny Hayes that caught the eye.

Aberdeen seemed to confuse their opponents from the off. Hayes lined up at kick-off as if he was going to operate on the left but, as soon as the game started, drifted into one of the holding midfield positions in a 4-2-3-1. The Dons immediately created a chance from kick-off and were inches away from taking the lead. This is an unfamiliar role for the former Inverness star but he slotted in seamlessly, dropping deep to collect the ball from the Aberdeen defenders before launching attacks.

But this was by no means the full extent of Hayes’s contribution. In a tactic reminiscent of Guardolia’s Bayern Munich full backs arcing into the centre of the pitch to become holding midfielders when their side have possession, Hayes performed what was almost the inverse: bursting up towards the left wing when Niall McGinn drifted into central areas.

The Aberdeen equaliser came when Hayes collected the ball in the middle of the park and drove at the Dundee defence before teeing up McGinn and was also found covering at left-back when required. He even popped up on the right wing in the second half to go on a mazy run down the touchline and again set up a teammate, this time Adam Rooney.

With Aberdeen again chasing an equaliser, now into injury-time, Hayes found McGinn once more, this time with a cross-field pass but the Northern Irish international’s fierce strike forced an incredible save from Scott Bain in the Dundee goal.

Hayes was unfortunate to find himself on the losing team and will no doubt be happy with his individual performance. It will be interesting to see if his manager continues to deploy him as such in the continued absence of Willo Flood and Barry Robson.