The early Saturday kick off had many wondering about the state of the Celtic players, however only Nick ‘Sloppy’ Signoriello pulled up lame after a late night altercation with the staircase of Beijing nightlife hotspot Kokomo.
Kieron Nolan got his first start after a year long one-man PR campaign that finally got the attention of a worn down Alan Kelly. Could the Stockport man put his 1 yard out open goal miss from the previous week behind him and prove the haters (Paul) wrong?
From the opening handshakes and how the Celts had to almost kneel down to get to the Japanese players heights, it was obvious a clash of styles between the small, nippy, tiki taka Japanese and the more physical and fast paced football of the Celts would come to pass for the 90 minutes.
It started with the Celts on top but the Japanese scored first with a speculative 30 yard strike that just nipped inside the post. However with the wise clichés of Confucius Nolan ringing in our ears we knew it was ‘a game of 2 halves’, we needed to ‘put in 110%’ and that ‘the next goal is key’.
And so it came to be as the constant danger of Simon paid dividends as he was taken down by the keeper on the 6 yard box. Dom Lytwyn placed the ball on the penalty spot and then had to wait for 5 mins as the Japanese goalkeeper collected all the toys he had just thrown out of his pram, eventually slotting the ball into the bottom left corner.
The Celtic second came just after half time as a scramble from a free kick landed at Richie’s feet and he blasted the ball across goal with Dom Lytwyn getting the final touch. As he wheeled off celebrating his 1 yard tap in, the Japanese vented their frustration at the Chinese officials, an international incident narrowly avoided with the diplomatic skills of our very own Alan Kelly telling everyone to get on with the game in highly colourful language.
Derry man Daryl Harkin was next on the scoresheet, nudging in after some great work from Alan, Simon and Richie down the flank as the game was beginning to look beyond the Japanese, Alan Kelly adding some real grit into the centre of the park second half.
Simon then added two more to his growing collection, the first a bursting run followed by cool finish over the keeper and his second a 35 yard swivel volley which sailed right into the top of the net. The Cork man’s constant danger and superb finishing yet again earning him a well deserved man of the match!
The ecstasy of a well earned win was doubled as Daryl bounced around exclaiming it was Saturday and everyone could get out on the piss without a Monday morning on the horizon. That was then tripled as 2nd placed Forbidden City lost 1-0 to leave the title race wide open.
Huge game for the Celtic against a resurgent Barbarians under the floodlights on Tuesday eve. Win and anything is possible!