The Premier team may have gotten the gaudy score line against a hapless ‘Babas', but the First Division clash that followed proved even more spectacular than a Stephen Hurworth free kick.
A combination of injuries and more last second pull outs than a Celtic stag do meant the First Division squad would again rely on a few premier lads to fill the roster (more on Nicodemus George later). The first half, though end to end at times, was largely dominated by Celtic thanks to a commitment to possession and the occasional aggressive press. Palace always looked dangerous on the counter, but their route one tactics proved too one-dimensional for the center back dynamos, Ian ‘Celtic with the highest net-worth’ Lahiffe and Marco ‘The Italian stallion’ Barbini. Ian put his stamp on the match early by putting in a crunching (albeit clean by my estimation) challenge on the Palace number 10, which earned him a booking. Meanwhile, Marco won no less than 8,000 aerial battles and held the offside line with the precision of an Italian sports car.
As the first half wore on, both sides saw chances go begging. Around the 40 minute mark, good build up play from the Celtic front four fizzled out in the attacking third, but excellent pressure from Sean and Franky forced a poor clearance from the Palace center half. Demus pounced on the ball like a Wakandan warrior and buried the ball in the back of the net, then said ‘fuck you, Gravity’ while doing his signature backflip. Celtic 1 - 0 Palace. Demus 1 - 0 Gravity.
Half time saw the opposition make so many changes, there were concerns that manager Daryl ‘Big Meat’ Harkin had taken his talents to Summer Palace (jk Daryl, plz dnt bench me nxt game, kthx). Fortunately, it also saw the introduction of all-around nice guy Brendan Fennell, who courageously decided to play despite a leg wound sustained in the Premier game which smelled vaguely of foreskin. The fresh legs of Palace began to overwhelm the Celtic defense, requiring central Florida’s own Mordecai Martin to stand on his head to maintain the slim advantage.
Despite the early second-half onslaught from Palace, the bhoys continued to carve out chances. Late game subs Ciaran ‘Ginger Pirlo’ Fallon, Posh Josh Brown and Karl ‘Marx’ O’Dwyer injected creativity, culture and chaos, respectively, into the side. After a rare spell of possession in the attacking third for Palace, Harkin the Elder launched what should have been a devastating counter, releasing Brendan with a lovely ball over the top. As he made a play on the ball in the penalty area, the keeper cleaned Brendan out in what can only be described as a dangerous challenge. However, in what is worryingly becoming a trend, Celtic again fell victim to slipshod officiating. Ignoring frantic gesticulating from his linesman, the referee waved play on - no red card, no penalty. To rub salt in Brendan’s now-seeping leg wound, he pulled up lame in both calf muscles minutes later and had to be subbed off.
Chances continued to come and Celtic nearly put the game to bed from a Josh Brown effort from distance, which clanged off the woodwork. It looked as though Celtic would hang on for a hard-earned 3 points, but the referee had other ideas. With all hands on deck to defend a corner in the 80th minute, the lads were hard done by a soft penalty given for handball. Mordecai Martin could not produce another magic moment from his bag of tricks to stop what was a well-taken penalty. Celtic 1-1 Palace.
As the whistle went for full time, Celtic walked off with a bitter taste but heads held high. Plenty to build from, staring down a double-header clash with the fleshy pink fucks from Sexy FC next weekend.
Man of the Match: Matthew Mordecai Schwartzweinsteinberg Martin