When Daryl Harkin, manager of the Beijing Celtic First Division Team, woke up on Saturday he must have felt the odds were against him. The first thing he heard was his Dyson air purifier shuddering to a halt as his electricity cut out. This was followed by a morning of messaging all and sundry trying to cobble together a team for the noon kick-off. Add to this the confused messages from the league about which Harrow School Campus was hosting the match and you have a recipe for a disaster. Unconfirmed reports of shady tactics from the league to disturb the Premier team’s chances in the cup have since surfaced and go some way to explain the happenings of the morning.
Noon came and went as both the Celtics and Anejo Grand Reserva arrived at the pitch in dribs and drabs. The Celtics missed out on a Nolan master-class in warming up for the game with him currently appearing in Court back in the UK on Copyright infringement charges. The game eventually kicked-off and both teams were straight at it. The game settled into rhythm where both teams were solid in defence, thanks in no small part to Zach “The Creep” Santosuosso’s return to the back line.
The opposition had the best of the chances with our newest recruit, Jooney, making some top saves to keep the Celtics in the game. Chances at the other end were in short supply, with a few long efforts fired over or wide of the goal. John Harkin, the best of the Triple J midfield on the day, received a yellow card towards the end of the half for a cynical sliding challenge from behind to try and stop a counter move. Unfortunately, the play continued, and John could only watch from the ground as yours truly ran almost the length of the pitch to have no effect on the resulting break down of the play. Oisin reflected at half time that “John should have got a red”. The young lad is yet to see things through the green tinted glasses of a Celtic. The referee was clearly bored of the pattern of the first half and tried calling half time more than 5 minutes early. This should have been a warning sign of things to come from the officials…
The second half had plenty more action to report on. The pattern of play resumed in a similar fashion to that of the first half. It wasn’t long until the Celtics got back to what they know best, politely challenging the officials’ ability to carry out their roles. Zach cleared the ball straight into an onrushing Anejo forward. The opposition player clearly raised an arm to block the ball, which landed perfectly at his feet for him to stick it top bins. In the eyes of the referee this was a perfectly legitimate goal, he was wrong. The Celtics were fired up and were determined not to have refereeing decisions ruin their day. Shortly after the first goal a long ball was played forward to Brendan who was bundled over on the edge of the box. He was laid spread-eagled on the floor, not for the first time that weekend, as Sean strode up from centre back to take the free-kick.
In the week where we saw the first image of a black hole another amazing phenomenon in the field of Physics occurred, the McSheffrey Free-Kick. Words can not do the goal justice, go and watch it, but be warned - you will cream yourself. In years to come scientists will look back at 2019 and ask what was the best thing to happen in science that year? Black Hole: No, McSheffrey goal! It is already being dubbed “The toe-poke of the year”.
Shortly after the Celtic goal the officials were back to their usual Shenanigans. A cross came into the box from the Anejo left, a player nodded it forward to a team-mate who was standing so far offside that according to Zach “He was standing in the goal”. The linesman didn’t manage to see this person, despite them scoring the goal. One can only assume that the pollution, which was high, obscured his view. This along with the previous dodgy call brings us back to the old argument, why isn’t the league looking at introducing VAR? Anejo clearly felt embarrassed that they had scored two illegal goals by gifting the Celtics an own goal. John played a ball into the box hoping the tireless Oisin would make something happen. The defender took matters into his own hands by poking the ball past his wrong-footed keeper.
Anejo piled on the pressure after this point. They also found some suspiciously good substitutes who weren’t present earlier in the match. John tried his best to get the red card that Oisin believed he already deserved, but the referee would not oblige. In amongst the battling was a moment of magic from the Ginger Pirlo on the left wing. Fallon nutmegged his opposite number, ran around him and played the ball. Once the ball had gone dead, he told the right back in no uncertain terms “You owe me a shot”. He had another moment, but less brilliant, where he went for an ambitious long shot. This was apparently aimed at “top bins” but almost hit the roof of the school. The whole of the Celtics team on the pitch were pleased for the rest while the ball was retrieved.
Anejo had the ball in the back of the net shortly before the end of the game, however it was ruled out for offside. While a good call for us, it is the opinion of this reporter that it was indeed onside. At last the referees were being consistent with their calls, they were all bad. Brendan went off with two minutes left looking injured, but this was called into question by the speed at which he moved towards his DiDi mumbling something about “birds”. Justin came on for a cameo appearance and played as many positions as he did minutes.
The game finished 2-2, which sees an end to the rot of bad results. While in discussions over a few beers in Paddy’s we felt we could have won, in the cold, and sober, light of day it was a fair result. Without Jooney pulling off some excellent saves throughout the game the score line could have been much less flattering. The whole team was organised and disciplined, well except for John. This is a result to build on as we go into the next match on Sunday against China Post. Lets deliver them a letter they don’t want; L.