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  • Celtic pass La Real test with flying colours

    Celtic pass La Real test with flying colours

    By: Kenny McKay on 10 Jul, 2015 21:52

  • Pre-season friendly

    St Mirren Park, Paisley

    Friday, July 10, 2015


    (Mackay-Steven 68)


    A second half Gary Mackay-Steven strike was enough to hand Celtic victory over Real Sociedad in their third pre-season tie in Paisley.

    Ronny Deila made two changes for the visit of La Real, following last Saturday’s defeat to Dukla Prague as Israeli midfielder Nir Bitton returned in the middle of the park while Stuart Armstrong replaced James Forrest who was named on the bench alongside new recruits Nadir Ciftci and Saidy Janko.

    Sociedad manager and former Celt Davie Moyes fielded a strong starting side for the visitors, including both Esteban Granero and Sergio Canales, with the duo having played pivotal roles in the Basque’s recent La Liga campaign.

    Celtic kicked-off wearing their green, pinstripe away kit for the first time and immediately attacked through Leigh Griffiths who latched onto a through ball from Charlie Mulgrew only for his effort on target to be ruled offside.

    Left-back Yuri Berchiche would respond for the visitors with a dipping shot from distance that forced Craig Gordon to tip the ball over for a corner within the first three minutes.

    From the early exchanges, it became clear that the La Liga side had arrived in Scotland with the intent of providing a stern test for the Celts, with both Bitton and Scott Brown finding little space in the middle of the park as they battled against Granero and Markel Bergara. Meanwhile, striker Imanol Agirretxe was an aerial challenge for the defensive duo of Dedryck Boyata and Mulgrew.

    The combination of Berchiche and winger Pa'blo Hervias down the left-flank tested Mikael Lustig, with the Swede conceding the first of four, first-half corners of which Sociedad struggled to make an impact from.

    Yet, it was on the 13th minute, when Sociedad’s creative spark Canales had the visitor's first concrete chance when his deflected effort from outside the box rattled Craig Gordon’s far post.

    Celtic first corner would follow on 21 minutes after some good running from Mackay-Steven on the right flank. Johansen’s cross found Lustig at the back post but his effort was held by the goalkeeper. The Celts' foray forward was short lived as, Real immediately returned the ball for Agirretxe to drive a shot from 20-yards out only for Gordon to comfortably save.

    However, on the half hour mark, the near capacity crowd at St Mirren Park unleashed a chorus of “Stand up the Champions” that spurred the Celts into their most dominant spell of the half.

    Minutes later a neat move between Johansen, Mackay-Steven and Griffiths saw Sociedad concede a corner that resulted in Boyata rising highest only for his header to sail over the bar.

    Then with ten minutes until half-time, Gordon found Johansen in space to begin a free flowing Celtic move that, with the assistance of Mackay-Steven and Griffiths saw Brown brought down 20 yards from goal. The resulting free-kick from Johansen was aimed low, only for La Real’s wall to do its job.

    Griffiths would then have his say on proceedings on the 38th minute. With Emilio Izaguirre charging forward, his low ball into the middle was cleared by Inigo Martinez, only for Griffiths to unleash a typical left footed drive that had Geronimo Rulli scrambling across his line, as the chance was deflected wide.

    At the break, Ronny Deila elected to bring on Darnell Fisher in a like for like swap with Mikael Lustig while Davie Moyes introduced Alberto De La Bella, Ruben Pardo and Chory Castro.

    The changes did little to alter Celtic's new-found attacking focus as with four minutes gone of the second half Griffiths was almost rewarded for his typically tenacious pressing.

    Latching onto a loose pass back to defender Ion Ansotegi, the striker performed a cheeky spin over the ball before unleashing a low shot that struck the far upright of the goal.

    With 63 minutes gone, both sides freshened things up as Joseba Muguruza and Alain Oyarzun replaced Agirretxe and Eneko Capilla for La Real. Meanwhile Bitton made way for Virgil van Dijk, allowing Mulgrew to move into midfield.

    With both teams holding high defensive lines, Ronny Deila opted to change things further and in doing so sent the Celtic support into a chorus of applause with Griffiths making way for Nadir Ciftci to make his Celtic debut on the 67th minute.

    And, the Bhoys new No7 took a little over 60 seconds to make an impact as he supplied a neat return pass from inside the Sociedad box for Gary Mackay-Steven to power home the opener.

    Having played alongside both Stuart Armstrong and Mackay-Steven at Dundee United, the Celts attacking trident soon rediscovered their old rhythm with some neat play to get behind an increasingly static Sociedad defence.

    An infield pass from Armstrong to Johansen on the 70th minute mark saw the Norwegian knock the ball forward to the 18 yard line where Ciftci could only prod the ball off the on rushing Rulli.

    On the 75th minute, the Celtic support were introduced to another new Bhoy as Saidy Janko replaced Mackay-Steven, while, in the away dug out Canales departed and was replaced by David Zurutuza.

    With the rain pouring down, both teams adjusted their play to suit the slick conditions, while Ronny Deila replaced Boyata with Efe Ambrose six minutes from time.

    Yet it was another defender who almost stole the headlines as a free-kick from van Dijk sailed narrowly over the bar on 87 minutes.

    The victory means the Hoops will sign off from St Mirren Park in style as they look forward to next week’s return to Paradise where they will face Stjarnan in the UEFA Champions League qualifying tie.


    CELTIC (4-2-3-1) Gordon; Lustig (Fisher 45), Boyata (Ambrose 84), Mulgrew, Izaguirre; Brown, Bitton (van Dijk 63); Mackay-Steven (Janko 75), Johansen, Armstrong; Griffiths (Ciftci 67).

    Subs not used: Fasan, Forrest, Rogic, Henderson, Donnelly, Tierney, Stokes, Scepovic,


    REAL SOCIEDAD: (4-4-1-1) Rulli, Zaluda, Berchiche, Martinez, Ansotegi, Bergara, Granero, Canales, Hervias, Capilla, Agirrextxe


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