The story behind 2012
By: Newsroom Staff on 31 Dec, 2012 10:26
AS we approach the dawning of the New Year and the halfway point in the season in which Celtic celebrate 125 years of unbroken history, we take a look back at the previous 12 months of action.
There have been many highs and we look forward to celebrating a few more over the coming 12 months.
HAVING finished 2011 with a 1-0 victory over Rangers to go top of the SPL table, Celtic kicked off the New Year with a comprehensive 3-0 win against Dunfermline at East End Park, with Victor Wanyama, Anthony Stokes and Charlie Mulgrew on the scoresheet. The following week featured a trek north to face Peterhead in the Scottish Cup, and Neil Lennon’s side recorded their second consecutive 3-0 victory, courtesy of a Stokes hat-trick. Two successive league wins followed, a 2-1 home win against Dundee United and a 2-0 away win against St Mirren, which featured another great Scott Brown goal, before January’s fixtures were completed with a trip to Hampden for the semi-final of the Scottish Communities League Cup. First Division Falkirk were the opponents, and Celtic, thanks to goals from Scott Brown with a penalty, and an Anthony Stokes double, won the match 3-1 to book their place in the final.
HAVING booked a place in the League Cup final, Celtic turned their attentions to the other domestic final at the beginning of February. And it was a potentially tricky tie as the Hoops travelled to Inverness. However, Neil Lennon’s side produced a dominant performance, with goals from Georgios Samaras and another Scott Brown penalty giving Celtic a 2-0 win. And the Hoops followed that up with a stunning 4-0 victory at Tynecastle against Hearts. Celtic raced into a 3-0 lead inside the first half-hour and they remained in control of proceedings until the final whistle. February proved to be a very successful month for the Celts, with six victories recorded, 15 goals scored and none conceded. That tally also included a 1-0 home win over Inverness in the league, another emphatic capital display to beat Hibernian 5-0, and successive home wins over Dunfermline (2-0) and Motherwell (1-0).
IF February produced a perfect report card from the six fixtures, then March’s four games were more disappointing. The month began with a 1-1 draw at Pittodrie, which signalled an end to Celtic’s impressive run of domestic victories, which stretched all the way back to November 2011 and which amounted to 20 consecutive wins. Normall service was resumed eight days, later, however, with an impressive Scottish Cup win at Tannadice. Four second-half goals gave the Hoops an emphatic 4-0 victory and set them up for the League Cup final the following week. It was to prove a day of disappointment at Hampden, however, as Celtic lost 1-0 to Kilmarnock, conceding a goal with six minutes remaining. There was late controversy as the Hoops appeared to be denied a penalty, but it was the blue and white ribbons of Killie which were on the trophy. And the following week saw an even more controversial game as nine-man Celtic lost 3-2 at Ibrox.
CELTIC bounced back from two consecutive defeats to beat St Johnstone 2-0 on April Fool’s Day, though it took two second-half goals to sink the Saints. The significance of the victory, however, was that it meant Celtic travelled to Rugby Park the following weekend, knowing that a victory would deliver the SPL title back to Paradise. It was the same ground where, back in October 2011, Celtic had trailed 3-0 at half-time and their title challenge seemed on the verge of collapse. A second-half comeback rescued a point that day, and now Neil Lennon’s side were intent on sealing the title. It was another six-goal thriller against Kilmarnock, but this time all the goals were scored by Celtic. Neil Lennon’s side were now the champions, and deservedly so, and the three stands at Rugby park which were packed with Celtic fans celebrated the triumph. Any hope of a double was ended the following week, with a 2-1 defeat in the Scottish Cup semi-final to Hearts, but Celtic followed that up with consecutive 3-0 victories – against Motherwell at Fir Park and in the last ever derby against Rangers at Paradise.
CELTIC began May in the same way they started April, with a victory over St Johnstone. The champions took the lead after 28 minutes through Anthony Stokes, and they never looked in trouble throughout the game. The following weekend, they travelled through to Tannadice to take on Dundee United, and the Hoops suffered a 1-0 loss, the only goal of the game coming after 21 minutes. There was only one league fixture remaining, and that was a home match against Hearts. Not only would it complete a successful league campaign for Neil Lennon’s side, but it was also the day when the SPL trophy, won back on April 7, was finally presented to captain, Scott Brown, and the championship-winning Celtic side. And the team produced a performance worthy of champions, beating Hearts 5-0, with Gary Hooper is sparkling form, scoring all five goals. After the game, the real celebrations began as Scott Brown lifted the SPL trophy aloft. It was back in Paradise where it belonged.
MOST of Neil Lennon’s squad were able to enjoy some well-earned rest during the month of June, basking in the sunshine as champions. However, for Georgios Samaras and Mikael Lustig, there was more football to be played as they were both involved in the European Championship finals with Greece and Sweden respectively. And they enjoyed differing fortunes. Samaras helped Greece qualify for the quarter-finals from Group A, at the expense of co-hosts, Poland, and they produced a heroic performance in the last eight against Germany, with Samaras scoring, before eventually going down 4-2. Lustig and Sweden, meanwhile, finished bottom of Group D, only recording one win in their final group game against France. The fixtures for 2012/13 were also announced during June, and the Champions looked forward to an opening day match at home to Aberdeen, when the league flag would be raised over Paradise.
CELTIC reported back for pre-season training, ready for some intensive preparations ahead of the defence of the title, and their opening UEFA Champions League qualifier. In July, the identity of their opponents were revealed, and the Hoops would face HJK Helsinki. Early in the month, there was a great boost with the news that Fraser Forster had signed a permanent deal with the club, and it would prove to be an astute piece of business. The pre-season tour took the champions to Germany and Holland before they signed off July with two home friendly matches, against Norwich City and Inter Milan. The month was also a sad one for the Celtic family as Hoops legend, Joe McBride, passed away. He was a great goalscorer and was an important player for Celtic in the early years of Jock Stein’s reign as manager. He was a regular presence at Celtic Park on matchdays and he remains sadly missed by everyone.
CELTIC played seven competitive games and one friendly in the month of August, and it proved to be a pretty successful period as Neil Lennon’s side secured qualification for the group stages of the UEFA Champions League. That was achieved after safely negotiating two qualifying rounds. The first of those was against HJK Helsinki, and after a 2-1 home win, the Hoops travelled to Finland and won 2-0 on the night, setting up a meeting with Swedish side, Helsingborgs. And Celtic produced two strong performances to win 2-0 in both legs and ensure the return of Champions League football to Celtic Park. The league campaign began with flag day at Paradise before the team beat Aberdeen 1-0, and that was followed by consecutive trips to the Highlands to play Ross County (1-1) and Inverness CT (4-2). And the Hoops also managed to squeeze in a trip to Philadelphia to take on Real Madrid.
CELTIC began September with a 2-2 draw at home to Hibernian. Despite leading twice in the game, the Hoops were forced to take a share of the points. But after a break for international football, Celtic returned to league action with a 2-1 win over St Johnstone, and that set the team up for the opening group-stage game in the UEFA Champions League. It was a tough opening encounter against Benfica, who reached the quarter-finals of last season’s competition, and a tight game ended goal-less. It was an encouraging start to the campaign for Neil Lennon’s side, but things would soon get even better. The European game was followed up by a 2-0 home win over Dundee and a 4-1 victory over Raith Rovers in the Scottish Communities League Cup, with Gary Hooper scoring all four goals. And September ended with a 2-0 victory over Motherwell at Fir Park.
CELTIC had never before won an away game in the group stages of the UEFA Champions League, but they rectified that on a visit to Russia when they beat Spartak Moscow 3-2. It was a magnificent performance and result for Celtic, who had taken the lead through Gary Hooper. Spartak hit back, however, and scored twice to lead 2-1 with just under 20 minutes remaining. But an own goal levelled the game before Georgios Samaras headed home in the last minute to give Neil Lennon’s side all three points. Buoyed by that result, Celtic beat Hearts 1-0 and St MIrren 5-0 before travelling abroad again to face Barcelona in the Nou Camp. It was a daunting task, but Celtic were magnificent on the night. Samaras scored again, and although Andres Iniesta equalised, Neil Lennon’s side looked as though they would gain a magnificent point. However, Jordi Alba popped up in the fourth minute of added time to score Barca’s winner. It was heartbreaking stuff but Celtic would soon get a chance for revenge. October ended with a 5-0 League Cup win over St Johnstone.
ANOTHER busy month for Celtic, with seven competitive fixtures. The highlight, of course, was the game against Barcelona on November 7. The Catalan side are rightly regarded as one of the best football teams ever seen, yet on an incredible night at Celtic Park, Neil Lennon’s side beat them 2-1 thanks to goals from Victor Wanyama and Tony Watt. The match came just 24 hours after a special service in St Mary’s Church, Calton, which marked the 125th anniversary of the club’s formation, and the victory, which reverberated throughout the football world, was the perfect way to mark such a momentous occasion. Domestic fortunes fluctuated, however, with draws against Dundee United (2-2) and St Johnstone (1-1) and a 1-0 home defeat to Inverness Caley Thistle, offset by two good away wins against Aberdeen (2-0) and Hearts (4-0). And there was also Euro disappointment with a 2-1 defeat against Benfica in Lisbon. That result meant that Celtic would have to better Benfica’s result against Barcelona on matchday six, when they played Spartak Moscow, in order to reach the last 16.
IF November brought the high of beating Barcelona, then December started will the low of drawing 1-1 at home with Second Division Arbroath in the fourth round of the Scottish Cup. The competition has started earlier this season, to allow for the winter break for SPL clubs, but Celtic would make amends in the replay thanks to Adam Matthews’ first goal for the club. Before that match, Celtic had booked their place in the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League with a 2-1 victory over Spartak Moscow, with goals from Gary Hooper and a Kris Commons penalty. That victory, coupled with Benfica’s 0-0 draw against Barcelona, ensured that Neil Lennon’s side progressed to the next stage of the competition. The Hoops also began to build some momentum in the league with victories over Kilmarnock (3-1) and St Mirren (2-0), Ross County (4-0) and Dundee (2-0). However, even a final 1-0 defeat to Hibernian at Easter Road couldn’t take the shine from a year that sees Celtic enter 2013 still in all four competitions they entered at the start of the season.
HAPPY NEW YEAR