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St Johnstone 0-2 Celtic: Substitutes Leigh Griffiths and Patryk Klimala snatch victory at the death

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st johnstone 0 2 celtic substitutes leigh griffiths and patryk klimala snatch victory at the death

There will inevitably come a point in time when those observers who habitually pen Leigh Griffiths’ career obituaries will be proven to be correct.

It would take a brave man to post the definitive version any time soon, though. With the unerring timing of a Swiss watch, the Celtic striker continues to deliver ripostes to those who doubt him.

Overweight and excluded from the party which travelled to France in pre-season as a consequence of overindulging during lockdown, the dawning of the striker’s 30th birthday in August was seen by many as another staging post on the road to the knacker’s yard. We ought to have known better.

Patryk Kilmala (left) seals a dramatic win at the death for Celtic as they beat St Johnstone 2-0

Patryk Kilmala (left) seals a dramatic win at the death for Celtic as they beat St Johnstone 2-0

Patryk Kilmala (left) seals a dramatic win at the death for Celtic as they beat St Johnstone 2-0

Leigh Griffiths had put the visitors ahead in injury time after a nervy 90 minutes

Leigh Griffiths had put the visitors ahead in injury time after a nervy 90 minutes

Leigh Griffiths had put the visitors ahead in injury time after a nervy 90 minutes

Neil Lennon celebrates following Celtic's last-gasp victory over St Johnstone on Sunday

Neil Lennon celebrates following Celtic's last-gasp victory over St Johnstone on Sunday

Neil Lennon celebrates following Celtic’s last-gasp victory over St Johnstone on Sunday

With the 90th minute ebbing away at McDiarmid Park and St Johnstone on course for a point which would not have been ill-deserved, Griffiths, fresh off the bench, planted himself between the posts and awaited his moment.

Hatem Elhamed hared down the right to provide the kind of quality cross that had been conspicuous by its absence all afternoon from Neil Lennon’s men. With a stretch of his neck, Griffiths delivered his latest act of redemption.

His introduction 14 minutes from time was one of many gambles Lennon took on the day. Casting Scott Brown in the role of substitute until eight minutes from time was chief among them.

By the end of this affair, however, the Celtic manager wore the look of a man who’d landed a spectacular accumulator. Patryk Klimala, who also scored from the bench with the game’s last meaningful action, gave the scoreline a sheen that was hideously harsh on Callum Davidson’s side.

The telling contributions of Griffiths and Klimala will surely not be lost on Odsonne Edouard. Whether distracted by the ongoing transfer speculation or simply out of sorts, the Frenchman was again a shadow of his former self. His inclusion in the side can no longer be assumed to be automatic.

It was a day when precious few in green and white played to their optimum level.

Griffiths heads home Hatem Elhamed's great cross in the 90th minute against St Johnstone

Griffiths heads home Hatem Elhamed's great cross in the 90th minute against St Johnstone

Griffiths heads home Hatem Elhamed’s great cross in the 90th minute against St Johnstone

Klimala then slotted past Zander Clark to ensure the three points came back to Glasgow

Klimala then slotted past Zander Clark to ensure the three points came back to Glasgow

Klimala then slotted past Zander Clark to ensure the three points came back to Glasgow

For all St Johnstone belied their lowly league status with a gutsy, committed display, Lennon’s men were laboured throughout.

That the visitors clocked up an eighth straight win in all competitions while scarcely engaging third gear was testament to their reserves of mental strength. The Perth man must wonder what they have to do to catch a break when Celtic come to town.

Matching Celtic man for man from the outset, Davidson’s side were never going to sit back and wait on the inevitable.

Thundering into challenges, they denied Celtic space to work in and forced them back. It was not long before visiting skipper for the day Callum McGregor was imploring his team-mates to offer more. His plea fell on deaf ears.

Frustrated at failing to make any headway through a string of set pieces, the early booking picked up by Olivier Ntcham for dragging back David Wotherspoon did the Parkhead side little favours.

The St Johnstone midfielder also immediately fell foul of referee Nick Walsh for a cynical clip of Elhamed’s ankles.

Last season's top scorer Odsonne Edouard was hauled off after another lacklustre display

Last season's top scorer Odsonne Edouard was hauled off after another lacklustre display

Last season’s top scorer Odsonne Edouard was hauled off after another lacklustre display

Callum Davidson's side put in a gutsy display and stifled the visitors for much of the contest

Callum Davidson's side put in a gutsy display and stifled the visitors for much of the contest

Callum Davidson’s side put in a gutsy display and stifled the visitors for much of the contest

The home side created the best opening of an opening half hour that was high on effort but low on quality.

Craig Conway’s in-swinging cross from the right ought to have been punched halfway to Dundee by Vasilis Barkas. The Greek keeper’s hesitancy allowed Wotherspoon to head the ball into the sky only for Kristoffer Ajer to mop up before the home player could react.

It took Celtic half an hour to make any appreciable impact in the match. Elhamed’s dart to the line preceded a deep cross which Mohamed Elyounoussi retrieved and cut back for the onrushing McGregor. The midfielder dragged his effort beyond the far post.

Conway, the veteran winger, certainly saw plenty of the ball here. To the chagrin of his manager and strikers and the relief of Barkas, though, he repeatedly over-hit his crosses.

New boy David Turnbull was replaced after 59 minutes on his full Celtic debut by Ryan Christie

New boy David Turnbull was replaced after 59 minutes on his full Celtic debut by Ryan Christie

New boy David Turnbull was replaced after 59 minutes on his full Celtic debut by Ryan Christie

The encouraging thing from the home side’s perspective was how little Zander Clark had been called into action in the first period.

With the visitors strangely ponderous and often intent on taking an unnecessary extra touch, Edouard’s deflected shot on the turn in the 45th minute was the sum total of Celtic’s efforts.

A sign of Saints’ growing confidence came just before Walsh called a halt when Wotherspoon’s audacious attempt to beat Barkas from fully 40 yards drifted just over the top.

There was to be no immediate change in the pattern of the game after the turnaround. Wotherspoon exploited space vacated up the left by charging forward and firing a low cross which caught Celtic’s retreating defence on their heels. Conway took it in his stride only for Barkas to be spared by the post.

Celtic’s first concerted spell of pressure saw David Turnbull head McGregor’s cross harmlessly over but Lennon was not convinced his side had a grip on this one. Off came Turnbull and Edouard with Ryan Christie and Patryk Klimala thrown on.

David Wotherspoon tried to beat Celtic goalkeeper Vasilis Barkas with a shot from 40 yards

David Wotherspoon tried to beat Celtic goalkeeper Vasilis Barkas with a shot from 40 yards

David Wotherspoon tried to beat Celtic goalkeeper Vasilis Barkas with a shot from 40 yards

What a chance the Pole passed up to instantly make himself a hero. Ntcham’s cross from the right was delivered with pace but the striker was only able to graze it with his studs as it crept beyond the far post.

Another break in play, another roll of the dice. This time Griffiths and Tom Rogic, without an appearance between them this season, replaced Elyounoussi and Ntcham.

Then, after Duffy had headed Christie’s corner over the top with eight minutes left, Brown belatedly took Greg Taylor’s place. The change in Celtic’s tempo after the skipper’s introduction was immediately apparent.

Griffiths’ first involvement was to stretch his neck to meet Christie’s cross. Only a slight defensive touch denied him on this occasion.

As Lennon looked to the heavens, you felt, for all the world, that it was going to be one of those days.

Celtic host Rangers in the Old Firm behind closed doors straight after the international break

Celtic host Rangers in the Old Firm behind closed doors straight after the international break

Celtic host Rangers in the Old Firm behind closed doors straight after the international break

There just seems to be no way to keep Griffiths down for any length of time, however. And when Elhamed bounded forward on the right and looked up, the St Johnstone bench probably knew what came next.

The Israeli’s cross was perfection. Griffiths’ jump enabled him to gain the power and accuracy required to beat Clark all ends up with a bullet header.

Three minutes later, this remarkable tale of two substitute strikers was complete. Klimala showed extraordinary strength to bat off a meaty challenge from Liam Gordon. He finished high into the net to complete the job.

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Jon Jones REJECTS claims Khabib is UFC GOAT and insists ’15 world titles, numbers don’t lie’ after his retirement

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jon jones rejects claims khabib is ufc goat and insists 15 world titles numbers dont lie after his retirement scaled

JON JONES has rejected Khabib Nurmagomedov’s claim he is the best pound-for-pound fighter.

The UFC lightweight champion stretched his unbeaten record as a pro to 29-0 in MMA on Saturday night with victory over Justin Gaethje.

Khabib wants to be recognised as the P4P king of UFC

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Khabib wants to be recognised as the P4P king of UFCCredit: Reuters
Current top dog Jon Jones had something to say about that

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Current top dog Jon Jones had something to say about thatCredit: Getty

Many felt it was ‘The Eagle’s’ biggest test yet as he took on the American at UFC 254 on Fight Island.

But the Dagestani fighter left everyone in no doubt who the top dog was as he needed less than ten minutes to see off the man dubbed ‘The Highlight’.

Khabib, 32, shocked everybody afterwards by announcing his retirement from MMA.

That is despite him being linked with mega-money matches against old foe Conor McGregor or his hero Georges St. Pierre.

Inside the octagon after his latest win, he said: “There is only one thing I want from UFC, to put me as No.1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world because I deserve it

However, the current P4P king Jones quickly refuted Khabib’s request.

Writing on Twitter, he wrote: “Until I take that heavily crown, I grant you the spot. Enjoy Champ.”

He then tweeted: “15 world titles, numbers don’t lie.”

‘Bones’ then wrote: “I want to congratulate Khabib for an outstanding career.

“I know he made his father along with millions of fans around the world incredibly proud today.

“May God continue to bless him on his journey.”

The American then added: “Definitely a powerful moment, but my logic is definitely not clouded.”

DD COMPOSITE UFC PPV 2

Jones, who last tasted defeat in a DQ loss to Matt Hamill in 2009, vacated his UFC light heavyweight belt and announced his move to the heavyweight division earlier this year.

He last fought in a controversial points victory over Dominick Reyes at UFC 247 in February.

However has been teasing a fight announcement in recent days, tweeting ‘Stay tuned’ when asked by a fan about his next clash.

Khabib vs Gaethje: Round by Round – UFC Legend retires after destroying opponent

This post first appeared on thesun.co.uk

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Adama Traore on growing up in the shadow of the Nou Camp, idolising Ronaldinho and using baby oil

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adama traore on growing up in the shadow of the nou camp idolising ronaldinho and using baby oil

If you have visited Barcelona, you’ll have passed through L’Hospitalet, the home town of Adama Traore. 

You probably won’t have stopped to visit the mass of housing estates, built in the Sixties to relocate people from low-quality housing by the old docks, as well as the Roma community, and then swelled by immigration from South America and Africa.

It is a city next to a city, part of the urban sprawl of municipal districts but with its own identity, a modern multicultural Catalan conurbation and the gateway to Barcelona.

Adama Traore's astronomic rise began on the outskirts of the Nou Camp in L'Hospitalet

Adama Traore's astronomic rise began on the outskirts of the Nou Camp in L'Hospitalet

Adama Traore’s astronomic rise began on the outskirts of the Nou Camp in L’Hospitalet

The Wolves star lived in the shadow of the Barcelona stadium and could hear games played

The Wolves star lived in the shadow of the Barcelona stadium and could hear games played

The Wolves star lived in the shadow of the Barcelona stadium and could hear games played

On one boundary the city’s premier football club play, on the other is the airport, where tourists start their journey to the more recognised sites of Sagrada Familia and Las Ramblas in the city of Gaudi, Picasso and Messi. But from La Florida, the most densely populated barrio of L’Hospitalet, you can hear the roar of the Nou Camp.

Traore still remembers when he was seven, tucked up in bed at 1am a few hundred yards from the stadium, hearing the crowd celebrating the extraordinary debut goal scored by Ronaldinho for Barca, when he picked up the ball in his own half, beat two men and unleashed a stunning strike from 35 yards.

For the son of migrants from Mali who had made the journey to Europe and settled, like many others, in La Florida de l’Hospitalet, it was a roar that inspired a child.

‘For me Ronaldinho coming to Barcelona was amazing, something magical,’ says Traore. ‘Then Andres Iniesta and soon after, all these players came. But the one who started everything was Ronaldinho. At my age, Ronaldinho was the best.’

Traore idolised Barcelona star Ronaldinho and used to watch him play in training at La Masia

Traore idolised Barcelona star Ronaldinho and used to watch him play in training at La Masia

Traore idolised Barcelona star Ronaldinho and used to watch him play in training at La Masia

The Spaniard did not get a real chance at breaking through at Barca and moved on to England

The Spaniard did not get a real chance at breaking through at Barca and moved on to England

The Spaniard did not get a real chance at breaking through at Barca and moved on to England

For complicated internal political reasons, Ronaldinho’s debut in 2003 started at five minutes past midnight, concluding just before 2am. Even for Catalan night habits it’s a little late. 

Hence, the seven-year-old Traore was in bed, though not asleep it seems. ‘I will always remember his first goal against Sevilla,’ he recalls. ‘He controlled the ball on the halfway line and went past two players. My house was not far from the Camp Nou, so I heard the shouting and the noise in my bed.

‘The game was at midnight and they were giving people free food to watch it. The stadium was full. And I watched it the next day. [Before Ronaldinho] Barcelona couldn’t challenge Real Madrid, because they had the Galacticos and they won everything. Then he came in.’

Soon Traore would actually have a close-up view of his hero. Spotted by Barca youth scouts, he would train at La Masia, the 18th century farmhouse which at that time was a boarding house for young players. Across the road, the first team used to train and back then, you could watch them through a wire fence.

‘We used to have free passes to watch the games and we used to see him in training next to La Masia,’ says Traore. ‘It was amazing and magical.’

Traore was also making a name for himself, albeit in a more local context. Small-sided street football abounded and among those vying to be the best, the five-a-side team with the Traore brothers, Moha and Adama, was the one to beat.

The 24-year-old moved to Aston Villa as a youngster but failed to make the impact he hoped for

The 24-year-old moved to Aston Villa as a youngster but failed to make the impact he hoped for

The 24-year-old moved to Aston Villa as a youngster but failed to make the impact he hoped for

Traore showed glimpses of potential at Boro under Tony Pulis before joining Wolves

Traore showed glimpses of potential at Boro under Tony Pulis before joining Wolves

Traore showed glimpses of potential at Boro under Tony Pulis before joining Wolves

‘When I was little, me, my brother and friends used to play a tournament against everyone, five against five. People used to know us, because I played in Barcelona and my brother played at Espanyol. We were winning most of our games and they were saying, “Oh, we know where there are two brothers, one playing at Barcelona, one at Espanyol. They have a friends’ team and they’re really good’’, so people came from all over [the city] and used to challenge us.

‘I was 14 or 15 years old at that time and used to play against 17s and 18s. We played everyone where we grew up and it was very funny.’

While L’Hospitalet is a ‘good place’, insists Traore, inevitably it has its fair share of issues that blight most densely populated estates. He witnessed knife fights and saw guns brandished, but on the makeshift football pitches, a different code prevailed.

‘There were some gangs [but] whenever we played against them, we focused on the football,’ he says. ‘That was good as well. You could play against a gang guy and whatever was going on in his personal life, he would forget that … all that would matter would be football.’

And Traore’s eyes were on a bigger prize.

The Spaniard has thrived under the watchful eye of Wolves coach Nuno Espirito Santo

The Spaniard has thrived under the watchful eye of Wolves coach Nuno Espirito Santo

The Spaniard has thrived under the watchful eye of Wolves coach Nuno Espirito Santo

‘Mentality is very important,’ he says. ‘Your parents can educate you, and that is important, but it is also about what you want from life. If you have things clear and you want your dream and you think you can get it, it [means] the whole world.

‘My dream was to be a footballer and I worked for it and this was what mattered, so what was [going on] all around, I didn’t care.’

Traore is often described as the fastest man in the Premier League, and some friends tried to persuade him to go to the track and be a sprinter. NFL scouts attempted to take him to America, but he resisted. ‘I wanted to be a footballer,’ says Traore. ‘My dream was always to play football.’

Traore has a unique physique combined with his pace, but says he is much more than speed

Traore has a unique physique combined with his pace, but says he is much more than speed

Traore has a unique physique combined with his pace, but says he is much more than speed

TRAORE’S TOP SPEED LAST TERM 23.48MPH – ARE FOOTBALLERS REALLY FASTER THAN ATHLETES?

Britain’s leading sprint coach Mike McFarlane — who won 200m gold in the 1982 Commonwealth Games and came fifth in the 1984 Olympics 100m final — doesn’t think so.

I’VE worked with many footballers on their speed but there’s not a footballer out there — not even the quickest, like Kyle Walker, Kylian Mbappe or Adama Traore — who could live with Usain Bolt or any international sprinter.

People forget how far 100m is. You need a different kind of conditioning to run that far. When kids do street races, they run 20-30m. That’s most people’s limit.

And even a conditioned footballer won’t ever need to run 100m flat out. It’s more about bursts of pace over 20-30m. Thierry Henry was quick over 20m but after that, the burners often go. But I always felt he would have been a good 400m sprinter, because he can get out and hold his speed, but isn’t accelerating. Whereas Bolt will accelerate up until 70m and then his speed maintenance is was exceptional, so he decelerated less than the others.

When I’ve worked with footballers, we work on their foot movement, anticipation, being able to turn on the spot and explosive movement in the first five metres.

 

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He had his moments at the Nou Camp, but only two of them, coming on for Neymar in a 4-0 win over Granada in La Liga and for Cesc Fabregas in a 2-1 win over Ajax in the Champions League.

But after making the grade, he was sold to Aston Villa, and so began his curious journey through English football. He didn’t make much of an impression at Villa Park but at Middlesbrough, under Garry Monk and Tony Pulis, he thrived in the Championship and was signed by Wolves when they arrived in the Premier League in August 2018.

Under Nuno Espirito Santo, he has matured into one of the most explosive players in the top flight and last month, after some false starts due to the pandemic and despite overtures from Mali, he made his full debut for Spain, substitute appearances against Portugal and Switzerland earning him rave reviews in his country of birth, though his first start in Ukraine ended in a shock defeat.

At 24, he has experienced a multiplicity of cultures. He speaks Catalan, Spanish, French, English and Bambara — a Malian language. Being at Wolves, he understands Portuguese yet so integrated is he to English life, that he is now an advocate of Sunday roast dinners, though as a Muslim he does not eat pork.

‘I love them,’ he says. ‘If you take out the pork I have everything!’

Roast potatoes, Yorkshire puddings, gravy?

‘I can’t eat them all every time but I do like the Sunday dinners, mixed with some sauce.

‘Catalunya is part of Spain so I have everything: Spanish, Mali, I have everything in me. And that is a good thing for me and I’ve been a long time in England now so I know the habits of England: cup of tea, Sunday dinner, that’s good. I like to know different cultures, adapt, know how they think. I take things [from everywhere] because it’s a beautiful thing to share, beautiful for me to have different cultures.’

His blistering speed will invariably come up in conversation and he worked with Olympic relay gold medallist Darren Campbell at Boro. Traore is also aware of the debate initiated by Raheem Sterling, that commentators focus too much on the speed and power of black players without recognising their other qualities.

‘I don’t think it [speed] is [to do] with colour,’ he says. ‘I think if you talk about Adama or Sterling, the first thing you think about is the speed.

‘For me, it doesn’t matter because I know what I have, I know how I play, I know what I give and if people think my ability only is the speed, OK — no problem.

Traore earned his first cap for Spain this month and won huge plaudits in his home country

Traore earned his first cap for Spain this month and won huge plaudits in his home country

Traore earned his first cap for Spain this month and won huge plaudits in his home country

‘Because after, in the game, I can do other things, so it will be a surprise. It doesn’t bother me, I know what I have and also what I’m working for.’

When he first arrived at Wolves he found his speed hampered by foul play, defenders grappling with him to slow him down, pulling at his shoulders and arms. The club doctor was the one who came up with an ingenious solution: pre-match, there is now the familiar sight of staff rubbing baby oil into his arms.

‘The staff here had a very clever idea because they knew I was having problems with my shoulder,’ he says. ‘Opponents were grabbing my arm for me not to move, pulling my shoulder. If you put on the oil, it’s impossible for them to grab me, especially if I’m moving as well.

‘In the first game it was very funny because many players grabbed my arm and they couldn’t catch me. They were asking, “What happened?” and I kept saying I didn’t know!

‘Everyone knows now but it doesn’t matter. It’s important for me because players have to use another tactic. Now I have the oil on my arm, I can slip [away]!’

At Wolves, he is likely to sign a new contract soon. Yet, when he is back in L’Hospitalet, friends always urge him to return to the club of his youth. Perhaps there is a sense at Barcelona that he is one of those elusive young players who slipped through their clutches too.

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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MIKE BROWN: Exeter Chiefs are like a machine and it showed at Twickenham in win over Wasps

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mike brown exeter chiefs are like a machine and it showed at twickenham in win over wasps

If you had told me in 2005 that Exeter Chiefs would become Premiership and European champions I would have laughed you out of the room. That was the year that Harlequins were relegated to the Championship —and we beat them 70-5!

However, the one thing that did stand out was the fight they showed despite conceding points left, right and centre. They never gave up. Then we travelled to their ground for the return leg and they beat us!

Our team had international players such as England wing Ugo Monye and All Black Andrew Mehrtens and they turned us over. They were always physical and they’ve never lost that quality.

Exeter Chiefs are now Premiership and European champions after win over Wasps on Saturday

Exeter Chiefs are now Premiership and European champions after win over Wasps on Saturday

Exeter Chiefs are now Premiership and European champions after win over Wasps on Saturday

Exeter are now the fourth English to do the European and Premiership double in history

Exeter are now the fourth English to do the European and Premiership double in history

Exeter are now the fourth English to do the European and Premiership double in history

And they needed all of that toughness to get home and join Leicester, Wasps and Saracens as English teams to do the European and Premiership double.

The last few minutes summed up the differences between the two sides when Wasps had a line-out and a chance to take the lead but made a mess of it. 

Two minutes later Exeter made no mistake at the other end of the field, executing their drills and coming away with the match-winning three points.

In grim conditions there were two great tries. Henry Slade’s score in the 18th minute was a bit of individual brilliance as he picked off a front-rower to run up against but Tom Willis, the Wasps No.8, shouldn’t have left him in that position. 

Henry Slade's (centre) first-half try was a piece of individual brilliance in Saturday's final

Henry Slade's (centre) first-half try was a piece of individual brilliance in Saturday's final

Henry Slade’s (centre) first-half try was a piece of individual brilliance in Saturday’s final

But Wasps got their attack going and the try conjured up by Dan Robson and finished by fly-half Jacob Umaga was top drawer.

A word for Wasps who fought to the bitter end. Robson at scrum-half was fantastic and if you think Exeter have come a long time in the last 15 years Wasps have come a long way since February. When they sacked Dai Young, they were on nobody’s radar. They’ve gone away, decided what they’re good at and committed to it. They won’t be far off top-spot next season.

But this was about Exeter. They have to rank alongside the Leicester of Martin Johnson and Wasps of Lawrence Dallaglio. Is it right to include Saracens in the conversation? Unfortunately, there’s a black mark against their Premiership wins, so I don’t think you can compare. 

They have got a load of home-grown players such as Jack Nowell, Slade and Luke Cowan-Dickie and have got the odd superstar from outside such as Scotland’s Stuart Hogg, and it has worked perfectly.

Home-grown players such as Luke Cowan-Dicke (right) starred in the Wasps win on Saturday

Home-grown players such as Luke Cowan-Dicke (right) starred in the Wasps win on Saturday

Home-grown players such as Luke Cowan-Dicke (right) starred in the Wasps win on Saturday

I toured Argentina in 2013 with England and Exeter’s coach Rob Baxter was on the staff for the trip. He mostly worked with the forwards but they all loved his coaching and how he taught contact skills. That showed up in the pouring rain for Exeter yesterday. He is all over the club.

Every signing he has made has grown the team a little bit and it’s been a gradual, step-by-step rise over a long period of time. What’s impressive is how their squad players slot in and there’s no drop off. 

Exeter Chiefs are like a machine and it showed at Twickenham.

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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