Celts stroll in Jinky final
CIS Insurance Cup Final,
Sunday March 19, 2006
Zurawski 43, Maloney 76, Dublin 90
Jimmy Johnstone was honoured on the Hampden turf this afternoon, ultimately in some style, as Celtic adhered firmly to the pre-match script by returning the League Cup to Jinky’s spiritual home.
Goals from Maciej Zurawski, Shaun Maloney and Dion Dublin saw Celtic stroll to the first silverware of Gordon Strachan’s reign and, with each of these strikes and the very lifting of the trophy greeted by chants of ‘Jimmy Johnstone on the wing,’ it truly was an afternoon to remember.
A minute’s applause – universally and enthusiastically observed – certainly set a fitting tone and, with the Celtic support continuing to sing the praises of their late hero, Strachan’s side immediately set about giving the faithful something to cheer rather than merely applaud.
First to threaten was Zurawski - a sound-looking bet in the first goalscorer stakes – who, in just eight minutes, rose under pressure at the near post to head against the face of the crossbar from an inswinging Shunsuke Nakamura free-kick.
Much was expected of Nakamura and Maloney, Celtic’s two modern day widemen and, though only Maloney - and he only in patches - gave a performance to evoke memories of Jinky, both were prominent in their side’s impressive early play.
So, too, was Ross Wallace – restored to left-back in place of the cup-tied Mark Wilson – with the youngster, for all his apparent defensive shortcomings, again offering the kind of attacking spark that justified his inclusion.
In 13 minutes, he drove at Dunfermline all on his own, taking off on a surging run that saw him burst from his own half to the Pars penalty box, where he smashed in a low shot that would surely have found the net had it been a foot either side of Allan McGregor.
It was Wallace who also created Celtic’s next chance, drilling a long ball over the top for Keane, who in fouling Allan McGregor in a 30-70 challenge for the ball, only saved the former Rangers keeper from committing an infringement of his own as he was on the way out of his box with the ball in his hands.
Yet, by this stage, Celtic’s early promise had faded and, with Stilian Petrov again looking ill at ease in a striking role alongside Zurawski, Dunfermline were sufficiently encouraged to mount a few attacks of their own, the best of which saw Freddy Dacquin slice wastefully into the side-netting.
Celtic, though, always looked the more likely to break the deadlock and, with six first-half minutes remaining, only a superb, agile tip-over from McGregor prevented Keane from charging in on a Nakamura free-kick and bulleting the Bhoys in front.
Dunfermline's stay of execution was short, however - just four minutes, in fact - and, appropriately, it was Celtic's number seven who brought it to an abrupt end.
There was, though, undeniably an element of farce to the Hoops' opener, with Zurawski, who’d seemed to just miss out on working a one-two with Maloney, profiting from a calamitous collision between McGregor and Aaron Labonte that allowed him the freedom to side-foot into an empty net from just in front of the left-hand post.
Nevertheless, it was a lead of which Celtic were clearly deserving and, in the second-half, there dominance, if anything, was more marked.
Zurawski could, in fact, have doubled his tally within minutes of the re-start following an intricate, one-touch move involving Paul Telfer, Petrov, Keane and Maloney but, like so many of Celtic’s efforts, the Pole’s shot was just too straight to unduly trouble McGregor.
Soon after, there was a collective gasp round Hampden as Keane pulled up in the act of chasing a ball into the right channel and yet, enforced though the change that saw Dion Dublin introduced in his place was, it ultimately seemed to give Celtic a better balance than they'd had Petrov up front.
Dublin’s height and presence certainly caused Dunfermline no end of problems, and yet his first touch was quite possinly a candidate for miss of the season, with the former Leicester man side-footing wide of an open goal from Maloney’s low cross.
Fortunately, it mattered little.
With 14 minutes remaining, the two wingers did Jinky proud, Nakamura winning a free-kick 23 yards from goal and Maloney lifting a delightful shot over the Pars wall and sending it dipping inside McGregor’s right-hand post.
Victory was now secure and, after Neil Lennon very nearly emulated his East End Park heroics with a ferociously struck 30-yard drive, Dublin – who’d already missed a string of half-chances – ended his long wait for a first Celtic goal, subtly diverting Telfer’s cross just inside the far post.
This was the signal for a bag containing shirts showing ‘Johnstone’ and the number seven to be brought pitch-side and, after ensuring that each and every one of his team-mates donned these for the presentation, Lennon led up the team, paused for dramatic effect and then, to great cheers, lifted his first trophy as Celtic skipper.
Website Man of the Match: SHAUN MALONEY
CELTIC (4-4-2): Boruc; Telfer, Balde, McManus, Wallace; Nakamura, Keane (Dublin 60), Lennon, Maloney; Petrov, Zurawski
Subs: Marshall, Thompson, Pearson, Varga
DUNFERMLINE (4-5-1): McGregor; Labonte, Shields, Wilson, Ross (Donnelly 78); Daquin (Tarachulski 85), Thomson, Mason, Makel, Campbell (Young 61); Burchill
Subs: Halliwell, Todd