By Dermot Clarke
Early days they may be, but if last Sunday’s performance is anything to go by, Celtic will have silverware to collect at the end of this season. The Celts opened the campaign with a 5-0 victory over Aberdeen, at Pittodrie. The John Barnes-Kenny Dalglish influence was much in evidence and, indeed, when the points were in the bag, the Hoops stroked the ball around much like the Liverpool team of the mid-1980s. I counted 30 passes at one stage without the intervention of an Aberdonian boot.
Predictably, it was Henrik Larsson who got things going when he headed home from a Lubo Moravcik cross. They would have to wait until the 35th minute for the second, but by this time the traveling faithful were in a confident enough mood, one would have thought. By the time Mark Viduka headed home another pinpoint Moravcik cross, the only question was, how many?
Dalglish seems a lot happier in his new role, and he looked more relaxed, back now with the club that introduced him to the world stage. Kenny sat in the stands and greeted every goal as if he’d scored it himself. Barnes orchestrated the demolition from the bench, and when Viduka scored a third to leave it 3-nil at the break, avoiding demolition was the best the Pittodrie boys could aim for.
Aberdeen were given a chance to get back into it when awarded a penalty on 52, but Jonathon Gould was equal to Robbie Winters’ spot-kick, as he dived to the left to save. A minute later Celtic were awarded a penalty when some intricate skill in the box by Viduka left Russell Anderson with little option but to pull the Aussie striker down, and allow partner Larsson to level things in the top scorer race. So two apiece for Viduka and Larsson and enter the apprentice Mark Burchill to finish things off. A nice piece of skill it was, too, as the young talent fired home from the edge of the box in the last minute.
The win was as comprehensive as it was predictable, but the Celtic play in between the fourth and fifth goals was pure exhibition. Rangers began their campaign with a 2-1 victory over Kilmarnock. U.S. star Claudio Reyna providing the winner there, but the quest for an 11th title in 12 years will be an exceptionally tough one if the first weekend of the campaign is anything to go by.
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United gunned down
Arsenal captured the Charity Shield at Wembley Stadium on Sunday. Manchester United’s long unbeaten run came to an end when the Gunners came from a 1-0 halftime deficit to win, 2-1. David Beckham put the reds in front from a free-kick, but goals from Kanu and Parlour won the day in the second half for Arsene Wenger’s team.
The traditional pipe-opener could be United’s only visit to the new-look Wembley this season. Having already opted out of the F.A. Cup, they surely won’t be bothered with winning the League Cup and that being the case, Alex won’t be leading his boys onto the hallowed turf again during this campaign. Arsenal, it seems, are real Charity Shield experts, having beat United 3-0 in last year’s event. United, though, will be happy with their takings at the end of the day I feel.
The Gunners, it seems, are finally rid of Nicolas Anelka. Real Madrid have agreed terms and are willing to put up with the whining Frenchman. He teams up with Steve McManaman and it will be interesting to see which one of these two ends up with the bigger piggy bank at the end of the season.
Sander Westerveld was the victim of another Jamie Carragher classic on Saturday. Liverpool were two up against Blackburn, when Carragher turned a harmless situation into an opposition goal when he turned an intended headed pass-back by the big Dutch keeper. Welcome to Liverpool Sander, the game ended 2-2.
Alex Ferguson spoke at the weekend of a bribe he was offered by a Russian agent. Grigory Essaoulenko, agent for Andrei Kanchelskis, called Ferguson to tell him that he was flying out with a gift for him. Ferguson thought that the parcel contained a "samovar, or something." It, in fact, contained £40,000. The Scot returned the money to Essaoulenko, who was insistent that Kanchelskis be transferred from Old Trafford. Chairman Martin Edwards received subsequent death threats. Ferguson insists that neither the player nor Everton (the club linked with the move) knew about the deal.
Bid for Beckham
Two men, that were hitherto very high in my estimations, let me down badly in the past few days. It seems that Fiorentina striker Gabriel Batistuta went to his boss, Giovanni Trappatoni, and asked him to make a bid for David Beckham.
"He is the best crosser of the ball in the world and I would score 10 more goals a season, at least, with him in the team," Batistuta said.
The Argentinian said, and Trappatoni apparently acted on the advice and bid, wait for it, £35 million pounds for the player. Alex Ferguson, of course, dismissed the bid, telling Giovanni that Beckham, even at £50 million, wasn’t available. So the first female issue of Beckham-Adams won’t be called Florence after all.
Season heats up
And so a new season is upon us. We get a chance to see Niall Quinn in his first game back in the premiership with newly promoted Sunderland. A baptism of fire it is too against many people’s title fancy: Chelsea. Sunderland will have a fair idea of what to expect from the season in the top flight after Saturday. I hope and think that they will survive.
Manchester United and Everton face each other on Sunday. The clubs involved in the aforementioned Kanchelskis transfer look sure to provide an entertaining affair. Everton, with the acquisition of Kevin Campbell finished strongly last season and we all know how United faired, don’t we? Both these games can be seen live via satellite in many sports bars throughout the city, as the most interesting Premiership season thus far, opens up this weekend.
‘Rocks reserves gain
The Shamrock second team were awarded the first division reserve title, by the Cosmopolitan League recently. After arbitration, a protest was upheld and Gjoa were stripped of the title.
"I thought that we deserved to win the title on the pitch, and in some ways I suppose we did," coach Eugene Smyth said. "There were occasions when I could have quite legally used some of the first team, but I stuck with my panel, and by all accounts justice was done in the end."
With the first team winning the League Cup, this caps a fine season for the Shamrocks. The second team having now won the second and first division reserve titles in consecutive years. A feat almost emulated by the first string.
The Shamrocks AGM will be held at The Emerald Isle Immigration Center headquarters on Sunday at 2 p.m. All members and prospective members are urged to attend. The Center is at 59-26 Woodside Ave., Woodside. Details, (718) 784-9384.