It was Scott Brown’s 400th appearance, Celtic had history to make with a win and all anyone can talk about after the Bhoys dispatched a stubborn St. Johnstone is defender Dedryck Boyata.
After all, few thought he’d be starting, let alone being the Man of the Match in Celtic’s 1-0 win over the Saints.
That is exactly what happened though, as Brendan Rodgers’ faith in Boyata’s training paid off in a big way. Prior to the match, Rodgers spoke to Celtic TV and simply noted that Boyata had been a constant performer on the training pitch and therefore earned the start.
After 90 minutes, a goal scored and some great play on the back line, Boyata may have earned more than just a single look in the center of Celtic’s defense.
What was once just a two-man game with Eric Sviatchenko and Jozo Simunovic is now clearly a three-man rotation. That’s good news for a Boyata, but also for a player like Mikael Lustig, who has often been the cover for missing players in the middle of defense this season.
Lustig wasn’t available on Wednesday after picking up a back injury in the first half of the Scottish Cup victory over Albion Rovers.
Not all was roses and sunshine in the win over St. Johnstone though, as Celtic’s attack was lacking for much of the match. Crosses were weak, runs unimaginative and probing balls were just not on target either.
21-year-old striker Moussa Dembele had arguably his worst match of the season on Wednesday and was eventually replaced by Leigh Griffiths up top. The move did little to spark anything that wasn’t already happening up top.
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Could it be the long haul of the Scottish season is catching up with the starlet? It is certainly something to watch going down the stretch of the season.
Also lost in Boyata’s incredible night was the fact that Celtic matched a 50-year old record by winning their 26th straight match in domestic play. It equals the record of the famed Lisbon Lions and could be topped should the Bhoys find a way to win against Hearts on Sunday afternoon.
The honor was not lost on Rodgers following the match.
“It is a huge honour and huge testament to them and how they have worked on day-to-day basis and how committed they have been in what we are trying to do. If you think it was 50 years since it was set and you think of the great players and manager who have been at the club. It shows you how difficult it is to achieve so for these players to do it, a big congratulations to them.”
Celtic were off to a blazing start to the domestic season, but since the calendar turned to December, things have gotten more difficult in terms of results for the Bhoys. Instead of 4-2 victories or 5-0 demolitions, Celtic have found narrow wins the calling card as of late.
No matter the nature of wins, the Bhoys are still on the hottest streak in club history and looking good for a domestic treble. The win puts Celtic 22 points clear of Sevco and 24 ahead of third place Aberdeen at the moment.
As for Boyata? It appears he has a big fan in Rodgers after his performance on Wednesday and on the training pitch as of late.
“He’s a player who has worked very well in training. He has just been unfortunate as the team has been doing very well. I know he played a lot last season and has hardly played at all, but he was ready to take his chance whenever Erik was injured, and I have been very impressed. He was excellent again tonight. He has qualities I like, and he scored a great goal to win it.”
With all the rumors circling about transfers in and out of the club as the January transfer window closes, the team as it stands continues to improve and provide strength where most thought it didn’t exist.
It’s a testament to Brendan Rodgers’ management style and how much the squad has bought in to his vision.