Referee Charleston appointed to Motherwell v Kilmarnock

Craig Charleston will oversee the SPL’s evening kick-off at Fir Park on Saturday when Motherwell host Kilmarnock.

Craig Charleston referee (Rangers v Alloa - 23rd April 2016)
Rookie: Charleston has little SPL experience despite his promotion to Category One last year (Picture from Sky Sports)

REFEREE Craig Charleston will be the man in the middle for the Scottish Premiership encounter between Motherwell and Kilmarnock this weekend.  

The 43-year-old will oversee proceedings at Fir Park as Stuart McCall’s Steelmen take on the East Ayrshire outfit in Saturday’s late kick-off.

It will be Charleston’s fourth appointment of the campaign, and first in the Scottish Premiership, having given out 19 yellows and three red cards so far this term.

He has officiated Morton’s 6-2 victory over East Fife in the first round of the Scottish League Cup, Rangers’ 3-0 win over Stranraer at Stair Park in Scottish League One and Queen of the South’s surprise upset in the League Cup second round against St Mirren in midweek.

Last season’s runners-up ‘Well are looking for a second home victory of the season which would take them third in the table, with Allan Johnston still searching for his first win as Killie boss since replacing Kenny Shiels in the summer.

After a Europa League qualifying exit at the first hurdle, Motherwell have begun the league campaign with six points from four games after opening with a 1-0 win over Hibernian at Easter Road, losing 2-0 in the Highlands to early pace-setters Inverness Caley Thistle and pre-season favourites Aberdeen 3-1 at Fir Park, before edging past promoted Partick Thistle last weekend.

Killie have taken just two points so far after defeats against Aberdeen and Hibernian, and draws with St Johnstone and St Mirren.

Charleston will take charge of Motherwell for the first time but oversaw three matches involving Kilmarnock last term – a 2-0 victory over Aberdeen at Pittodrie in December in which he sent off Dons goalkeeper Jamie Langfield and awarded Killie a penalty converted by Liam Kelly, a 1-0 loss also at the hands of Aberdeen in the north East in April, and re-arranged 3-1 defeat to Hibernian at Rugby Park in May.

The Scottish whistler – a Category One official since 2012 after seven years in the Scottish Football League – handled 30 matches in all competitions last season, dishing out 121 yellow cards and four red cards as well as awarding nine penalties.

He will be assisted by linesmen Andy Tait and Charlie Smith while Craig Thomson has been assigned as fourth official.

The match will be broadcast live on BT Sport on Saturday, August 31, with kick-off at 17:30 BST.

Rangers thrash Airdrieonians to top Scottish League One

Rangers fans at Palmerston Park (v Queens - 30th August 2015)
Jolly bunch: The Rangers fans left the New Broomfield Stadium happy after a rampant display from their team (Picture from BT Sport)

RANGERS consolidated their place at the top of Scottish League One as they steamrolled Airdrieonians to continue their 100% winning start.

After Airdrie’s Nathan Blockley and Willy McLaren spurned early openings, the Light Blues quickly asserted their superiority and took the lead inside 18 minutes when 19-year-old midfielder Lewis MacLeod slotted home from Robbie Crawford’s pass.

Andy Little lashed into the roof of the net to double the lead on 36 minutes before academy product Crawford hammered home number three early after the restart from Lee Wallace’s ground-level cross.

Daly opened his Gers account midway through the second half with a towering header for the first of three goals in as many minutes.

Nicky Law made it 5-0 with an unerring finish from Little’s cross when stealing in front of Airdrie captain Darren McCormack and Daly bagged his brace by driving a left-foot shot into the corner.

It was a five-star showing from the Gers, who recorded their biggest away win for 11 years to begin the campaign with nine points from nine after comfortable victories over Brechin City and Stranraer.

Meanwhile, the Diamonds, relegated from the First Division last term, sit eighth with just one point from three league outings – after a 3-3 draw at Forfar and last-gasp defeat to Stenhousemuir – as they still await their first win of the new campaign.

The Gers overcame the tough test on the artificial pitch to extend their unbeaten run against Airdrie to 25 games – stretching back to 1974/75 – in their first meeting for 12 years.

The rampant performance was the culmination of a positive week off the field for the Glasgow club after Charles Green agreed to stand down as consultant and sell his shareholding stakes.

Before the game, Light Blues boss Ally McCoist believed Airdrie would pose a stiff challenge to the Gers and challenge for the title this term with Jimmy Boyle – part of the Airdrie team beaten by the Gers in the Scottish Cup final 21 years ago – leading the young side, however, there has been no real evidence of the Diamonds’ promotion credentials so far.

Airdrie, given permission by the SFA to revert back to their old Airdrieonians name in June, continue to struggle with just one win in their last 19 league games while remarkably it has been 12 months since their last victory on home soil.

? DID YOU KNOW ?

Airdrieonians won just five of their 36 Scottish First Division matches last term. 

It took until October for Rangers to register their first away league win last season but they have won their first two fixtures on the road in a league campaign for the first time in five years. 

Rangers made one change from last Saturday’s 3-0 victory over Stranraer as Crawford was reinstated in midfield, with Dean Shiels dropping to the bench after making his first start in five months at Stair Park following a medial knee ligament injury.

New signings Law and Daly played their final matches as trialists having reached the permitted three-fixture limit and Ian Black was in the starting line-up after facing allegations of breaking betting rules over a seven-year period as the SFA issued a notice of complaint this week.

Darren Cole wasn’t involved after being told to stay away from the club following a breach of discipline while Ross Perry, Brazilian centre-back Emilson Cribari and Kyle Hutton remained on the sidelines but winger David Templeton was among the substitutes following treatment on a hamstring injury which has troubled his participation in recent weeks.

There was a first-team appearance on the bench for the first time for 19-year-old midfielder Charlie Telfer after scoring the winner for the Under-20s in a 3-2 victory over Ross County on Tuesday.

Part-timers Airdrie – who lost top scorer Ryan Donnelly to Brechin over the summer – were facing their third game in seven days, training four times this week compared to twice normally.

Manager Boyle reversed the nine changes made for the 2-0 defeat to holders Queen of the South in the second round of the Ramsdens Cup in midweek from last weekend’s 1-0 home loss to Stenhousemuir as first-choice strikers Lewis Coult and Jim Lister returned to the side.

Blockley passed a late fitness test to start although Jamie Barclay was ruled out along with last season’s player of the year John Boyle with respective knee problems. However, experienced former Dunfermline and Morton midfielder Martin Hardie was only fit enough for the bench after a calf injury as both line-ups consisted of an average age of 25.

It was a fiery atmosphere from the outset in front of a packed house for the first ever league meeting between the Lanarkshire side – established in 2002 to take the place of the then Airdrieonians – and the Ibrox club, with play having to be stopped inside 60 seconds for debris to be removed and flares to be burned out as smoke billowed over the pitch.

And the environment appeared to suit the hosts better as Airdrie flew out of the traps with purpose and vigour. Their first opening came as early as the second minute but Blockley couldn’t make a telling connection with McLaren’s square pass, sliding the ball wide ahead of Kyle McAusland.

McLaren was then released in behind by David Sinclair, with Gers goalkeeper Scott Gallacher called into action with a low fingertip save from the midfielder’s sidefooter as the defence was carved open although the officials incorrectly awarded a goal-kick.

Black dragged a 25-yard snapshot wide for the visitors before former Livingston midfielder Sinclair hooked an acrobatic effort narrowly past the post from Gregor Buchanan’s flick-on in a lively opening at both ends.

Gers midfielder Black saw a fizzed half-volley denied by Airdrie goalkeeper Colin Stewart, playing for his 12th club in the 17th year of his career, from 10 yards after Little glanced on Wallace’s cross as the visitors began to create openings.

And the Third Division champions inevitably took the lead as MacLeod netted his second goal in as many games with a low finish underneath Stewart from a precise Crawford through-ball.

As stewards dealt with security issues in the stands, the Gers took firm control as the hosts’ notorious direct approach proved ineffective.

A half-volley from Northern Ireland forward Little flew wide 20 yards out before Black lashed off target from a similar position while the Diamonds had a couple of half-hearted penalty shouts ignored for handball against Gers skipper Lee McCulloch – making his 600th British career appearance.

Lister poked over a decent opportunity for Airdrieonians after Lockley turned smartly on the edge of the box when surrounded by two defenders.

But last season’s top league scorer doubled Rangers’ lead on 36 minutes as Daly knocked down McCulloch’s long raking pass into the path of Little, who turned and rifled into the roof of the net from close range. The ex-Carlisle loanee came close to adding a third before half-time with an extravagant overhead kick, which was expertly tipped around the post by Stewart.

Indeed, Crawford, scorer of five goals in all competitions last season, widened the margins further early in the second half with a sweet piledriver from the edge of the six-yard box after Wallace’s dangerous low cross from the left was insufficiently cleared by former Scotland Under-21 defender Darren McCormack.

Wallace again proved a considerable threat down the flank with his marauding runs forward, taking up an excellent position before cutting back for Law to fire over having escaped Bain’s attentions.

Daly, with 72 goals in 302 Dundee United appearances, then guided a sidefooter wide of the post under pressure from Chris O’Neil.

The terrifically charged atmosphere tried to inspire the hosts as Hardie and former Kilmarnock defender Garry Hay entered the fray in place of McLaren and Bain, however Rangers were totally bossing proceedings.

? DID YOU KNOW ?

Rangers beat Alex McDonald’s Airdrie in the 1992 Scottish Cup final with current manager Ally McCoist on the scoresheet in a 2-1 win at Hampden Park – the club won the domestic treble that season and reached the Champions League semi-finals. 

After volleying straight into the keeper’s gloves moments earlier, Daly finally ended his wait for a first competitive Rangers goal in the 66th minute by rising superbly ahead of McCormack to nod home following Crawford’s attempted shot which awkwardly spun into the air.

Number four was soon followed by a fifth as Gers ran riot in a fruitful spell which brought three goals in quick succession, increasing the misery on Airdrieonians.

Following a fantastic move of slick passing, ex-Motherwell midfielder Law ghosted in front of Buchanan to guide a deft clinical finish into the corner for his fourth goal of an already glittering campaign.

Fellow trialist Daly got in on the act once again to round off the scoring less than sixty seconds later with a patient angled finish which nestled into the far corner.

Ominously for the Diamonds, there was still 20 minutes remaining and a fully-fledged bench packed with quality at McCoist’s disposal as Templeton, Shiels and Fraser Aird were given a run-out in place of Little, MacLeod and Black.

Templeton was eager to make an impression, cutting inside of O’Neil to pull the trigger but his venomous effort was beaten away by Stewart before the ex-Hearts winger was cruelly denied a stoppage-time goal when referee Stephen Finnie pulled play back for a free-kick following a rash challenge by Buchanan when his shot bent into the far corner.

Law curled the resulting set-piece harmlessly wide but Rangers ran out easy winners to secure their biggest away win at Airdrie since a 6-0 Scottish Cup win in March 1963 and win for the fourth time in five competitive games this term, having also thumped Airdrie’s neighbours Albion Rovers in the Ramsdens Cup.

The Gers take on Berwick Rangers on Tuesday in the League Cup second round before hosting East Fife at Ibrox next Saturday, while Airdrieonians face Livingston in the cup in midweek before a trip to Ayr United next weekend.


ANALYSIS:

“What a performance from Rangers, who certainly had the Friday night feel-good factor.

“Three wins out of three, Jon Daly off the mark for goals, a clean sheet, a number of top quality displays and sitting top of the league. Can you really ask for anything more as a manager?

“Ally McCoist will be delighted with the way his side dismantled one of the best teams in the division with ease. He got the very best out of his squad – Lewis MacLeod was sensational, Andy Little was a star performer, Daly outstanding, the defence was well organised and Ian Black kept his focus despite the media frenzy surrounding him this week.

“Everything was perfect – and it isn’t often you get to say that in football.

“Airdrie started off just as Jimmy Boyle would have asked in the dressing room beforehand. They took the game to Rangers in the opening five minutes and should have capitalised. Had they taken the lead it could have easily been a different story but they let the visitors into the game.

“Rangers were efficient but not overly spectacular in the first half. The breakthrough came at the right time when Airdrie were applying pressure and looking to create openings themselves. It was a decent turn from Robbie Crawford and the pass through to MacLeod was an easy one to play. The finish was accomplished, he knew exactly where he was putting it and the keeper was beaten low.

“It was a simple but effective move but Airdrie stood off them – which you do at your peril against a side of Rangers’ quality.

“The quality of the goals were simply terrific and were all the culmination of combative play, neat build-up, quick movement and high-class delivery. Nicky Law just can’t put a foot wrong at the moment. He and Black were instrumental again in midfield and worked off one another so well. #

“The forward bursts of left-back Wallace are such an important and dangerous weapon which Rangers exploit time after time, game in game out, and they are so difficult for the opposition to combat. It was a flawless display in all for Rangers.

“It has been an excellent start to the season and things can still improve when all the new signings come into the fold in the next couple of weeks. There were no rumblings of discontent around but a togetherness illustrating that things are starting to look up at Ibrox.

“Airdrie, meanwhile, may be sitting in a lowly eighth in the table but it’s too early to be worrying about positions. They showed bright spells throughout the game but in the end, Rangers were hungrier, opportunistic and ruthlessly clinical in front of goal.

“For Airdrie, it was a night off usual league business and a chance for them to enjoy the game, take in the atmosphere and the whole experience of hosting one of the Old Firm. Their season effectively starts next week, where they need to start putting points on the board to alleviate the pressure.

“Jimmy Boyle deserves credit for sticking two strikers up front and was prepared to have a go and attack Rangers. It backfired horribly but the scoreline – although reflecting Rangers’ sparkling play going forward – was harsh on the Diamonds.”


ABOUT THE AIRDRIEONIANS:

  • Re-founded in 2002 after liquidation of original club with staggering £3 million debts
  • Reverted back to old name in June
  • Won two trophies in short history – Scottish Second Division 2003/04 and Ramsdens Cup 2008/09
  • Stadium capacity of 10,171
  • Installed new 3G artificial surface at end of 2009-10 season
  • Relegated from Scottish First Division last season after finishing bottom
  • Benefited from Rangers’ expulsion to fourth tier last summer by taking place of Dundee in second tier  

Stephen Finnie in charge (Alloa v Hearts Scots Champ 31st Jan 2015)

Referee: Stephen Finnie (Scotland) – 7.5/10
Attendance: 9,044


MANAGER REACTION:

Airdrieonians manager Jimmy Boyle: “I thought we started very well to be honest before they scored the first. I thought we had some really good chances but it tells its own story. Against teams like Rangers you have got to take your chances. Had we done that then it would have been a different scoreline. Tonight we’ve got a lesson on finishing. In the second half especially, they were devastating. For me, I’m really angry with the way we went about our business in the second half, it wasn’t good enough. On this evidence, we have got a lot of hard work to do and I’m embarrassed by the result.”

Rangers manager Ally McCoist: “I’m delighted for big Jon (Daly). His two goals are just reward for the way he has been performing lately. He has been playing well in the last two or three games. Strikers play on confidence in terms of goals although I have to say if Jon hadn’t scored tonight, we’d still be talking about a good level of performance from him. I thought for 20 minutes, Airdrie really came out the traps and we expected them to do that. After we got the opening goal with a great finish from Lewis, Andy did what he does and he produced a top finish. We were delighted to be 2-0 up at half-time because it could have been different. I asked the boys to give us a big performance in the second half and boy, did they give us it.”

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Referee James Adcock to oversee Bolton v QPR

James Adcock will take charge of Saturday’s SkyBet Championship early kick-off between Bolton Wanderers and Queens Park Rangers at the Reebok Stadium.

Leeds United v Sheffield Wednesday - Sky Bet Championship
Rising stock: Adcock (centre) is now considered a regular choice in a season where he could blossom into one of the best in the Football League (Picture from Getty Images)

JAMES Adcock has been appointed by the Football League to take charge of the key clash between Bolton Wanderers and Queens Park Rangers in the SkyBet Championship this weekend.

The 29-year-old will be in the middle for Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off in Lancashire as Dougie Freedman’s Trotters search for their first victory of the new season against Harry Redknapp’s relegated Rangers, who have begun the campaign in buoyant mood with two wins from three so far.

It could prove a pivotal early-season contest in the promotion shake-up with Bolton tipped for a sustained play-off push having narrowly missed out last season while QPR, with a squad packed with Premier League experience, will be expected to make an immediate top-flight return.

The two sides meet for the first time since Bolton’s controversial 2-1 win at the Reebok Stadium in March 2012 in the Premier League when Clint Hill’s header crossed the line but wasn’t given and Djibril Cisse scored from an offside position, prior to Ivan Klasnic’s late goal to seal a crucial three points.

It will be Adcock’s third appointment of the season, and his third in the Championship, after overseeing Leeds’ 2-1 home win over Brighton on the opening day – with four yellow cards – and Watford’s 6-1 thrashing of promoted Bournemouth at Vicarage Road a fortnight ago, in which he awarded the hosts a penalty and dished out three yellow cards.

The Long Belper-based referee has risen significantly over the past 12 months since promotion to the National List at the beginning of 2011-12, after becoming a mainstay in the Conference, and recently spoke of his dream to be promoted to the Select Group having tasted Premier League action as a fourth official on numerous occasions.

He took his refereeing course in 2000 at the age of 16 and is now the third youngest official in the Football League behind Andy Madley and Geoff Eltringham.

The Nottinghamshire official – who took charge of eight second-tier matches last term – enjoyed a busy season last term which included a League Two play-off semi-final. He took charge of Burton Albion’s 3-2 victory over Bradford in the first leg at Valley Parade at the beginning of May and kept a low profile with just three yellow cards handed out.

Adcock, who was fourth official for Norwich’s Premier League draw with Everton on Saturday, last officiated a Bolton match in their 2-1 league defeat at Watford in February, awarding the Trotters a penalty converted by Marvin Sordell, however he is yet to oversee a game involving QPR.

Overall, he refereed 33 games in all competitions in 2012-13, brandishing 94 yellow cards and five red card whilst awarding five penalties.

He will be assisted at the Reebok Stadium by linesmen Rob Merchant (Staffordshire) and Steven Meredith (Nottinghamshire), while Lancashire official Paul Tierney will be the fourth official.

The match will be broadcasted live on Sky Sports as part of their new re-arranged time slot for SkyBet Football League action during its 150th anniversary year this Saturday, August 24, kicking off at 12:15 BST.

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Celtic suffer Champions League setback in Kazakhstan

The Scottish champions face a tough task to reach the Champions League group stages after a 2-0 defeat to Shakhter Karagandy.

Celtic pre-match huddle (v Rangers - 17th April 2016)
Record: Celtic had won four and drawn one of their previous five away Champions League qualifiers (Picture from Sky Sports)

Celtic’s hopes of reaching the Champions League group stages are hanging by a thread after an embarrassing 2-0 defeat against minnows Shakhter Karagandy in Kazakhstan.

The Scottish champions made a positive start, with Virgil van Dijk’s header denied by goalkeeper Aleksandr Mokin, but were undone by a long throw-in which allowed Karagandy captain Andrei Finonchenko to tap home from close range after 12 minutes.

The Hoops probed for a response as Kris Commons crashed a 30-yard effort against the underside of the crossbar and Georgios Samaras glanced Charlie Mulgrew’s delivery wide.

But the Kazakh side doubled their lead 13 minutes from time when Sergei Khizhnichenko nodded home from Gediminas Vicius’s deflected shot, amid shoddy Celtic defending.

Having failed to score a crucial away goal, Neil Lennon’s men succumbed to a potentially damaging defeat and will need to overcome the deficit in the return leg in Glasgow next Wednesday – in order to reach the lucrative group stages of Europe’s elite competition for the second successive season, worth £20 million.

? DID YOU KNOW ?
It was the first time a team from Scotland had faced a side from Kazakhstan. 

Celtic were wandering into unknown territory with a six-and-a-half-hour flight to a country with a five-hour time difference, and were met by an inhospitable environment with just 30 fans of their own making the 3,000 mile trip due to logistics and visa issues.

The disappointing loss ended a seven-game unbeaten streak in all competitions and a run of seven consecutive clean sheets in Europe for the Scottish Premiership side – who knocked out Northern Irish Premiership side Cliftonville and Swedish champions Elfsborg to reach the final hurdle of qualification.

In contrast, the monumental victory for the reigning Kazakhstan league winners can be regarded as the best result in Karagandy’s 55-year history as they seek to become the first team from the former Soviet Republic to reach the last 32 of a Uefa tournament.

Karagandy, the lowest co-efficient ranked side the Hoops could have drawn, are already guaranteed a place in the Europa League group stages while the win triggers boss Viktor Kumykov’s promise to give up smoking should they come out on top against the Glasgow outfit.

Shakhter, who disposed of Belarusian outfit BATE Borisov and Skenderbeu of Albania in the second and third qualifying rounds, moved the tie 114 miles away from their own ground to the Kazakhstan national stadium in Astana – with the Hoops arriving late on Saturday to acclimatise to the unfamiliar surroundings.

Although, the artificial pitch has been a common denominator in Celtic’s away matches in Europe so far this term after experiencing the synthetic surface in Ireland and Sweden in previous rounds.

Celtic’s attempts to bring in reinforcements before Monday’s Uefa cut-off point failed to materialise as moves for Schalke’s Teemu Pukki and Heerenveen striker Alfred Finnbogason seemingly fell through – and the need to bolster the strikeforce will be a main priority ahead of next week’s second leg with the transfer deadline looming large.

Lennon made three changes from Saturday’s 2-0 win over Aberdeen at Pittodrie as Beram Kayal, Efe Ambrose and Adam Matthews dropped to the bench with Mikael Lustig coming back in, Virgil van Dijk making his first start for the club since his summer move from FC Groningen after overcoming a foot problem and James Forrest returning from an ankle injury having scored as a substitute against the Dons.

Following ankle ligament damage, Tom Rogic was back on the bench alongside strikers Anthony Stokes and Amido Balde after respective calf strains but Dutch winger Derk Boerrigter was absent once again with an ankle problem.

Karagandy recalled several first-team players rested for their 2-1 victory over league rivals Astana at the weekend with captain Finonchenko, who netted the winning goal off the bench on Saturday, one of seven alterations to a side containing three senior Kazakhstan internationals.

THE ASTANA ARENA:
The 30,000-capacity national stadium has a futuristic nature having only been opened in 2009, with a fully retractable roof and ultra-modern design which Kazakhstan’s president Nursultan Nazarbasev has pumped billions of dollars into as a project to make football in the country more renowned.

Temperatures peaked to 70 degrees as Celtic made a strong start and created a decent opening inside two minutes when Dutch Under-21 international van Dijk challenged with keeper Mokin from Commons’ corner but defender Aldin Dzidic stabbed away as the ball spilled back into the area.

The hosts were wobbly at the back, particularly from set-pieces, as the Hoops tossed numerous long balls into the box as another van Dijk header from 10 yards was tipped away by Mokin, who decided to stay back having expressed uncertainty in dealing with the first delivery by Commons.

Andrey Poryvaev scrambled the loose ball frantically into touch before Steven Mouyokolo – making his European debut for Celtic – could force it home.

Celtic, who comprehensively beat Helsingborgs 4-0 on aggregate at this stage of the competition 12 months ago, had remained relatively firm but constantly invited pressure and were duly punished for their own defensive inefficiencies from dead-ball deliveries.

Vicius’ long throw-in was launched into the penalty area and helped on by Khizhnichenko for longest-serving player and skipper Finonchenko to convert his 121st goal for his boyhood club from close range as he drifted in between the statuesque Emilio Izaguirre and Joe Ledley.

The visitors responded purposefully without fashioning clear-cut chances but Commons, who scored a penalty against Aberdeen last weekend, stunned the 30,000 capacity crowd with an opportunity of his own making as he unleashed a venomous 30-yard effort which crashed off the underside of the crossbar.

The Scottish international was at the heart of Celtic’s best moments but a resilient Shakhter sat deep to preserve their advantage.

The Kazakh side killed a sheep at the stadium as an unusual pre-match ritual hours before Celtic arrived fresh from Aberdeen airport for Monday’s training session and the sacrifice certainly brought them a huge stroke of fortune.

The Hoops largely bossed proceedings but struggled to find a way through in the final third as Samaras headed narrowly wide from Mulgrew’s left-wing delivery.

Although, the functional Miners proved a moderate threat and asked questions of a vulnerable-looking Celtic backline, with a speculative Vicius shot flying into Fraser Forster’s grasp.

? DID YOU KNOW ?
Shakhter Karagandy are ranked 324th in European football – below St Johnstone – compared to Celtic in 62nd, while six of the players in their line-up also started when Irish outfit St Patrick’s Athletic knocked them out of the Europa League two years ago.

The SPL champions received a hostile reception at the start of the second half and struggled to assert superiority or impose their rhythm as play was frequently broken up with a lack of midfield movement in pushing forward.

Samaras cut a lonely and isolated figure up front at times as, despite sustained spells of patient possession, a cutting edge was distinctly missing.

Izaguirre lashed woefully over on his weaker right foot from the edge of the box and Mulgrew’s acrobatic 10-yard effort brought a routine stop from Mokin.

At the other end, Celtic were unconvincingly dealing with the hosts’ direct approach, with van Dijk and Mouyokolo uncertain at the back while Forster failed to command his penalty area in his usual assured manner.

Lustig limped off midway through the half to be replaced by Matthews – and the Welshman immediately linked up with Forrest down the right but the winger lashed wide of the post after shifting away from Poryvaev.

As Celtic pressed, Forrest was presented with the best of their few chances on 72 minutes as another Izaguirre cross picked out the 21-year-old, who ghosted in between the Shakhter centre-backs but his header was splendidly denied by Mokin.

And they were made to pay as Shakhter doubled their lead when Vicius’ deflected shot volleyed into the penalty area was headed home by Khizhnichenko after his initial shot was blocked by Mouyokolo.

It brought delight to their Russian boss Kumykov, who stated on the eve of the tie he hoped the entire country would get behind his team.

Karagandy forward Finonchenko was withdrawn in place of Igor Zenkovich to a standing ovation while Celtic’s Balde, a summer buy from Vitoria Guimaraes, replaced Izaguirre as both sides made tactical changes.

Celtic were desperate to notch a goal which could alter the complexion as van Dijk curled a 20-yard free-kick waywardly over the crossbar and Mulgrew’s looping header landed on the net’s roof as it proved not to be their night.

The Hoops turn their attentions to Saturday’s clash against Scottish Premiership leaders Inverness Caley Thistle, before embarking on a route back into the tie in eight days’ time.


ABOUT SHAKHTER KARAGANDY FC:

  • Founded in 1958
  • Nicknamed The Miners
  • Soviet First League winners in 1962
  • Kazakhstan Premier League champions 2011 & 2012 after third place finishes in 1995 & 2007
  • Won the Kazakhstan Super Cup in 2013
  • Knocked out by Czech club FC Slovan Liberec in Champs Lge second qualifying round last term
  • Russian manager Viktor Kumykov was appointed in January 2011 

REFEREE:

Pavel Kralovec (Czech Republic) for Belgium v Wales 16th Nov 2014

Referee: Pavel Kralovec (Czech Republic) – 9.5/10
Attendance: 20,000


ANALYSIS:

“The Hoops are staring down the barrel of being on the end of one of European football’s greatest shocks in recent years.

“The Kazakhstan minnows are 90 minutes away from the biggest achievement in the nation’s history. A huge contrast – and that is exactly what Celtic’s performance will have to be next week in Glasgow if they want to progress.

“Karagandy boss Viktor Kumykov believed his side were the pupils and Celtic the teachers at this level of football but it’s Celtic who will have to learn the lessons from the first-leg tie in the Astana city, renowned as the Dubai of the region in Kazakhstan.

“Celtic were fast out of the blocks and needed to capitalise on the good early spell to settle by getting the goal which would have put Karagandy on the back foot.

“Their goalkeeper looked increasingly uncertain and indecisive from set-pieces, unsure whether to punch or catch or even stay on his line, and they should have made more of his vulnerability by bombarding the penalty area more often.

“It was the only the opening exchanges in which the aerial route was utilised effectively by Celtic, so it was ironic they were undone by defending a set-piece themselves and it would prove costly.

“Neil Lennon will be furious with the positioning and defensive awareness for the first goal. The long throw-in is a weapon most teams employ in the modern game and a method teams should be aware of.

“Celtic appeared to mark zonally and were caught out by the near post flick-on. Mulgrew and Izaguirre were sucked towards the ball and Ledley didn’t have a clue where Finonchenko was.

“The performance throughout wasn’t as disastrous as the scoreline suggests – they couldn’t have done much more in terms of possession but needed a lucky break in the final third.

“They didn’t have too many clear-cut chances but defensively there were one or two nervous moments. Conceding the second really knocked the wind out of their sails having seen James Forrest miss a couple of openings.

“It could prove a criticial goal in the overall tie but, on balance, Shakhter couldn’t be denied for their sheer tenacity, endeavour and determination.

“You would still fancy Celtic to overturn the deficit in front of 50,000 fans in Glasgow but it won’t be a walk in the park and they’ve dug themselves a rather large hole.

“The Champions League is massively important for the Hoops – it shapes their season and keeps the fans interested in many ways.

“Kazakhstan may have been the one place Celtic wanted to avoid when the draw was made but in terms of the preparation and research ahead of the long trip, it was spot on.

“From the flight an hour or so after their win over Aberdeen on Saturday to a rest day on Sunday and intense training session on Monday, it was planned meticulously down to the final detail. And it seemed as though everything went according to plan off the field, except the result on it.”

 

 


MANAGER REACTION:

Neil Lennon (Old Firm Rangers v Celtic - 17th April 2016)
Plenty to ponder: The former Celtic midfielder knows his side must perform better next week if they are to progress to the Champions League group stages (Picture from Sky Sports)

Celtic FC manager Neil Lennon: “It’s a disappointing result, but we should have scored and it would have put a different complexion on the tie. But we’re not down and out yet. It’s not over. We’ll go back to Celtic Park and there’s plenty there for me to chew on in terms of chances, but Shakhter didn’t surprise us with the way they played. We knew they would throw balls forward – we should have dealt with the first one a bit better. There’s a few players who will be disappointed with their performances, and they’ve got to get better very quickly.”

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Referee Calum Murray to take charge of Aberdeen v Celtic

The experienced Edinburgh whistler takes charge when the champions visit Pittodrie on Saturday lunchtime.

Calum Murray referee
Overlooked: The experienced Edinburgh whistler has largely been out of favour in the SPL with more outings in the lower divisions (Picture from BBC ALBA)

REFEREE Calum Murray will be the man in the middle for the Scottish Premiership encounter between Aberdeen and Celtic this weekend.

The 46-year-old will oversee proceedings as Derek McInnes’s new-look Dons take on the champions in an eagerly-anticipated clash in Saturday’s televised lunchtime kick-off at Pittodrie in week three of the 2013-14 campaign.

Aberdeen have impressively won both of their opening matches at home to Kilmarnock and away to Motherwell, while Celtic started their title defence with a late 2-1 victory over Ross County at Celtic Park in their only fixture so far due to their participation in last weekend’s glamour friendly with Liverpool in Dublin.

It will be Murray’s third appointment of the campaign having officiated Rangers’ shock 2-1 defeat to Forfar Athletic at Station Park in the Scottish League Cup first round and Dumbarton’s 1-1 Scottish Championship draw with Falkirk last weekend, handing out three yellow cards in each game.

Murray – a FIFA referee between 2005 and 2012 before reaching the automatic retirement age – was the referee when the sides met on the opening day last term as Celtic won 1-0 courtesy of Kris Commons’ late winner in Glasgow and oversaw the Bhoys’ 1-0 victory in the North East two seasons ago.

In addition to August’s clash with the Dons, he oversaw four other Celtic games in 2012-13 – a 5-0 victory at St Mirren in October, 1-0 defeat to Inverness in November, 2-0 home win over St Mirren in December and 4-1 triumph against Kilmarnock in January at Parkhead.

His further two Aberdeen matches were their 2-1 win over Hibernian in September and 2-0 success against Dundee at home in October.

Overall, the Scottish whistler – who has been a Category One official since 2000 – took charge of 29 matches in all competitions last season, dishing out 83 yellow cards and six red cards as well as giving four penalties.

Due to the rise of younger officials such as the promising John Beaton, Steven McLean and Bobby Madden, Murray – whose strengths include a reluctance to use cards and a calmness under pressure – was restricted to just 13 SPL matches last season, with 32 yellow cards and two red cards brandished and a solitary penalty awarded.

He will be assisted by linesmen Andrew McWilliam and Graham Chambers, while David Somers has been assigned the role of fourth official.

The match will be broadcast live on BT Sport 2 on Saturday, 17th August, with a 12:30pm kick-off at Pittodrie.

George Salmond to referee Rangers v Brechin City

The experienced former Scotland cricket captain will oversee Rangers’ televised League One opener at Ibrox.

George Salmond referee (Falkirk v Queen of South - 25th Sept 2015)
Experienced: Salmond regularly officiates in the Scottish Football League despite being eligible to referee in the top-flight (Picture from BBC ALBA)

REFEREE George Salmond will take charge of Rangers’ opening match of the new Scottish League One season this weekend against Brechin City at Ibrox.   

The 44-year-old will oversee the Third Division champions in their first league game of 2013-14 in the third tier as the championship flag will be unfurled in front of nearly 50,000 before the visit of Jim Weir’s Brechin in the eagerly-awaited lunchtime kick-off.

It will be Salmond’s second match of the new campaign having officiated Berwick Rangers’ 3-2 win over Livingston in the Challenge Cup first round at Shielfield Park, in which he handed out three yellows and one red card.

Although, he missed out on a Scottish League Cup first round game but was fourth official at Celtic Park last Saturday as Celtic began their Scottish Premiership title defence with a late 2-1 victory over Ross County.

Dundee-born Salmond – yet to receive a major honour as an official – was in the middle for 27 matches in all competitions last term, handing out 98 yellow cards, a massive 15 red cards and awarding nine penalties.

He was criticised for a poor display in Inverness’s 1-1 SPL draw with Aberdeen in September which saw him dismiss Caley Thistle midfielder Owain Tudur Jones and Dons skipper Russell Anderson in the second half before giving the hosts a dubious penalty.

As a result, it was his only top-flight match of the campaign, spending the rest of the time in the lower leagues with younger referees such as Steven McLean and Bobby Madden preferred instead.

Salmond took charge of Rangers’ Ramsdens Cup clash with Brechin last July in their first match since being placed in the bottom tier, dishing out five yellow cards in their 2-1 triumph at Glebe Park.

He then handled two further Gers games – in a 6-2 win at East Stirlingshire where he gave three penalties and a red card, as well as a 4-0 home victory over Glasgow rivals Queen’s Park in February.

His only other Brechin match of 2012-13 came in a 1-0 Second Division reverse to eventual champions Queen of the South at Palmerston Park in December.

The Category One official is a former Scottish cricket captain, making 146 full senior caps as a right-handed batsman and right-arm medium-fast bowler having progressed through the Under-16 and Under-19 ranks before taking up the whistle.

He passed an initial course in 2001 and gained promotion to the Scottish Football League five years later.

Salmond became an SPL referee in January 2011, when receiving his first appointment for a match between St Johnstone and Inverness.

In addition, the official is now a Deputy Headteacher at junior school George Watson’s College in Edinburgh.

He will be assisted on the day by linesmen Tom Murphy and Duncan Smith, while Don Robertson will be the fourth official.

The match will be shown live by newly-launched broadcaster BT Sport this Saturday lunchtime (August 10), kicking off at Ibrox from 12:45 BST.

Scottish Cup Final: Hibernian 0-3 Celtic player ratings

How both sets of players rated in Celtic’s 3-0 win over Hibernian in the 2013 Scottish Cup Final at Hampden Park.

Celtic huddle pre-match (v Aberdeen - 12th Sept 2015)
Winning route: Celtic beat Arbroath, Raith Rovers, St Mirren, Dundee United and then Hibernian in the final to lift the Scottish Cup (Picture from Sky Sports)

CELTIC recorded a first double under manager Neil Lennon after following up the SPL title with the Scottish Cup at a packed Hampden Park on Sunday.

Their 3-0 success over Hibernian provided the perfect way to end a successful season for the Hoops, who also reached the last 16 of the Champions League.

Gary Hooper’s brace and Joe Ledley’s strike sealed the deal to clinch a record 36th Scottish Cup win for the Glasgow side.

See how the Hibs and Celtic players fared on the day by reading the ratings below.

Hibernian:
(4-4-2)

1 Ben Williams (C) – 6.5/10  The goalkeeper took control of the captain’s armband for the first time on a proud day for him on a personal level. Getting married next week and cannot show off the medal at the wedding like he had dreamed but couldn’t be blamed for any of the goals. Made one or two vital stops too.

18 Alan Maybury – 6/10  A poor display from the versatile defender. Always looked vulnerable and susceptible, letting Commons and Stokes cut in from the left with relative ease. Should have cleared the ball better in the first instance and closed down Stokes quicker in the build-up to the first goal while his scraped clearance led to Ledley adding a third.

4 Paul Hanlon – 6/10  Was completely thrown off the scent by the movement and interchanging between Stokes and Hooper and didn’t really act as the more senior figure at the heart of the defence. Didn’t track the runs effectively enough and was stationed on the same spot for much of the game.

37 Jordon Forster – 7/10  The 19-year old was making just a fourth senior appearance at the heart of the defence in McPake’s absence. Didn’t really look out of place. Could have cleared his lines a bit quicker at times when under pressure but positioned himself well and distributed the ball efficiently.

3 Ryan McGivern – 6/10  The on-loan Manchester City full-back got forward well early on, creating the headed chance for Doyle but was suspect at the back. Culpable for the first goal in which he failed to tuck in to anticipate the back post run of Hooper. Struggled at times to stop Forrest, afforded him too much room.

33 Alex Harris – 6.5/10  A quiet game for the 18-year old, who failed to assert and impose himself on the encounter. Never really given the opportunity to run at Izaguirre and provide crosses. Didn’t get into advanced areas and was doubled up on when in possession. A promising talent, nevertheless.

20 Tom Taiwo – 7.5/10  A relatively assured afternoon in which he looked accomplished in possession and was probably Hibs’ best performer. Kept the ball spraying around in parts when Hibs were in control of it. Neat and tidy whilst covering a lot of ground.

8 Jorge Claros – 5/10  A very uncomfortable afternoon for the Honduran. Was being targeted by Celtic players for his temperament, which he sometimes failed to keep in check. Mistimed several tackles, couldn’t get to grips in possession and had a spat with Brown in which he received a yellow card.

38 Kevin Thomson – 6.5/10  Never really saw much of the midfielder down the left hand side. Tried to get into advanced positions but couldn’t find the killer pass to unlock the Celtic back-line. Looked out of position on the flank and uncertain. Kept in check by Mikael Lustig and later replaced.

9 Leigh Griffiths – 7/10  A farewell appearance in a Hibs jersey for the former Livingston striker who has cleaned up the Scotland player of the year prizes. Despite having an outstanding season, he didn’t really show up on cup final day, having a lesser impact with no clear-cut chances and didn’t look 100% fit.

10 Eoin Doyle – 6.5/10  Made his final outing in a Hibs shirt before leaving to join Chesterfield in the summer. Had the gilt-edged opportunity, their best of the entire game, inside six minutes to put Hibs infront but headed straight at Forster. Substituted in the second half.


Substitutes bench:
31 Murdoch (GK), 16 Stevenson, 28 Robertson, 24 Handling, 29 Caldwell. 


Subs used:

Handling (for Doyle, 71 mins) – 3.5/10  Was lively and sprightly with a couple of channel runs but couldn’t make anything purposeful happen for Hibs in the final third, something they lacked all afternoon.

Caldwell (for Thomson, 76 mins) – 2.5/10  The teenager entered the fray with the usual exuberance you see from him, always looking to make an impression and carry the fight with a couple of moments on the ball but was crowded out by Celtic players.

Stevenson (for Griffiths, 84 mins) – 1.5/10  Came on to try and stiffen up the left hand side with the outcome long since decided. Given a brief run out to take off the injured Griffiths and did a solid enough job in the minutes that remained.


Booked:  Claros (54′), Griffiths (58′)

Sent-off:  None 

 

Celtic:
(4-4-2)

1 Fraser Forster – 7/10  Not a great deal for the keeper to do on an afternoon in which he was a mere spectator. Called upon in the sixth minute to produce a fine reflex stop to thwart Eoin Doyle’s header. Otherwise, he wasn’t engaged. Completes his third campaign at Celtic with his lowest tally of clean sheets to date.

23 Mikael Lustig – 7.5/10  The Swede was a constant threat pushing forward, providing the low cross which led to Stokes creating the opener likewise supplying the delivery in the build-up to Ledley’s goal. Never tested defensively and had the freedom to bomb into the final third.

6 Kelvin Wilson – 8/10  A comfortable afternoon for the centre-back, who saw a lot of the ball as Doyle and Griffiths didn’t feel the need to press high up the pitch. Given all the time in the world to pick which ever pass he liked. Always an option to pass back too. Carried out his defensive duties when needed.

21 Charlie Mulgrew – 7.5/10  Will not have an easier game in a cup final. Just returned from injury but looked his bright and enthusiastic self. Didn’t get forward into the final third as much as he normally does but sometimes moved up into midfield to receive the ball. Defensively sound and worked well in tandon with Wilson.

3 Emilio Izaguirre – 7/10  Didn’t see a great deal of the left-back with Celtic opting to attack more down the right but still popped up in advanced positions. Similarly to Lustig, a license to venture forward at will, jockeyed Harris superbly and never let him get into the game.

49 James Forrest – 7.5/10  The winger had a positive attitude and was an unremitting source of danger from the flank. Came in-field at times and had a great understanding with Lustig. Provided some decent deliveries into the box. Looked fresh but sometimes tried to over-play. Substituted in the second half.

8 Scott Brown (C) – 8.5/10  A terrific match for the former Hibs midfielder. Always offered himself to his team-mates, never gave the ball away and played on the front-foot. One flare-up with Claros early in the second half which saw him receive a booking for his complaints and reaction to the Honduran’s tackle. Took his leave early to prepare to lift the trophy.

16 Joe Ledley – 8.5/10  The Welshman has enjoyed an impeccable campaign and today was no different. Got in on the act with a goal 11 minutes from time which summed up his intent to get into the box. Always intricate in his play, positive in his approach and broke up Hibs passing rhythm too.

15 Kris Commons – 7/10  One of those quieter games for the Scotsman but still had an effect with some incisive passes and surges into Hibs territory. A couple of shots over and wide but didn’t have his usual influence. Replaced by Samaras on 75 minutes.

10 Anthony Stokes – 9.5/10  A sensational display from the ex-Hibs striker. Repaid the faith Neil Lennon had in him to start ahead of Samaras. Provided two beautiful crosses for the two Hooper goals which were begging to be stuck away. Always on the move, running in between defenders and was a real danger. Great link-up play with Hooper. Man of the match performance.

88 Gary Hooper – 9/10  Two goals in a major cup final highlights why he is so pivotal to the Celtic cause. One fine finish from a tight angle and a well-steered header. Worked well with Stokes and ought to have had a hat-trick. Not been in the limelight much this term but still ends it with 31 goals – two more than last season.

Substitutes bench:
24 Zaluska (GK), 4 Ambrose, 18 Rogic, 20 McCourt, 9 Samaras.

Subs used:

Samaras (for Commons, 76 mins) – 2.5/10  Given a run-out by Neil Lennon after being left out of the starting line-up in preference to Anthony Stokes. Held up the ball well when he had to and played a part in Celtic’s attacking flow late on.

Ambrose (for Brown, 81 mins) – 2/10  Didn’t see a lot of the Nigerian as he came on for the final ten minutes in place of the skipper. Slotted into a central defensive midfield birth, kept possession ticking over and didn’t have a great deal to do.

McCourt (for Forrest, 88 mins) – 1.5/10  A brief cameo, his 70th appearance from the substitutes bench in Celtic colours, and final stint in a green and white shirt having announced his departure this summer. Took over the captain’s armband. One good run into the box which set up a chance for Hooper.

Booked:  Brown (55)

Sent-off:  None

Man of the Match:  Anthony Stokes (Celtic) – 9.5/10

Poorest Performer of the Match:  Jorge Claros (Hibernian) – 5/10

Read analysis of Celtic’s Scottish Cup triumph by clicking here.