Celtic seal title and Rangers look to future – 5 things from SPL weekend
It was a defining weekend at the top of the cinch Premiership but also a significant one throughout the table.
The first fixture list after the split produced drama in abundance.
Here, the PA news agency picks out five things we learned from the weekend’s action.
Celtic are champions again
It was a matter of when and not if Celtic clinched the title after beating Rangers again at Parkhead and they wrapped it up with a 2-0 success against Hearts at Tynecastle. They came through a tough 45 minutes and were helped by a contentious red card for Alex Cochrane but the opening goal was a fitting piece of play from three key contributors throughout the campaign. Callum McGregor’s lofted pass found the run of Reo Hatate and Kyogo Furuhashi was on hand to net his 30th goal of the season.
Out with the old, in with the new for Rangers
Allan McGregor, Alfredo Morelos and the injured Ryan Kent were notable absentees from the Gers starting line-up after Scottish Cup defeat by Celtic effectively ended their season. Michael Beale had promised Gers fans they would see goalkeeper Robby McCrorie before the end of the season and he replaced veteran keeper McGregor for the 1-0 win over Aberdeen. It was a first Gers outing for the 25-year-old since playing in a 1-0 win over Celtic in August, 2021. McCrorie put in a solid performance against the Pittodrie side, making good saves from Luis ‘Duk’ Lopes and Shayden Morris in particular. Morelos’ chances of playing against Celtic next week look slim after Beale’s analysis of his performance: “I think you saw a difference when Alfredo came on in terms of energy but not a positive difference as well.”
A good week for Hibernian in the race for Europe
There have been times this season when Lee Johnson has been under immense pressure amid fears his Hibs side might fail to make the top six, but the Edinburgh side appear be coming good at just the right time to qualify for Europe. Their 2-1 victory over St Mirren on Saturday made it seven points from three games and moved them three points clear of the Buddies with a superior goal difference. Fifth place will be enough to earn a European spot if Celtic win the Scottish Cup, but defeats for Aberdeen and Hearts were further boosts for Hibs as they chase a guaranteed spot.
Relegation battle tightens
Dundee United and Kilmarnock both failed to drag the teams above them into the basement battle as they lost to St Johnstone and Motherwell respectively. The Steelmen are all but safe while Saints know one more win would likely be all they need. To make matters worse for United and Killie, bottom club Ross County cut the gap with a 2-0 win over Livingston to leave just one point between the bottom three.
Kevin van Veen cements his awards credentials
The Motherwell striker again showed he should be a serious contender for Scotland’s player of the year crown by boosting his season tally to 25 – 21 in the league – after taking a magnificent couple of touches following Liam Kelly’s kick-out before finishing with aplomb to wrap up a 2-0 win over Killie. The Dutchman became the first Motherwell striker since Ian St John to score in seven consecutive top-flight games. It was one of several moments of class; a back-heel set up Blair Spittal for what should have been a goal; and another first touch and turn from a long ball was reminiscent of Zinedine Zidane at his best and left Killie defender Joe Wright to resort to a rugby tackle.