I’ve had it in mind to write a general post about football for a while, as opposed to my usual Celtic centric posts. The topic I had in mind to discuss was that of the importance placed on individual moments within any given game. Moments being pieces of team or individual brilliance leading to a goal, defensive or offensive slip ups costing goals or scoring opportunities, or moments of luck such as red cards that can hold sway over the outcome of a game.
The general gist of the post being that there is potentially an over analysis of the game today – blogs like this one are partially to blame – leading to increased significance being placed on individual moments in isolation; rather than taking a step back and viewing the moment as part of a collection of moments, i.e. a whole season. I’ve been reading a bit Stefan Szymanski and Simon Kuper lately and am intrigued by their thoughts on the game.
I might yet get around to writing such a piece and Sunday’s Hearts Vs. Celtic game could just have provided the prelude to any such article.
With 90 minutes played at Tynecastle, Celtic were 2-1 up and on the verge of securing a vital three points. Victory at a notoriously difficult away venue would give Celtic a three point advantage at the top of the league table, with a game in hand, and go some way to making up for a home loss against Motherwell the previous week. Given that Celtic had played below par, without three first team regulars, and had seen another two removed with injury before half time, victory and three points would be all the more appreciated by the travelling fans.
One minute and two moments later and the complexion of the game and result changed completely. Moment one: James Forrest needlessly conceding a free kick about 25-yards from goal. It’s a big moment because of what happened next, but could ultimately not have been classed as a moment if moment 2 panned out differently. Moment two: Osman Sow crashing the ball home from the resultant free kick.
Moment two is important in the context of the game; a goal is generally always an important moment. In this instance Sow’s goal meant that instead of winning a valuable and hard fought three points, Celtic could only manage a draw. For the section of the support who have turned on Ronnie Deila, this adds fuel to the fire as Celtic have now failed to win their last two league games. Not quite defeat from the jaws of victory, but close enough.
In isolation, Sow’s goal was costly for Celtic as it downgraded a victory to a draw, three points down to one. The timing of the goal also meant that there was little time to regain the lead and therefore an extra disappointment; to be so close to victory but ultimately have it taken away. Furthermore, the mood of the fans changes in that moment from the joy of an impending victory to a feeling somewhat akin to defeat, leaving a most negative feeling where just seconds earlier had been positivity. Criticism of the manager starting almost immediately after the goal where, had Sow not scored, more comments would have focused on a good three points won.
Taken in isolation and solely in the context of that game, Osman Sow’s equaliser was a crushing blow.
However, taking the game as a whole as a moment within the league season, the result has helped Celtic to a one point advantage at the top – with a game in hand. Regardless of Sow’s moment, Celtic have a lead in the title race. It may not be as big as we would like, but it is bigger than it was at the start of the day.
Come the end of the season it may be completely irrelevant as the season’s collective moments may see Celtic win the league – history and other factors suggest this will happen. But that is perhaps not a popular or common opinion to hold in an era of over analysis and where there is a need for constant and immediate results. Where the long term picture is very rarely completed as short-termism takes over.
On the other hand, of course, moments like this may be witnessed time and again throughout the remainder of the season, ultimately leading in a disappointing campaign.
Only time will tell, but the point remains that moments in isolation tell only part of a story.