Rocco Vata emerged from the Celtic cold in stormy Glasgow weather to round off a 5-0 Scottish Cup rout of Buckie Thistle.
The Highland League side knew they were up against it and five goals from five different scores did the damage on a day where five could have been ten. The linesman was one of the busiest men on the pitch with his offside flag working overtime with a number of disallowed goals and close VAR calls. A long check denied Liel Abada an early penalty thanks to an offside in the buildup and Kyogo was denied by a similar decision soon after.
Some moments of brilliance shone soon through the chaos. There was no offside about it just minutes later when the opening goal did arrive – and it came from a cracking combination from Celtic’s two advanced midfielders. O’Riley picked out a bursting run from Bernardo, whose first touch took him through on goal and teed him up for an inch-perfect dink over Stuart Knight with his right foot.
Another offside flag denied Kyogo on the half hour mark but Buckie were only able to keep the score down for so long. As the half-hour mark passed, Odin Thiago Holm slalomed through the visiting defence and coolly finished low to Knight’s left, in off the post and putting them firmly in charge.
On 40 minutes the game was virtually wrapped up when Kyogo finally did score a goal that counted. From a Buckie perspective, it was cruel, coming just after their best chance of the game. Josh Peters raced through on goal but lost his composure and hit Joe Hart’s feet rather than the back of the net. Within 90 seconds the ball was up the other end, and Kyogo tapped it in for 3-0.
The second half started as the first had ended; with another Celtic goal. Luis Palma, who had momentarily switched flanks with Liel Abada in an attacking transition, came in from the right onto his left foot. And his finish was exquisite, picking out the bottom corner in some style to make it four.
Buckie did have a few moments in this one and were denied a penalty of their by VAR when Peters went down in the box. Ref Chris Graham didn’t fancy it though and the VAR room agreed.
Rodgers was quick off the mark in using his subs and it was two of those who combined for the fifth goal. Mikey Johnston and Rocco Vata were thrown on, the latter against the backdrop of stalled contract talks which had many Celtic fans fearing they’d seen the last of him before his Parkhead career even really started. He had a big moment to remember here, as fellow sub Johnston picked him out to poke home at the back post.
Here are Record Sport’s three big talking points.
It wasn’t quite Ragnarok but the weather in the east end of Glasgow certainly resembled something out of Norse mythology. On a day where several stadium announcements were required to inform punters about imminent train cancellations due to heavy storms, it was Celtic’s very own Odin who stepped up and thrived.
Taking up Callum McGregor’s usual position at the base of midfield, Holm ran the show for the Hoops, always in the right place to receive a pass and very rarely missing his mark. He did the often-unappreciated work that makes McGregor so valuable but he also had the moxy to step up with one of his first big Parkhead moments, taking the ball on and cascading through the visiting defence to double their lead.
He’ll need to find levels to go through; doing it against Buckie in the Scottish Cup isn’t doing it against Barcelona in the Champions League; but it was an encouraging step in the right direction. And, even more encouragingly, a sign his value could come as a deputy for his captain when few others in the squad look a natural fit for that role.
Buckie’s big day
It was Celtic who advanced to the fifth round but on the full-time whistle, it was the Buckie fans making the noise. They were by no means here to make up the numbers, but in reality, they needed the biggest shock in Scottish football history to stand any chance. From the first whistle, it was never really on.
Chatting to some Buckie fans before the game, this was as big a game for them as their season-defining title-decider against Brechin City last year, a momentous occasion that ultimately ended in heartbreak thanks to two late goals. Naturally, there wasn’t the same sense of devastation here.
The hardy 3,000-or-so who braved the conditions experienced a day that will go down in club history. Live on TV against the best in the country; it really doesn’t get any better than that for a Highland League side for whom this type of cup tie comes about once in a lifetime if they’re lucky. Their troops didn’t fold either, standing up to the battle and simply losing to a much better team. It was a resounding defeat in the end but as far as Buckie are concerned, the day won’t be defined by the scoreline.
The stadium slipped into a bit of a slumber after Celtic’s fourth goal, so the introduction of Rocco Vata – a man many among the Parkhead faithful feared they might have already seen the end of amid stalled contract talks – was a welcome caffeine injection.
His position too was a source of excitement. Rather than take up one of the wide berths, he was a straight swap for Kyogo, leading the line like he has for the B-team to devastating effect this season. It was perhaps a trial run from Rodgers as he looks at solutions from within to his striker situation before sourcing a new one from elsewhere.
He looked sharp too. Whether it was a tactical instruction or a striker’s instinct, he quickly targeted veteran Buckie centre-back Hamish Munro, fancying his legs against the 37-year-old. And it was something that quickly paid off – within 10 minutes of his introduction, he found a pocket of space at the back post to poke home fellow sub Johnston’s cross from the right.