All good things must come to an end.
And it proved to be an emphatic end dished out by Hearts at Tynecastle on Sunday. Four goals scored without reply as the side from the capital inflicted Celtic’s first domestic defeat under Brendan Rodgers. There will be questions about the performance at Tynecastle, and in previous weeks. Rightly so. But where there’s criticism of the team, there should also be praise. Praise for their efforts in a truly record-breaking era.
I’ve decided to show my praise by looking at some of the numbers behind the unbeaten run that will go down firmly in Celtic history.
Let’s take a look…
The most widely-known number associated with the run is of course 69. It is the number of domestic matches that Celtic played without losing. It is a new British record, replacing the previous record of 62 matches also set by Celtic under Willie Maley 100 years ago.
Of the 69 matches, Celtic won 60. They scored 197 goals, conceding 40 and keeping 38 clean sheets. Brendan Rodgers’ side scored in every single match of the run.
Twenty-two players contributed goals during the streak, including St. Johnstone’s Steven Anderson who had the unfortunate honour of being the only opposition player to score in his own net.
Eight Celtic players reached 10 or more goals: Patrick Roberts, Callum McGregor, Tom Rogic, James Forrest, Leigh Griffiths, Stuart Armstrong, Scott Sinclair and Moussa Dembele. They scored 162 of the 197 goals between them with Dembele and Sinclair having the joint highest tallies with 34 apiece.
There were five hat-tricks scored during the run. Sinclair and Odsonne Edouard the two most recent after Moussa Dembele’s ‘trio of trios’ against Rangers, St. Johnstone and Inverness.
Motherwell were the team that Celtic found easiest to break down with 28 goals scored during 8 matches, including a 7-0 thrashing in May 2016 – the first game of the run.
The Hoops held perfect records against Hearts, Dundee and Hamilton (five wins from five) and most impressively against their biggest challengers Aberdeen. Rodgers’ side won all seven meetings against Derek McInnes’ side including two cup finals.
The only team who were able to stop Celtic winning more than once were Neil Lennon’s Hibernian who managed a 2-2 draw in both league meetings this season. In fact, Hibs scored the joint most goals (St. Johnstone being the other) against the Hoops with 6 coming in just 3 matches. They were the ‘bogey team’ of the run.
Three players played both the first match of the run (vs Motherwell, 15/5/2016) and the last (vs Hamilton Accies, 13/12/2017). They were Craig Gordon, Stuart Armstrong and Callum McGregor.
The 69 match unbeaten run spanned 578 days and almost 50,000,000 seconds. A lot of people, myself included, celebrated two birthdays in that time. Moussa Dembele was only 19 when the run started. He’s now halfway to being 22.
Perhaps now is a good time to pause and take a deep breath. Domestic defeat was always around the corner in one shape or form. It just happened to be against Hearts in a particularly dismal 90 minutes.
The big question now is how Brendan Rodgers and his side decide to deal with their first home disappointment. With four trophies in the bag and two others up for grabs, attention now turns to see what this Celtic team are made of. It’s all about the reaction.
Nothing was won or lost on Sunday at Tynecastle. It was simply the final chapter of a glorious, unforgettable and mesmerizing tale.
Full list of Celtic goalscorers and number of goals: Moussa Dembele 34, Scott Sinclair 34, Leigh Griffiths 20, Stuart Armstrong 20, James Forrest 17, Tom Rogic 14, Callum McGregor 13, Patrick Roberts 10, Mikael Lustig 6, Kieran Tierney 5, Derdryck Boyata 5, Odsonne Edouard 4, Olivier Ntcham 4, Ryan Christie 2, Scott Brown 2, Jack Aitchison 1, Nir Bitton 1, Erik Sviatchenko 1, Liam Henderson 1, Jozo Simunovic 1, Anthony Ralston 1, own goal 1.
Hamish Carton is one of the founders of this website and you can hear him as host of The Grand Auld Podcast, our regular discussion of all things Celtic related.