Keane's one-man show does the trick
Published 15/03/2010 | 05:00
What's the difference between Celtic and a full-blown crisis? A 29-year-old Dubliner, working on the equivalent of a football tourist visa in the hope of trousering a medal before he heads back to London in a couple of months.
He may not be the Messiah -- Giovanni Trapattoni said as much when he warned that his Ireland captain could not win Celtic the SPL title on his own -- but Robbie Keane is a very productive boy and he is the reason Tony Mowbray's Bhoys have an interest in this morning's draw for the semi-finals of the Scottish Cup.
Had he not been secured on loan minutes before the January transfer deadline expired, it's likely that Celtic would be even further adrift than the 13 points that separate them from Rangers in the league table and also out of the only competition that offers them realistic hope of finishing a turbulent season with a trophy.
Such is the difference that eight goals in eight games makes, almost all of them acquired from Keane's spin off the shoulders of baffled defenders who get to turn around in time to see the ball rippling the back of the net.
His latest addition to the collection -- a hat-trick at Rugby Park on Saturday -- averted the possibility of a defeat that had looked possible twice during the prior proceedings.
On each occasion Allan Russell had the beating of Lukasz Zaluska -- who had replaced Artur Boruc in the Celtic goal after his fellow Pole had been obliged to return home to attend to family matters -- but the Killie forward hit the crossbar in the first half and an upright after the break.
Mowbray berated his team in the dressing-room at half-time and within a minute of Russell's second close call, he threw on Georgios Samaras and Marc-Antoine Fortune for Morten Rasmussen and Marc Crosas.
The injection of momentum and the change of pattern stretched Kilmarnock and created the conditions for Keane to take advantage of their imbalance.
His finishing in the fastest hat-trick he has ever scored -- the feat was accomplished inside 18 minutes -- was a combination of elegance and ruthlessness. Afterwards, Keane has brushed off the almost inevitable suggestion that he is benefiting from the lower standard of football in Scotland.
"You can't win sometimes," he said. "I can only concentrate on what I do as a footballer and scoring goals is what I do best. If I continue to do that and help the team then that is the important thing."