There is a saying that ‘three is the magic number’. It couldn’t have been applied at Celtic Park last night however, as that’s around about the time the enjoyment and feel good factor from game was finished.
Alessandro Matri’s opener after three minutes knocked us for six and while we flurried and applied heavy pressure on the Italians, no one can say they are happy with a 3-0 gubbing at home.
The Serie A side exploited us with a routine long ball which Efe Ambrose should have dealt with, but his error allowed the Olive Oiled scalped striker to nip in and prod past Forster. While Ambrose’s clanger was fatal, I felt Kelvin Wilson should have anticipated the hazardous situation sooner. I won’t rip into him though as he had an otherwise excellent game.
It would have been easy for the heads to go down and Juventus to take total control but to our credit, we fought back and showed encouraging signs of recovery. That said, Gianluigi Buffon didn’t really have any questions asked of him and was comfortable gathering long range attempts by Wanyama and Commons.
The second half begin the same way as it finished for Celtic, with us on top but again, failing to create any clear-cut chances, aside from a header which Ambrose should have buried.
A neat move showcased by a touch of class from Matri was finished by the impressive Marchisio who sent Juventus more or less through to the quarter finals. There was still time for salt to be poured on the wound though when Ambrose delayed on the ball and allowed Vucinic to nip in and slot home to finish the tie completely.
I’ll start with the positives – Emilio Izaguirre was fantastic. He has been maligned this season for not hitting the heights of 2010-2011 but his display last night was as good as anything he produced in his first season. Lustig was also impressive and his delivery was on a par with DPD or FED-Ex. Kelvin Wilson, the man we all wanted out the door in the summer, didn’t look out of place for large periods of the game and he can only get better and better. I also felt Kris Commons was unsung. He is the only player we have who can actually hold onto a ball and as he had no outlet last night, he was understandably frustrated. Pirlo was quiet and we kept him at bay when he was billed as the top dog in midfield before the game. That’s about it.
The rest of this is going to be negative and will yet again question our manager so if you’re not happy about that, close this page and go onto Strathclyde Police’s official Twitter account and complain about this website of hate and bile.
The decision to play Efe Ambrose, after being almost ever present in the ACON and especially after a grueling long haul flight, was mental. I said at 9am yesterday it was going to end in disaster and it did. He would have had no match training prior to the game. No extensive briefing on how Matri and Vucinic play together. Nothing. Our manager gambled, when he didn’t need to and it backfired terribly. He should have had Wilson and Mulgrew at as the center halves, but instead he shoehorns Mulgrew into midfield, where he was outran, outfought and out-thought for 90 minutes. He also not only started the ineffectual James Forrest but continued to persevere with him all night when it was blatantly obvious to everyone Peluso and Balzagli passed him about to store in their pockets all night. Why wasn’t Forrest hauled off when he was sussed out after two minutes ? Juventus and their international class defenders were not going to be fooled by a guy who knocks the ball ahead of his opponent and runs as fast as he can to get a cross in. Peluso showed him inside time and time again and Balzagli was always there to nullify the threat. Yet again, an odd starting eleven from the manager and it’s not the first time he’s sent the wrong team out and it probably won’t be the last. I won’t even begin to go on about him arguing and firing into girls two hours before the biggest match of the season……..
I also do not buy the ‘cheating’ patter. The ref was poor, I’ll say that. Mallenco will probably never be allowed near the stadium again but I could not help but groan at our support give it the ‘UEFA conspiracy’ patter after the game. Give it a rest eh. Our problem was that we weren’t as savvy or as clever as Juventus. A lot of attention was pinpointed towards Lichsteiner’s antics at corners but all we had to do was hit the deck everytime he started his nonsense. I can’t help but think of the Chris Sutton shaped hole in the team sometimes and how he would have been perfect for situations like that. Gary Hooper wasn’t anywhere near aggressive enough in my opinion. We were bullied by a man from Switzerland. That’s the reality of it. We weren’t cheated. We encountered a poor referee and didn’t take full advantage of it like our opponents did. End of.
I was ‘happy to be there’ last night but I am bitterly disappointed to lose in that fashion. I am not proud of our players and won’t be after a doing like that at home. Just like I wasn’t in 1999 when Rangers won by the same scoreline to clinch the title. I refuse to sing ‘Faithful Through and Through’ in the last minutes of a comprehensive defeat. For me, it’s a losers mentality and I don’t think I am out of order in expecting a decent result to take to Turin. Do we just pick and choose the games we want to win ? We’re at home against eleven other guys, we should be going out there with an attitude that isn’t ‘plucky’ or ‘punching above our weight’. We had every right to be in the last sixteen and to compete for a place in the quarter finals.
Where do we go from here now ? Let’s be honest, the entire club only had this match to look forward to for the rest of the season. We’ll probably do something stupid at Hampden if we get past St Mirren in the Scottish Cup, from here on in, it’s going to be fairly mundane. The league celebrations will likely be even more pitiful than last seasons on the final day when Celtic’s media department turned a potentially brilliant Sunday afternoon into a funeral-like atmosphere with spectacular ease.
Next season you’ll probably see Wanyama leaving, possibly Ledley and Hooper will no doubt go for a pittance. The team will be broken up and Lennon has taken them as far as he can. I’d like to see us play more players who featured in the win at Inverness now. The young team. All that crowd. Chances are we’ll be entertained and even if there’s some hiccups along the way, it’ll aid their development. We should focus towards the Ajax model. It’ll draw the crowds back in, seeing these lads progress and sold on for decent cash along the way.
Perhaps with a new manager too ? Who knows.
Maybe he won’t even use Twitter.