A Nervy Night On The Big Stage

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Last night we won our first leg qualifier.

But it was tight.

It was tighter than McCoist trying to get into an old pair of jeans.

It was tenser than many of us expected it to be.

Maybe that was problem.

Did we take opposition too lightly?

team, and the fans?

See we have a tendency in Scotland to think any club we’ve never heard of is an easy mark.

With arrogance of a country that’s 29th in the FIFA rankings and 23rd on UEFA’s we look down our noses a wee bit on nations like Azerbaijan and its neighbours.

results of that are strewn throughout our recent history, some with consequences and others where we were lucky that all we got was fright of our lives; Artmedia, Maribor and Shakhter Karagandy all come to mind but there are others.

I, personally, thought we’d win last night’s match by a couple of goals and the result scares the bejesus out of me because the team now has to make a horrendous trip across the world to play an away match which suddenly seems fraught with peril.

Two positives, and they might prove to be huge.

First we scored, we actually scored a goal and won the game.

It was late in the day, it came from a defender and not a forward, but we have the lead going into the second leg.

That’s a prize in European football.

It’s good ground to be standing on.

An even greater prize is that the home leg has passed without us conceding the dreaded away goal, which would have changed the equation completely.

To go over there knowing we need only score once to push them to score three is huge.

There are two obvious concerns however.

First, are we capable of scoring over there?

Last night we didn’t exactly play them off the park, and that was in front of a home crowd after they had made the same torturous journey we’re about to embark on.

There was no creativity last night, no killer final ball.

The concept of playing on his own up front looks as problematic as some of us thought it would be, as he’s not a natural goal-scorer and plays best when he’s bringing others into the game.

Griffiths started last night on the bench, which had me pretty furious I’ve got to admit.

The says he has toothache.

Presumably he’d have started otherwise, which makes me feel a bit better … but no matter.

Even if he’d played … forwards need service.

He would have got precious little of it last night from a midfield that seemed bereft of ideas.

Everybody knows by now that I think we have a tremendously strong midfield, and that I reckon it’s comprised of players who could ply their footballing trade anywhere.

Last night was a bad night at the office … we’ll put it down to that and move on.

But at that level, at Champions League level, you can’t afford to have too many of those.

It only takes one to cause you an avalanche of grief.

If the midfield gets the act together and gets creative, and if Leigh starts, preferably with partnering him, then we can certainly have a more relaxing evening than last night.

We can get that away goal, make them come out of defence and then pick them off.

We have the players to do. I have no doubt of that at all.

Here’s the second concern.

They came to Celtic Park last night to sit back and frustrate us.

They achieved that, and the single goal advantage is testimony to how well they did.

We don’t know how good they will be coming forward, as an attacking force.

We’ve yet to see that side of their game, but they clearly have something in that department as their European record of recent years shows all too well.

We’ve not heard their name blaze through Europe. Fair enough.

But who would have thought Artmedia were capable of scoring five … until they did?

It’s all well and good saying “if we score an away goal, they have to score three” but how do we know they’re not entirely capable of that?

Aside from the issue of whether we do score the away goal I think that certain sections of the evening could well be of the “backs to the wall” variety.

If they score early it’s us, not them, on the back foot.

All things considered, last night was a decent result without being a great one.

At this level, and this stage in the proceedings, you take those gladly.

But it was nervy night last night and something tells me next week is going to be no less so.

In fact, I can see nails bitten down to the quick, I can see cushions over faces, I can see hands gripping pint glasses tight enough to turn the knuckles white.

But this is life in the Champions League, not the Petrofac Cup.

I’ll take it any old day of the week.

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  • tamtim says:

    in 1970 i said “who the f*** are feyenooord” ive not said it since.

  • harry says:

    excellent article, absolutely spot on

  • Gary Burns says:

    Never been so nervous watching Celtic before in my life and there’s been some nervy times. Lacking in width last night was the problem and Forrest was absolute garbage when came on just nit good enough. Fearing next week is an understatement in 40oc heat

  • Mark Fitzpatrick says:

    They were very organised throughout and but for one moment of poor defending would have got the draw they wanted. They passed the ball well and on the few occasions they decided to venture upfield they broke out with speed. Every player in the hoops (or dreadful looking euro kit) will have to stand up and be counted. Going to be a hostile environment and we will need a massive step up from last nights performance. Not overly confident going over there but getting the right result could really be the making of this team.

  • MarkyBhoy says:

    A very well organised team who gave us no space in the final 3rd. Their passing out of defence was very good and on the few occasions they forayed upfield, they did so with speed. Our lack of a goalscoring threat is very worrying and i feel no reason to be confident that we will get one over there. Looking very much like a backs to the wall performance against a team that can obviously play a bit and in front of a hostile crowd. Going to take real character from every player in a hooped shirt (or god awful yellow euro kit) to take us through. Keeping the faith though and a positive result over there really could be the making of this Celtic team.

  • will says:

    Tell us what you think,don’t just state the obvious,when all is said and done surely we should be beating teams from Azerbajan .not saying that we are in tru th a lot worse that what we should be we have had some shocking performaances over the last few yrs,these teams havnt got any bertree rhey are srill pish we are now a we diiddy team a say that with a very heavyt Heart the team a have loved and will love ma whole life. HAIL HAIL

  • GaryB says:

    Never seen Celtic play so poor in my whole life. No aggression or wide in their play. James Forrest is utter useless sure Boeriggter cant be any worse as a wide player. Dreading the return leg in 40oc heat

  • Vincent Doherty says:

    Our midfield in the form of Armstrong and Macay Stevens, really didn’t get to grips with our opponents and thus there was an absence of chances for Citfci. They just seemed bereft of ideas and a little bit out of their depth. Perhaps they will learn from their experience, they are well capable of making the step up, but I think we need Griffiths in our starting line up and a little bit of the class and experience displayed by Chris Commons in the short period in which he was given apt he chance.

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