Celtic were taken to the brink on Saturday.
Of that there can be no doubt.
With the ongoing absence of Kieran Tierney, and Erik Svietchenko’s illness leading up to the game, a patchwork defence of Izaguirre at left back and Kolo Toure coming back into the middle of the defence, in his first start since his costly display against Mönchengladbach , took to the field.
To say the least it was found wanting.
Toure was all at sea for most of the game and Louis Moult helped himself to two first half goals, the first admittedly being a bit special. Meanwhile Izzy found himself hooked rather embarrassingly on the half hour mark as Celtic switched to a back 3 and moved Simunovic out to the left side.
Izaguirre’s departure may be spun as being down to injury but he spent the rest of the game looking somewhat forlorn on the bench which would indicate fitness not being the issue.
Indeed when viewing back the match highlights, pretty much all of Motherwell’s first half attacks seemed to involve targeting our left hand side. Unfortunately for Emilio he really has been a shadow of his former self since his horror leg break at Pittodrie on a rain soaked day back in August 2011.
Since the emergence of Kieran Tierney his departure has looked increasingly inevitable and most thought it was a lock after he appeared to say his goodbyes last term in the wake of an end of season game in Perth. Being convinced to stay on in the summer looked a wise move by the new management team after Tierney’s lengthy injury but on Saturday’s evidence it looks like Brendan Rodgers himself isn’t convinced.
But the chaos at the back was by no means solely down to the Honduran.
Kolo Toure had been rock solid for Celtic up until the home Champions League encounter against the Germans back in mid October. Since then he has been demoted to the position of squad player whilst Svietchenko and Simunovic have molded a partnership that saw us go 450 mins of domestic football without conceding a goal.
From middle to front Celtic continue to look imperious.
Armstrong had a terrific game moving from just in-front of the back 3 into attacking positions whilst the likes of Roberts and Rogic were relentless.
The much-maligned Callum McGregor produced a wonderful goal and gave Celtic increased attacking prowess upon his arrival. The 4 goals we scored could have been more and all were well taken.
Moussa Dembele continues to be a marked man which has led to him not scoring from open play in 7 matches but opposition defences obsession with marking him out of games leads to greater opportunities for the rest of the offensive players.
All in all there’s a belief about this Celtic team which we haven’t see since the early seasons of Neil Lennon’s reign. Even at 2-0 down at half time and with a porous defence you still felt Celtic could pull it out of the fire and so they did.
Elsewhere our neighbours continue to just get by at Ibrox whilst Aberdeen, perennial bottlers on the big stage, still wait for their first win in Govan for a quarter of a century.
Hearts on the other hand appear to have hit the self destruct button.
As much as the press have tried to spin it as a rational move put down to seeking a bigger stage, the reality is that Robbie Nielson jumped before he was pushed by a Hearts support who absurdly deem a third place league finish in their first season back in the top flight after sweeping to promotion as ‘not good enough’. God only knows where such notions of entitlement come from but long may they continue.
In the meantime we go into tonight facing a match which is a completely different kettle of fish for various reasons. But we can delve into that tomorrow.
For now we sit 8 points clear at the top of the league with 3 games in hand.
We’re also still unbeaten. The rest of December will see us face the daunting challenge of 8 games in 25 days. That’s almost a game every 2 days.
In the end the biggest threat to Celtic’s unbeaten record may be congestion as opposed to the opposition. But if it is to be maintained then things at the back will have to be much tighter than they were on Saturday. Svietchenko and Tierney’s returns will be welcome Christmas presents.
Paul Cassidy enjoyed the weekend’s entertainment … but is hoping for a more determined defensive display this evening.