Rapid Vienna gave Celtic our second test of the pre-season today, and it was a tougher match than the first one and just what we needed. They are a half decent team. Today was not going to be a picnic. Today was going to be hard. They made it that way.
Pre-season games are nearly impossible to make a good judgement on.
Players are getting up to speed. They don’t take the games terribly seriously at times. But matches like these should serve as a reminder that we still have work to do in more than just our fitness. This is a team that still needs some quality added to it if we’re to be all we can be.
In the first 25 minutes here we were lucky not to be at least a couple of goals down. They had the ball in the net and hit the post. They controlled the midfield, and pinned us back in our half. The Celtic players looked a little gun-shy. Being off the pace is one thing; you expect that in pre-season. But panicked clearances and general bad passing are issues of concentration that need to be sorted. Players are a little rusty, but they ought not to be switching off.
We settled somewhat after that, but before half time it all went wrong big time, when Boyata gave the ball away under zero pressure and a Rapid player went one on one with the keeper … in a competitive game Gordon might have been red carded for bringing him down …. and yet doubts over the moment remain. Did he get the player? Replays were a little inconclusive; I’m not convinced the guy didn’t make a meal of it.
Penalty … and they put it away.
So in we went at the break one down … and we had deserved to be.
We played too within ourselves, with too many men behind the ball.
The goal hadn’t exactly been unexpected.
Dedryck Boyata had an excellent return to our team last season, but there are lingering doubts about his tendency to make silly mistakes. That was on display here again.
He did the same at the start of the second half, when he gave the ball away on the edge of his own box.
Fortunately, we weren’t punished for it.
Speaking of punishment … a few minutes later Brown was the subject of a tackle that, again, would have received a red card in a competitive match. Brown himself had already been booked in the game; he reacted angrily to the challenge and the ref’s leniency.
He has to learn not to be so in your face with the officials.
It too could have been costly.
We should certainly have been 2-0 down on 64 minutes when they opened up our defence with measured ease, only for their striker to miss when scoring looked easier. We had made a number of substitutions just prior to that, which unsettled us a little …
But once they bedded in, they had an impact.
On 70 minutes Hayes took the ball on the left and ran down the wing.
His clever feet had their defence at sixes and sevens, and of course he was pulled down just inside the box.
The welcome sight of Big Moussa stepping up to take the spot kick was only bettered by his sticking the ball into the net.
Excellent stuff from Hayes to win the kick, and a neat finish from the big man.
They had a few late chances and big Moussa could have won it for us late but for an off-side flag going up. The second half was better by far; we played more direct football and didn’t make as many mistakes.
Games like this will help us.
Those who don’t see the value in pre-season ought to watch games like this, where there’s nothing at stake but we get tested and have to be on our toes.
It was a decent test and one that stretched us in the first half.
We have bigger games ahead; the first Champions League game is waiting for us in a short time.
We’ll be ready.