Right negatives first.
What was that start to the second half?
We were asleep, and lost two goals in a minute and made life hard for ourselves. Some of the defending was poor, which is no great surprise with such a makeshift back-line … but this is why we’ve just signed a South African international.
Some of our passing in that period was lazy.
We also looked, after the third went in, like a team that was shocked.
At the fourth we might have disintegrated … other teams would have, other Celtic teams. There were a few howlers tonight, the product of momentary panic. Ironically, had we not had a 5-0 first leg lead you wouldn’t have seen such indiscipline.
And the first is this; at no time did the tie look under threat.
At no time.
We were never less than three goals in front.
That second half start was the result of simple, shocking, complacency.
The team came out thinking the job was done and got the shock of their lives.
That’s where you need a good manager, and Brendan does not wait for things to happen; he makes things happen. The changes did the job, steadied the ship and although we lost another goal I say it again, the tie was never at risk.
When we started to play football again the two goals came. The team is always capable of scoring, wherever we are and whoever we’re against. This was not a great night, but it never looked likely to become a totally disastrous one.
Ntcham. Quality in every way.
That boy is going to be a fantastic player for us. Griffiths scored again. Scott Sinclair had a phenomenal game before coming off.
So, a makeshift central defence at a tough away venue fell asleep at the wheel for 15 minutes … I know some of the critics will say we got a real fright tonight. Good. Let them kid themselves that this is suddenly a bad Celtic team teetering on the brink.
Our own over-confidence got the best of us for a while, and I don’t expect it to happen again.
We’re a far better team than those 20 minutes or so showed, and we proved that when we lifted ourselves later in the match.
I thought the first half was exceptional actually.
All the composure and discipline I’ve longed to see from a Celtic team at an away tie was on display. We passed the ball well, closed them down well, fought for everything as a team and looked in no danger at all of losing the game far less of conceding so many goals.
It is frustrating seeing old indiscipline creep back into the team. It really is.
But it’s not a cause for concern because the manager acted swiftly, as he tends to do.
Over the 90 minutes we didn’t deserve to lose far less by the margin that it might have been … there will be tweaks to this squad in the coming days so I don’t expect to see such a glued together partnership at the back for the rest of the campaign.
8-4 on aggregate. Comfortable enough. And it’s frustrating more than anything because we cruised the first half, we absolutely cruised it. They took a big lift from their early second half goals … and you could see the adrenaline rushing through them.
But those momentary boosts are just that; they are temporary.
They couldn’t have kept up that pace if they tried, and we were patient and took our chances late.
Were there issues to work on? Sure. We lost four goals tonight and the game, and that’s not something Brendan will be happy with. But that central defence won’t be one we rely on. Key players are on their way back. Simunovic might even have played tonight, although the manager didn’t want to take a chance on him.
Overall, the job was done in the first game.
I hear some critics already suggesting we were lucky we went there tonight with such a commanding lead; yeah, that’s all it was. Luck. I hope they keep telling themselves that in the days and weeks to come.
If you were an opposition manager would you think you saw weaknesses, exploitable ones, in this team tonight? Yeah, you would … and I hope some of them try to exploit them. Those will be the days which end in us scoring six or seven in this coming domestic campaign.
Tomorrow we’re in the Champions League draw.
If the lurking Sevconuts expected despondency or fear here tonight, I am happy to disappoint them.
Brendan has been at Celtic Park for just over a year. As this window has shown, this is still a work in progress. We scraped past this same team last year, and over the last six days we’ve put eight goals past them. The signs of progress are all there, and in Ntcham we have a footballer right out of the top drawer.
Hopes for this coming season remain sky-high.
The only way is up.