The moment that won the game was a moment on the touchline.
That’s often how it is.
Ferencvaros probably couldn’t believe their luck when they realised we weren’t playing a striker.
When they made their crucial substitution to win the match they knew two things; first was that Lennon still hadn’t brought that striker on, and second was that we were committing men forward in a fashion that was about as reckless as it is possible to do in a winner takes all game.
We were punished for that gung-ho nonsense in precisely the way we’ve been punished for it in the SPL and in Europe going back longer than I care to remember.
Twice in the first half the Hungarians had been able to exploit the gaping hole that left between our midfield and our sole positioned defensive player.
And so their manager brought on a striker with pace, relying on the knowledge that a moment would come when we had every player but one committed up the pitch and that the right ball at the right time would turn our lights out.
In the moment he brought the guy on I knew exactly what he was trying to do.
The Celtic manager, who sets his clock to the 70-minute mark before he even thinks about a change either didn’t see it or just didn’t think it would work.
But of course it would work. Because Cluj knocked us out of the same competition last year doing exactly the same thing, and in the intervening time we didn’t learn.
Only then did Lennon make the substitutions, and it was far too late because at that point Ferencvaros put every man behind the ball and defended as if a Champions League place depended on it.
Which of course it did, which is what someone may have wanted to point out to the home manager who, in a one off match for a massive prize, started with a midfielder up front in spite of £8 million of strike force talent being fit and ready to go.
There really isn’t much more to say. We’ve been knocked out of the Champions League tonight by the champions of Hungary who played a very simple game that most of the SPL sides have learned to replicate exactly; wait until Celtic commits every man forward and then slam one up the park and if you’ve got a player who can chase it, you’re golden.
The shoddiest public park manager would have seen that coming tonight a mile away.
He would have altered our team shape, brought on the forward and been patient instead of pursuing a nonsenscial policy of crossing the ball into a penalty area where there was no forward waiting and the opposition had the discipline to maintain their tactical shape.
Our whole style – the one man up front system, which tonight we tried without the one man – depends on the full-backs being on the edge of the opponent’s penalty box whilst the wide men cut inside. Teams like Kilmarnock can work it out, and better sides than them can exploit it.
We were predictable and the manager’s lamentable decision-making and unwillingness to make the changes until it was way too late, as well as a lop-sided transfer policy where we’re sealing the signing of an attacking midfielder before the central defender we’ve been screaming for all the way through the last few months … well it’s all come home to roost.
But for a late, late goal against Utd at the weekend we would have dropped points in two dreadful league performance and gone out of the Champions League.
Ever get the impression it’s going to be a long, long campaign?
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