The terror of watching Celtic under Neil Lennon was that what we could see happening in front of us appeared totally invisible to him.
There were times watching his team when you saw what the opposition was doing to us and you were bewildered that either he couldn’t see it or didn’t know how to react to it.
All of us had moments where we could see exactly what changes he had to make, and we’d wait to see him do it and to no avail. In the aftermath of games, he would find some outside force to blame for the bad result. It was tiresome.
Tonight, at half time, we looked all over the shop. After a stunning opening goal two moments of individual madness cost us. Let’s be honest, they were both inexplicable. I’ve seen defenders score those kind of OG’s at every level of the game. I’ve seen goalkeepers do that in massive fixtures. But to see both in one 45 minutes? Disquieting.
And that could have stopped us dead. It certainly halted our momentum in that half. It shook us up. We looked like we’d be lucky to hang on. When the second half started the same way I wondered how long it would be before they scored their third of the night.
Then Ange showed up those, like Keevins and others, who predicted that his rigid adherence to his own philosophy might be his undoing.
This guy isn’t going to make that mistake and he never was, because he understands the highest philosophy is doing what it takes to get the result, and taking off Rogic to move Christie into the middle where his energy and grit would shake the midfield out of their slumber, at the same time as enhancing our attacking threat was exactly the right thing to do at the right time in the game.
From then on, a few moments aside, I thought we looked more relaxed and I never thought that we’d concede that third goal. I also started to think we might nick a second of our own.
The last time I saw a Celtic boss make such an important change in a big game was against Hapoel when Rodgers did it as we went 2-0 down. That night he too understood that there is a time and place for a gung-ho attacking approach and a time and place to sit tight.
I’m sure that I’ll have a lot more to talk about tomorrow, but tonight we can all take a big deep breath and be happy to be in the next round. The manager proved something tonight, and it was something positive and good. The team did as well.
Players like Starfelt and Hart could have folded the hand; both improved as the game went on. Young Montgomery, asked to do a big job on a big night came in and performed admirably. And Kyogo is lethal when the ball is given to him in the penalty area … if we feed him at the weekend he will run riot. A poor midfield performance starved him of the ball but the one time he got running he scored and that gave them the mountain to climb.
We’re in the Europa League Groups, which when we drew Jablonec and then AZ I thought was Mission Impossible. But over the two legs, I think we earned it.