There are two things here; there’s the game today and there’s the bigger picture. I’ll write about the bigger picture later, where the horizon is positively sunny and my disposition a hell of a lot better as I approach my task.
Right now, let’s talk about that display at Celtic Park this afternoon.
That was rank rotten.
It was, again, an inexplicably gutless display, just as the semi-final was. And it was worse than the semi-final because at Hampden we made them work for what they got, whereas today we sat back and allowed them to play football.
Where was the pressing game? Where was the intensity? I saw a Celtic team content to sit in its own half and let them have possession.
This is not a great Ibrox team by any manner of means, but they are dangerous and how often do we have to let them create chances before that sinks in? Why have we, twice in a row now, abandoned our attacking, front-foot philosophy to play like a team that hits on the break? It doesn’t suit us. It doesn’t work for us.
Has Ange and the coaching team bought into this whole “we’re playing Europa League semi-finalists here” guff?
Jesus, I hope not because that would be ridiculous.
But twice now we’ve played like a team that has bought into that hype, a team that believes it. Perhaps more than the Ibrox club itself believes it. Twice now we’ve shown them too much respect.
I am honestly pissed off about that today in a way I wasn’t angry a fortnight ago when we flogged the chance of a treble because we backed off them and let them control the game. I thought lessons would be learned, that we’d start on the front foot, that we’d put them under pressure from the off, that we would take advantage of tired legs and run them ragged.
I am shocked that for two games in a row we’ve played the same dire system, of allowing them possession and control, backing off to let their players run at us … with the consequences obvious considering what we endured at the national stadium.
If Sakala scores that one late – and we invited it, we encouraged it, we gave him all the time and space in the world again and again and again – we’d have been looking at a final game of the season scenario, and zero room for error along the way and nobody would have been able to point to anything other than that we did it to ourselves.
The manager has spoken after the game and said that they needed the win and that a draw leaves us in “a very strong position.”
True. Undoubtedly true. But worrying just the same.
That is the most concerning thing he’s said since he became manager, far more worrying than anything that he’s uttered before, because it strongly suggests that he thought that strategy of sitting off them was the correct thing to do today and at Hampden … and we’ve been damned lucky not to have lost them both.
It was a vastly greater gamble today to sit back and soak up pressure than it would have been to press forward and take the game to them.
The manager chose the wrong one.
If Sakala had scored he would have real questions to answer as to why he did that … and because that was so close to presenting us with a nightmare scenario, I don’t think he should avoid those questions.
That was abysmal.
We were lucky to get away with that.