Celtic Were Excellent Tonight And We Deserved More Than A Point.

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That was very credible and very nearly incredible.

For 45 minutes it was, in fact, absolutely outstanding.

The performance was exactly what we wanted to see, and what we needed to see. The team on the pitch putting in a titanic display against a massive club in the biggest club competition in the world. In that first half they were sensational.

The second half was nervier. Atletico made a few half-time changes and Simeone shuffled his team around. It worked.

Give him credit for that. He got those substitutions and tactical shifts spot on. Absolutely spot on. He’s a world class coach at a world class side and he knows exactly how to deploy his resources to maximum effect.

Please note; we also have a world class coach and he proved it as well. His own subs were no less inspired.

They steadied the ship at a point where we might have gotten swamped. I was surprised to see Palma come off for Phillips; in fact, it was just what the team needed. We tightened up and as time went on, we started to find those little chances again.

Who am I noting that for?

For the board, obviously. In a week where I’ve defended them I’m not going to be in the least bit shy about reminding them that they let the manager down over the summer, because they did. You can see how close we are, it’s a matter of small margins at this point, but those small margins have been enough.

We’re probably out of Europe.

The result in Rotterdam tonight was a genuine shocker, and a sickener, before a ball had even been kicked. We’ll get stick for that. But hey, at least we’re only getting knocked out of one European competition this season instead of three … isn’t that the stick we were getting beaten with two seasons back by the media’s goon squad?

And you know what? We’ve deserved more from every single one of these games.

We were well in it in Rotterdam until we had nine men on the pitch. Daezin Maeda’s toe is the difference between winning against Lazio and losing that game … you won’t get finer margins than that. That little bit of extra quality might have taken us far … we’ll never know now.

So my thing is, I want the board to realise the role they played in these results and to understand that they’ve done one thing absolutely, unequivocally right over the summer and that was to bring Brendan Rodgers back to this club.

He is the Real Thing.

Now they have to believe in him and give him the tools for this job.

All the pieces of the jigsaw are falling into place now folks.

The evolution of this team from the one Ange was working wonders with into the one Rodgers will work wonders with is accelerating and if I may be so bold, I’m suddenly even more excited about where this might end up than I was this time last year. This team has the makings of something special.

It has special players for a start. Johnston, Maeda, O’Riley, Hatate … so, so gutted coming off tonight, tears running down his face.

I hope he’s not out for long.

Who knows what we’d have done tonight with him still on the pitch?

Not that Paolo Bernardo was a slouch out there, I thought he had a great game and looked like someone who definitely belongs.

But Kyogo is the miracle man, of course, and Luis Palma is very evidently a superstar. All of the concerns of how we’d replace Jota have been answered by the new Magnificent Seven, who is going to score and assist plenty.

It’s like I said in the summer; the worst piece of transfer business Ibrox has done in the last window was the guy they didn’t sign.

Because icon status and being a hero of the stands is all there in front of this guy now and he looks more than capable of seizing it.

He took his goal brilliantly, but his overall play was equally impressive and he can consider himself unfortunate to be sacrificed for Brendan Rodgers’ necessary tactical shift. We didn’t have the same threat without him, but the priority was to seal up the other end of the pitch and we did that, and it was the right call.

The last word on that tonight before I chuck it is on Atletico. 50 years on from the Shame Game, they were deplorably cynical and aggressive tonight.

Their manager is a moaning git, forever complaining, and some of their players were in danger of being issued restraining orders for the way they hassled the ref every time one of them threw himself to the deck.

I think the penalty is cheating.

Taylor’s foot might touch the back of his, but that’s no more a penalty than some of the ones the Ibrox club gets. It’s just our luck that big Hart saves it and the rebound comes right back to the guy. Griezmann was never going to miss that.

Listen, we have shaken a top-drawer side tonight and we’ve done brilliantly. The point is more than a lot of us expected before it, but that we’re frustrated not to have gotten more is telling. We are definitely on the right track and tonight is further proof of it.

This is a young Celtic side and that’s one thing.

We’ve tied all our top boys down on extended deals.

That’s another thing, and that might prove to be the most important thing.

Because if we can keep this side together into next season, I think we’ll really see a show, even on this stage, even against the best.

And yeah, we’ve said it before … but this is different, this feels different and looks different. We wanted to see real progress, and although we’ve changed the manager and he’s changed the system I think we have made it and we’re starting to show it.

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  • Kevan McKeown says:

    Best performance ah’ve seen from us in Europe for years. Only 1 point, tho extremely happy wi the way they played tonight. Looked more tired as the 2nd half went on, tho never deserved tae lose. First 45 mins especially they were excellent and that lot are nae mugs, far from it. If we had won that, it wouldnae have looked out of place.

    • Jim says:

      Well said, so glad we got something for a good performance (great first half), against a very good team.

  • Kevan McKeown says:

    One other thing. Have a look at the CELTIC related articles on twitter etc. Full of extremely upset ibrox supporters, all the vile comments relatin tae the usual twisted, ugly minded topics. Also amazin, how a crowd who’s club hold the record of the ‘worst EVER CL team’ can even try and mock us for holdin our own against a team like AM. Of course its the reality of how we’re playin, it’s livin well and truly in their heads. That’s the REAL fear !

  • Clachnacuddin and the Hoops says:

    More progress than Sevco thank goodness…

    Thankfully they remain the only Scottish team without a point in The Champions League group stages –

    Albeit they were only 10 years old when these disastrous statistics befell them !

  • John S says:

    Key points ? Atletico’s sneaky thuggery, Hatate’s injury, the wing-swap and Atletico’s tactical substitutions (praise where due).
    Celtic played brave football, listen to the after-match pundits on TNT Highlights, “Beautiful football”. It was the epitome of the club and the manager and players, disappointed as they may be, deserve being noticed on the European stage. This team is still growing. always growing.
    Could’ve, should’ve won. Atletico couldn’t live up to their ‘retro shirt of shame’, having only one sent off. They didn’t look disappointed though, delighted with a Point.

  • SSMPM says:

    In making a point I decided after the summer that the lack of board support and subsequent lack of investment in the team to assist a decent shot in the CL that I would boycott the CL games. From what I’ve heard maybe that was a mistake yet to placate myself maybe not. I still think we’re a few quality player signings short of a sustained challenged. Easy to say I guess as we’ll never know. What I do know is the players in the 1st team squad have been really unfortunate, naïve on a few occasions maybe, but they’ve gave all in trying their best on the big stage.
    It’s not over, we have an outside chance yet, but aye it feels over.
    The players in this youngish team have gained valuable experience, if we can keep them, win the league and add that additional quality for the next year maybe just maybe next year. I am proud of them though and for sure we’re not the worst CL team ever.
    Easy to continue to look at and point to the board’s lack of belief in us, as I guess we’ll never know about the what ifs, but pretty soon, and as a result of an ever decreasing co-efficient, the definite here is that we’ll be slipping back to the qualifying play offs in the near future. That’s partly down to us and partly down to playing in a poor standard league with poor quality opponents like the rankers and the jam farts.
    Still it’s a backward step and congrats to efforts of the Bhoys. HH

  • Andrew Lamb says:

    Fully agree with everything you say James. I feel we need to talk about specific players though and one in particular (Taylor) I think he a good enough option for domestic games so worthy of a place at the club but if we want to win games like this one we need better quality in that position, imagine if KT or some of the same standard was playing tonight we would have won that game and Johnston was poor I felt. You are right though the first half was as good as we have been for years.

  • Johnny Green says:

    I was proud of the team last night as it was a great result against a top class side. However, like everyone else I am disappointed we did not capitalise on being twice in the lead. We seemed to run out of puffin in the second half along with running out of ideas, but all in all it was a very good performance.

    One last comment….Greg Taylor, a short man who is worse than a man short, we will never be able to defend properly in Europe with a weak link like him.

  • Jim says:

    Never been so proud to be a Celtic supporter, as I was tonight , watching/listening to ‘you’ll never walk alone’, with those flags flying, took me all my time not to start bubbling tbh.

  • Woodyiom says:

    James I agree with pretty much everything you say in your article regarding our play, our tempo, our movement etc BUT your headline is false. We DIDN’T DESERVE more than a point because for the 3rd game running we conceded two goals due to our defensively inadequacies. We WOULD HAVE GOT 3 points if we did our defensive job properly but we didn’t so we didn’t deserve more than a draw.

    The penalty is a foul in exactly the same way that Dessers fouled Lagerbielke at Ibrox. You cannot kick a players foot/leg from behind before you’ve actually made any sort of contact with the ball. Molina’s looking for it all day long and Taylor obliges him with his naive challenge (and his naivety in getting caught out with the ball inside him is just as bad). He’s also partly to blame for their 2nd goal in not moving towards Llorente – rather he backs away giving him ample time and space to deliver what was a great ball tbf and an even better header.

    Those defensive lapses cost us the win and we need to eradicate them asap but until we do the story at the end of every CL match will be “if only…” I don’t mean to sou

  • Torky58 says:

    I agree that we’re getting there James, we could’ve and should’ve got three points from the Lazio game and we were immense in the first half last night but looked a little leggy after an hour. I think a draw was a fair result on the whole as they were the aggressors more the second half without giving big Joe much to do. If we can add to what we’ve got already then we could start to go deeper in the tournament. In my opinion Athletico are the best team in the group and we ran mighty close, to a man we were excellent and hopefully Reo’s injury isn’t long term but he looked distraught when he went off. This Madrid side could go deep in the tournament and we gave a good account of ourselves against a top team so the future looks bright. Simeone was a bit of a prick the way he shook hands with Brendan after the game and his team are built in his image.

  • Pcelt says:

    We need to learn to play dirty in Europe against certain opposition as they do against us.The board have to give Rodgers far better backing than last time he was manager to keep progressing.

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