As a famous fellow Govan man once said…..Football?! Bloody Hell!! It’s a game that can bring great highs (eg Guidetti’s last minute equaliser against Inter) or great lows like Berget’s 95th minute goal tonight. In February we all bounced out of the stadium after drawing a game 3-3 and tonight we were deflated after winning 3-2! But that’s the game we all love and why it’s a drug to so many of us.
The game started in a better way than we could have dreamed with two goals in the first ten minutes. The first goal was a lovely move involving Armstrong and Johansen before Griffiths justified his selection by cooling stroking the ball home. The second followed soon after from the head of Nir Bitton and, at this stage, it looked like we had them on the ropes. The midfield were on top and James Forrest was almost unplayable. He had obviously been told to run at the defence and he did that all night. Even tracking back in the 85th minute (despite Hareide’s claim that we’re unfit!).
At half time I reflected that it was unusual for us to be so dominant at home in Europe and to have converted that dominance into goals. Malmö hadn’t offered much going forward with Gordon only having one save to make. The defensive frailties of Izzy were still evident with Malmö seemingly playing on him and Boyata continued his erratic distribution of recent games. Had we been playing a top Champions’ League team this slackness would have been punished but that shouldn’t detract from the fact that, in this game, we were well on top.
The second half was a more familiar roller coaster ride for us all. Having been at the game I’ve not had a chance to watch any replays yet but I would like to know how we lost a goal from our own corner?! Berget was in acres of space and had time to place his shot past Gordon. The away goal rule makes any lead fragile and suddenly we were all anxious again. At that point I thought that the next goal would be the seminal one (and hopefully that will prove correct!) and so was relieved when Griffiths continued his heading master class with a very well taken goal. From my vantage point in the North Stand the referee seemed to take an age in giving it but eventually his arm pointed to the centre circle. Phew!
Our dominance seemed to return but, as against ICT, our substitutions seemed to disrupt our flow. Ciftci worked hard but wasn’t a goal threat at any stage and GMS struggled to impose himself. And then Mikael Lustig collapsed in a heap with the ball nowhere near him. I’m still hoping that the news today won’t be as bad as we fear but it looked awful. Fingers crossed for him. And on came Efe. So, in a back four of Efe, Boyata, Virgil and Izzy how many of them inspire confidence? The distribution of all of them, bar Virgil, is unreliable and results in watching through gaps in your fingers. If Virgil is transferred then it becomes very scary indeed with a new centre half bring embedded into that defence (pull out all the stops to get Denayer back!).
The goal at the end was a real kick in the proverbial and was undeserved. At no point did I think Malmö were on top and threatening but, yet again, poor defending has cost us and that is now six goals conceded in three games.
There are many positives from tonight’s game though. Leigh Griffiths showed he can score goals in Europe and James Forrest had one of his best ever games for us. We were clearly the better team for about 80 minutes of the 90 and have shown we can score against them. So, putting it all together I’m confident we can go there and get the result we need. Somebody tweeted tonight that the score-line in six out of our last seven away games would see us go through; also some of our best European performances under Ronny have been away from home. So I’m confident we’ll go through. And then I think of our possible back four!!!!
It’s going to be a long week!!