Celtic 3 Lincoln Red Imps 0
Lustig (23) Griffiths (26) Roberts (29)

New season, new manager and Celtic are starting to look different.

Firstly, tonight we saw Rodgers tactical flexibility in action. Only got one reliable centre half? Playing against a team that shouldn’t offer much of an attacking threat but will have ten players behind the ball? Play 3-5-2! Actually it was more of a 3-1-4-2 with two wingers who were expected to stay wide and get to the bye line where possible. This meant we had more options going forward, particularly with McGregor and Armstrong in the middle both of whom were driving forward whenever they could. It’s great, at last, to see Armstrong having a run of games in central midfield. He could become an important player for us this season. There was little of the sideways passing which was so frustrating last week with attacks being varied, particularly in the first half. We could easily have scored six or seven in the first thirty minutes with Roberts being a joy to watch. When did we last have a player who excites the crowd so much and has an end product too?! Brown improved from last week but still was guilty of giving the ball away too much. Hopefully that gets ironed out.
The team got a deserved standing ovation at half time.

The second half was a much quieter affair though we could still have scored another three or four goals. Ajer came on which was good experience for the lad and Izzy had a spell as a left winger which didn’t really work out. Dembele clearly has the brief to pretty much stay central which means that last year’s problem of not having somebody in the penalty area as soon as Griffiths moves out of it has been solved. He could easily have scored two or three goals tonight and I’ve no doubt that they will come.

The second noticeable change was the atmosphere. The banner has gone from Lisbon Lions Upper and we had a virtual sell out crowd in the middle of the school holidays. The Green Brigade (aka the North Curve?) revelled in the standing section and the stadium was bouncing throughout the game. For auld timers like me who cut their teeth in the Jungle in the 70s (sometimes literally!) it was great to see the GB ‘Spirit of the Jungle’ banner at the start of the game…..I take that as a real statement of intent. I’m sure that the atmosphere had an effect on the Imps and there 20 or so fans!!

The third, and maybe most important change, was that we had a team who were very pleasing on the eye and worked hard both on and off the ball. Not even the guy behind me in the North Stand could criticise any player for lack of effort tonight! The entertainment value of the first half was high and was such a contrast to so many games from last season (eg Dundee at home).

It’s only one game and we shouldn’t get carried away but there were some very promising signs tonight that Rodgers is going to make a big impact on the club.

So it’s on to Kazakhstan next week where (to turn what some fans were saying at the end of tonight on its head) Astana will need to up their game if they have any hopes of knocking us out!

Howard Gilbert

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