Inter Milan 1 Celtic 0
Ivan Kruzliak (ref)
No penalty 14 mins
Sending off VVD 37 mins
No decision to Celtic if possible …..All 93 mins
Guarin 88 mins
Celtic were, tonight, beaten by an incompetent (at best ) referee and a wonder strike by Guarin.
To be honest, I came to Milan expecting a glorious defeat. I have a lot of confidence in the consistency of the team’s performances under Ronny but felt that to record our first win in Italy was a big ask. By the end of the game I had learned that the level of our performance can rise above being reduced to ten men and finding ourselves playing against Inter plus the ref. To beat Inter when it was 11 v 11 would have been tough never mind the 10 v 12 that it turned out to be.
We started shakily but, after about five minutes, started to threaten Inter more and more with GMS and Johansen finding space well. Our midfield is looking very strong and could certainly hold its own’against Inter. An early 50/50 challenge involving Johansen resulted in a free kick to Inter and that set the tone for the evening. I can rarely remember a game when so many 50/50 or even 70/30 decisions went against us and we started to expect the refs arm to always point for an Inter free kick, corner or goal kick.
Despite that we were still looking good after 30 mins and had clearly tightened up the defence from last week. The back four were playing much closer together and looked solid apart from Izze who’s passing was uncharacteristically loose.
By now the referee’s Alice in Wonderland view of the rules of the game was clear to see and this, I’m sure, encouraged Icardi to make the most of Virgil’s challenge. As soon as it happened, all the fans around me were sure that Virgil would be sent off with alacrity by the Slovakian ref with Italian leanings, and so it proved. It was then vital that we got through to half time to regroup which we just managed to do.
Deila rearranged the team but it was now that Griffith’s absence was acutely felt. Guidetti’s strengths don’t include him playing as an isolated striker. He hasn’t the pace to trouble a defence on his own and so it wasn’t a surprise for him to be replaced by Forrest. Whilst this is not a position that Forrest has ever played in, the hope clearly was that his pace would trouble the Italian defence. This never happened though, despite the rest of the team performing heroically. The team played coolly and with no little skill and never looked really threatened. In last week’s game it sometimes felt that every attack could end in a goal, tonight it was the complete opposite until Guarin’s wonder strike with two minutes to go.
To lose the game in the way we did left a bad taste in the mouth and also means the team has some unfinished business in Europe; we’ll never know how we could have fared tonight on a level playing field.
Our fans were magnificent as usual and this seemed to have an impact on the Inter fans. I had at least four conversations with Milanese during the day where they expressed their admiration for the passion of our support. At the end of the game we were applauded out of the stadium by Inter fans and, later, when my son and I arrived at a restaurant, a group of Celtic fans were being applauded by the Italians as they were leaving.
So that’s our European adventure over for another season. Our 1-0 win in Rekjavik seems a long time ago and the team has developed enormously during this time. The Legia (well done Ajax tonight!) and Maribor games, when we had no shape, no cohesion, little confidence and seemingly little passion, are distant memories. We now have the most exciting young team that I can remember for a very long time, so much so that I will now predict that next season we will win some meaningful away European games, in style! This season in Europe has been a huge learning curve for Ronny and he is doing us proud. I’ve no doubt it’ll be an exciting and successful campaign next year.
I’m writing this at 0145 am to the strains of The Celtic Symphony wafting up from the neighbouring Piazza. Time to nip outside for a grappa!!