At the end of this game the most common word (that’s printable!) which I heard from the other Celtic supporters in the stadium was “Artmedia”. I had hoped never to see that type of performance again but our defence tonight was as wide open as it had been that night in Bratislava nine years ago.
There was a small but vocal band of Celtic supporters in the stadium with about 150 tickets sold to the away fans. However our singing was mainly drowned out by a home crowd where the whole stadium seemed to be acting like the Green Brigade! Lateral movement? This mob invented it!! The team selection did provoke a lot of surprise that our left side was to be Matthews and Berget. This replaced what had been a very effective Izzaguire/ McGregor partnership last week. I was just mulling this over when up popped Callum to score a peach of a goal, very similar to the one against KR in Iceland. A quick equaliser followed and it was clear that our left flank was frequently badly exposed with Matthews being caught trying to Mark two players.
Sadly, instead of this being sorted it became a harbinger of a defensive performance which would aspire to be a sieve. How much of this was due to Efe’s sending off we’ll never know but the warning signs had been there. It is fine to give a philosophy of passing the ball out from the back but only if the players are able to manage it. Possession was surrendered too easily often leaving midfielders and defenders out of position. As this continued, the team visibly lost confidence and we seemed likely to concede every time Legia attacked. Four goals, two missed penalties and numerous chances (inside our box!!) meant that the final score could well have been a lot worse. The team’s discipline went near the end with needless confrontations with Legia players. At the final whistle the team couldn’t get off the park quickly enough and didn’t have the courtesy/balls to come over and thank the travelling fans. “Can we have our £500 back?” was a shout from one fan when some players came out for cooling down exercises, though even this was fairly tongue in cheek whilst ‘Over and Over’ was being sung.
Much has been made of the Ultra element of the Legia fans and hence the advice from the club that we arrive early for the game. During the game a couple of Celtic banners were seen flying upside down at the Legia end to complete our humiliation. There was a long wait for us all at the end but it transpired that the club had organised taxis to come to the stadium to take us back to hotels etc (they didn’t pay for them though!!). This was a good move as once I was being driven away from the stadium I could see quite a few Legia fans hanging about apparently waiting for our appearance. Sinisterly, some of the police guiding us into taxis were wearing balaclavas. No point asking those guys for their number I’m sure! To be fair I had spent the day in Warsaw wandering around in the hoops with no hassle at all, just a few grins and waves.
I started this article by mentioning Artmedia and of course we won the return leg 4-0 on that occasion. Don’t hold your breath for a repeat though…..although if we were to get an early goal ……?
Pics by Howard G