Rarely has Brian Clough’s adage that goals change games been as evident as it was tonight.
After a hesitant start Celtic had put in an excellent first half performance. We were comfortable on the ball, winning the midfield battle and looking solid in defence. It was noticeable that many of the Fenerbahçe’s attacks in the early part of the first half were aimed at Tierney and the youngster stood up very well to this test. As the half progressed his positioning got better and better and the Turks became resigned that they were not getting round our defence. On the other side Lustig was back to his best being very solid in defence and excellent going forward. Boyata was also playing well and his distribution was the best that I’ve seen it. More about Efe later.
In midfield Scott Brown was immense and demonstrated again his value to us. As did our other ‘veteran’ Kris Commons. He was brave and intelligent on the ball all night and was a real threat going forward. Our first goal came from his corner and he finished off a great move with real aplomb for our second. Of our four goals in the Europa League Kris has now scored one and given the assist for the other three. Forrest is also now starting to play consistently well which augurs well for the rest of the season. It was noticeable tonight that he curbed his tendency to always cut inside and this led to our second goal.
At this point there was only one team in it but our experience in Europe means there’s always a doubt that the game is done and dusted. And so it proved. A nothing high ball down the centre of our defence leads to a weak header from Efe and the game changes at 2-1. Yes, it was a mistake, and yes we all make mistakes in our jobs/life etc. But how many of us would still be in our job if we regularly made such costly errors? I have been a defender of Efe up until now and like the guy’s attitude but my patience is now done. The unpredictability that his play brings to our defence is likely to affect the whole team as players need to trust each other. Sadly, no matter how well we are playing, we will always feel vulnerable with Efe at the back and for this reason I hope that his time is up for European games.
As a consequence of his lapse, the second half started with Fenerbahçe being the dominant team and, from one of their early corners the equaliser duly arrived. Again we lose a goal from a set piece and again it comes from an area that Efe was meant to be defending. For the next ten minutes we were grimly hanging on and it looked like a defeat was on the cards; in fact it was the 60th minute before we managed to string some passes together. But gradually we started to dominate the midfield again and bring Commons and Forrest more into the game. This was despite Johansen having another off night and you have to ask what’s happened to him this season. To his credit he is still putting the effort in but his passing and shooting are pale shadows of last season’s form. Rogic was a huge improvement for the few minutes that he came on and may have made a significant impact had he been on earlier.
With the other game finishing 1-1 this group us wide open but, given the fact that we came close to winning both of our games, we can still be optimistic about progressing. Let’s hope though that Simunovic is fit for our remaining games!