Salzburg 2 Celtic 2
Red Bull Arena
Scorers: Alan 36, Soriano 78 Wakaso 14 Brown 60
This was an excellent result which was based on a committed and determined performance by the team allied to a truly world class display from Craig Gordon.
It was a bold team selection by Ronny with Wakaso getting his debut, replacing Tonev from the game against Aberdeen. We started the game brightly enough and weathered the opening storm by Salzburg without really being threatened. We then started to get upfield more and had our reward with a spectacular goal from Wakaso following a lovely one touch move across the pitch from a throw in. Ronny must have been purring!! Unlike many previous European games the team had a discernible shape which they stuck to with the exception of our full backs who were caught out of position too often. Efe’s failure to hold a straight line led to the equaliser as he played Alan onside before deflecting his shot past Gordon. Gordon was outstanding throughout and had four or five exceptional saves. The finger tip save he made from a header by Ramalho was breathtaking. By now, however, our midfield was starting to struggle and so our defence was often outnumbered due to runs from Salzburg midfielders.
This pattern continued in the early part of the second half with Gordon saving us from getting a bit of a doing. I was just thinking that we needed to freshen things up when up stepped Broony with a goal from a long range shot which deflected off Ramalho. This followed some good work by McGregor down the right wing which he finished with an excellent cross.
This goal gave Celtic confidence and our shape was changed a bit with Tonev coming on for Commons but our quality was also changed a bit with Stokes coming on for Scepovic. I have to say that I like the big man and think he’ll do well for us. He hasn’t had a lot of service in his two games but he showed good movement and held the ball up well on occasions. He isn’t lacking in confidence either as was demonstrated by an outrageous shot from some forty yards which had the keeper scrambling back in vain. Tonev was largely anonymous when he was on and I did wonder why Bitton hadn’t come on to shore up the midfield; a job that he did to good effect against Aberdeen.
Having said that Salzburg were no longer carving out the same quality of chances and it started to look as though we could hold on. We had kept the impressive Soriano very quiet all evening but this changed following a mistake by Izzy which led to a free kick just outside the box. Soriano dispatched it into the net with great aplomb to level the score. To be fair it was the least that Salzburg deserved.
Having said that the performance had many encouraging factors. The shape of the team is now much better though both full backs need a rest as soon as possible, particularly Efe who has cost us too many goals this season. Having two wide players does leave our midfield exposed, particularly in away matches, though Wakaso did often track back effectively. Wakaso has pace and will love running into space. He showed excellent skill with his goal but he also showed a tendency to roll about far too much following a tackle near the end; I hope Ronny has a word with him on this. Gordon is proving to be our best signing since Wanyama, he inspires confidence and tonight was back to his very best. The rest of the spine of the team is looking strong and will, I believe, get better as the season goes on, particularly as the new strikers settle in.
The most encouraging aspect though is how we managed to grind out a good result. The attitude of the players was excellent and we are now starting to play as a team. I don’t think that there is too much difference between Salzburg and Legia Warsaw and so tonight’s result is a significant improvement on those dark summer nights that we all endured. Let’s hope that they’re confined to history!!