Celtic deservedly crashed out of the Champions’ League for a second time in a matter of weeks. As if that wasn’t bad enough what is more depressing is the similarity in the manner of both defeats. Tonight’s performance was, for most of the game, brutal to watch and we can’t use the Murrayfield excuse. In the first half out inability to make a simple pass was criminal as was the panic induced in some of our players by being pressed by the opposition. This was epitomised by Charlie running back to his own goal line with the ball, having received a pass near the half way line, due to the simple pressing of one player.
I’m not, however, going to lay the blame for tonight solely on Mulgrew as, once again, we did not play like a team. The defence was a shambles, the midfield was often overrun and the forwards were often chasing lost causes. This was caused by a lack of shape so that the player in possession was often isolated and was then panicked into a hasty pass or just an aimless punt.
It is far too early to start judging Deila but he needs to demonstrate that he can produce a team that operates in a cohesive manner. Ambrose had one of his worst games in a Celtic tonight and you have to ask why he was at right back and Lustig in the centre leaving the already impressive Denayer on the bench. Maribor repeatedly found themselves on acres of space attacking down our right side as Ambrose was sucked in. Izzy suffered from a similar problem and was often out of position. Either the players are ignoring the coach’s instructions or they don’t know where they should be or how to support the man in possession.
In the first half a 4-5-1 shape was sometimes discernible amongst the chaos with McGregor (again) being the only outfield offensive player to give any hope of penetration. Commons introduction in the second half livened up matters for a while and we were unlucky not to go ahead when McGregor hit the bar. This proved to be a false dawn however before the inevitable happened and Maribor scored a goal courtesy of some appalling defending, particularly from Izzy who headed the ball back across our penalty area.
Virgil showed that he can lead the line more effectively than Stokes in Europe and was unlucky not to score at the end but the fact that this was in front of a half empty stadium showed the fans’ view of the likelihood (or even desirability?) of extra time.
So we are now in the Europa League which, after failing to win FOUR Champions’ League qualifiers on the trot, is clearly the best that we deserve. To be frank, I’m not even sure we deserve that and, at the moment, have no confidence in us winning a game there.
Fans Outside Front Entrance After The Game” width=”300″ height=”224″ class=”size-medium wp-image-3038″ /> Fans Outside Front Entrance After The Game[/caption]Leaving the ground I could see a group of about 150 fans gathered outside the stadium chanting “sack the board”, “Lawwell gtf” and, some of them, “Ronny gtf”. Oh how the MSM must be loving it. This is testing time for all of us, the fans, the board,the manager and the players. Many of the team that was given a standing ovation at half time ten days ago can form the basis of a much improved Celtic side but we need proper investment and we need to give Ronny time. It would be crazy to jettison him now as the man needs time to build up his own team. In the meantime though this could be a long season.