Celtic 1 Salzburg 3
Johansen (30) Alan (8,13)
Fifteen minutes into the game I turned to my brother and said that I’d settle for a final score of 0-2. To say that our start was woeful would be an understatement and was reminiscent of some of our worst starts to European away games. We were miles off the pace and were being given a lesson in passing, pressing and finishing. It looked like the score could become very embarrassing.
Gradually though we started to get back into the game and gained a bit of confidence. This was accentuated when Johansen struck a sublime volley into the net from Izzie’s cross. Suddenly the smooth, classy Austrian team looked rattled. Passes started going astray and our midfield, with Brown outstanding once again, began to win their battles.
Bhouyed (sorry!) by this, the team came out with a determined and much more confident approach in the second half. We passed the ball well and won most of the 50-50 balls. Sadly though, the referee gave Salzburg most of the 50-50 decisions so that kind of balanced it out! However , we were clearly on top and had turned the game round through sheer grit and determination. Calum McGregor had one of those nights when nothing worked out for him but he continued to show for the ball and worked hard for the team. Griffiths was unlucky not to score with a close range effort and worked his socks off whilst the midfield grew stronger as the game went on. Efe misplaced a couple of passes but actually played quite well, rescuing Virgil on a couple of occasions. The crowd were largely enjoying the performance by now and appreciative of the attitude shown by the team.
Virgil moved up as an auxiliary striker for the last few minutes and we were caught by a sucker punch to give an unfair reflection on the game. We were definitely worth an equaliser.
A few months ago I left Murrayfield after the Legia game and wrote that we showed no skill, no heart and no teamwork. This performance was immeasurably better and we didn’t need an illegible sub to progress! The trip to Zagreb will still be tough but can now be viewed as one in which the team can be tested but on which nothing rests. For most of my adult life we have not had European football after Christmas and we have achieved that this year on merit. Well done to Ronny and the bhoys, and to the fans for sticking with the team throughout the game.
Off now to dig out my thermals for Zagreb.