You and I have watched a lot of Celtic away from home in the Champions League; we know what to expect. Stick to your task, clear the ball long, tackle hard and exploit set-pieces as best we can. That’s been the plan for 27 away games. 25 of them ended in defeat.
Away game 28, in Barcelona, fell apart at the seams, but last night in Manchester built on the progress in Monchengladbach. From nowhere, Celtic have gone two unbeaten away from home in this tournament.
It wasn’t just the result (in either game) we had more attempts at goal, more attempts on target, we passed with speed and precision under pressure. City caught us on the break to score, and could have added another, on the break, but we had the better of the chances in both halves. Moussa Dembele, Gary Mackay-Steven and Leigh Griffiths will all feel they should have scored.
Jozo Simunovic and Erik Sviatchenko again proved they can operate at Champions League level. The difference in central defence since last year, when one or other of them was unavailable, is beyond credible.
The night was another success for Stuart Armstrong, who built on a transformational visit to Motherwell on Saturday. James Forrest took on and beat three players to setup Dembele, but James fell to a familiar foe and retired injured.
Gary Mackay-Steven, playing his first senior game in over eight months, looked exhausted after his first sprint. There are no shortcuts to match fitness. That chance, when he was clean through with Caballero to beat, will no doubt haunt the player, but he delivered a performance reminiscent of the one he gave in the San Siro two years ago, before being sacrificed. As though alchemy is at work, Celtic have squad-fillers from earlier times looking the part at the highest level.
I had a notion that it wouldn’t be too bad if Patrick Roberts had an anonymous game. That lasted all of four minutes, when he waltzed into the Manchester City box to open the scoring. Did he do enough to convince Pep Guardiola that he’ll be needed in the City squad next season when his loan to Celtic ends? Probably not. That’s the way of it at Manchester City. They will spend >£100m between now and 1 September; Patrick will go the way of Jason Denayer.
Bring on Partick Thistle.