THE tag of perennial loser is not one that is likely to be welcomed by Brendan Rodgers.
The Celtic boss demands to be judged at the elevated level of the Champions League and he will not need any reminding his record in this arena is simply awful.
Rodgers was battered by disturbing stats in the aftermath of the agonising stoppage-time lapse against Lazio in midweek. He was flagged up as the worst manager to have taken charge of 20 games in Europe’s elite competition, an alarming sequence that shows a meagre two wins, thirteen losses and five draws.
HAND’S UP…Brendan Rodgers has a lot to prove in Europe’s elite competition.
The Irishman enjoyed his last victory in September 2017 when he guided the Hoops to a 3-0 success over Anderlecht in Brussels. His only other hurrah came as Liverpool gaffer when they overcame Bulgaria’s Ludogrets 2-1 at Anfield in September 2014. That was so long ago a bloke called Steven Gerrard thumped in the winner via the penalty spot in the third minute of added-on time.
Celtic are still waiting for a home win in the Champions League, having gone 10 years without victory in front of their fans in the competition.
Under a torrent of horrendous facts and figures, it would be too easy for Rodgers’ critics to dismiss his qualities at this lofty altitude. The cynics and snipers glory in such data. Sadly, for most of them, it’s what they do best.
Remember, though, there are lies, damn lies and statistics. Not all is as it seems at first glance.
If anyone is undecided, just take a look at our two outings among the game’s creme de la creme this season. How can anyone legislate for their team being reduced to nine men by the 68th minute?
FLASHPOINT…Gustaf Lagerbielke and Feyenoord’s Igor Paixao tussle for the ball in the challenge that saw the Celt red-carded in Rotterdam.
A dreadful Bosnian referee was conned into delivering a second yellow card and awarding a penalty-kick to the hosts in the 62nd minute with the score at 1-0. Brazilian Igor Paixao cheated – no other word fits his disgusting actions – as he went through his dying swan routine after Gustaf Lagerbielke naively raised his right arm as the ball was ushered through to Joe Hart.
That was all the Dutch side’s player required to go down as though he had been hit by an invisible wrecking ball. If you can be bothered, have another look at the incident. Once the inept match official had pointed to the spot, Paixao bounced straight back to his feet, no need to put the local A&E on alert.
His penalty-kick was repelled by Hart, but six minutes later it was Odin Holm’s turn to walk following a straight red after an ill-advised wayward challenge. It was stupid to charge in as the eager midfielder did, especially when the man with the whistle had just proved he was trigger happy with the red card.
With two players short, Celtic buckled, the champions of the Netherlands netted a second 14 minutes from time and it was game over. So, the scoreline simply displayed: FEYENOORD 2 CELTIC 0. That’s the statistic that was filed away and will be brought out, dusted down and used to undermine the pedigree of the Celtic chief.
And what can we say about Lazio on Wednesday? We went from a barmy Bosnian to a lenient Lithuanian, two UEFA appointments that only served to bewilder onlookers.
DANGEROUS…Cameron Carter-Vickers takes a sore one following a high kick from Lazio’s Taty Castelianos.
The unfortunate Lagerbielke was banished in Rotterdam for lifting his arm. Reo Hatate was walloped in the face by an elbow and Matt O’Riley and Cameron Carter-Vickers were kicked in the kisser during the match. Punishment? Zilch.
Once more, no-one can factor in such occurrences. One referee would surely have seen all three as cards of some sort while another believes these assaults are hunky dory, all part of a contact sport.
I loved O’Riley’s comment on the boot-in-the-mush incident when he said something along the lines of: “I’m a fairly tall player for an opponent’s foot to reach my face. I don’t know. Maybe you have to go down to get a decision.”
The flashpoint moments involving Hatate and O’Riley happened in the first-half. Another whistler on another day and the Italians could have found themselves at least one player down in the deal.
Once again, though, the scoreline showed CELTIC 1 LAZIO 2 and that was the stat that was logged in the history book to add to the grim Champions League history of the Celtic boss.
It is a logistical impossibility for ill fortune to have been the influencing factor in all of Rodgers’ losses in football’s version of the killing fields.
There have been defeats, even by the manager’s admission, where the better team have deservely won, as he stated when Anderlecht triumphed at Parkhead in 2017.
However, just looking at the two most recent outings, there have been undeniable extenuating circumstances.
We can only hope the gremlins take the night off when Atletico Madrid visit on Wednesday October 25. And a half-decent referee gets the gig from UEFA.