Walking out of the ground last night, my oldest son recalled Liam Scales nervy performance against St Johnstone in August. Two months later he was imperious against a World Cup winning striker. This season’s Champions League campaign is like to end in December, but a few Celtic players will surely look back on it with pride.
Luis Palma made his fourth start for the club and gave us a further insight into his talent. Denied a goal by a marginal offside against Lazio, he got his reward when the Atletico net bulged for the second time. Unlike our other wingers, his game is not about pace, he will continue to find space in dangerous areas for him and others to exploit. Reminiscent of John Robertson in his pomp.
There were two world class footballers on the field. Antoine Griezmann’s movement, touch and game-management was sublime; a joy to watch. While sharing the pitch with a player of this standard, we can judge Kyogo. To say he was outstanding is insufficient.
His goal was so simple, passing the ball into the net from 7 yards, who cannot do that? Well, no one who has played for Celtic in the last 50 years, apart from Henrik Larsson and Kenny Dalglish. Daizen Maeda, unplayable for the first half, created the chance. Matt O’Riley twice brought the attention of Atletico off Kyogo, but the goal was all about our Japanese striker.
Late in the second half I complained about yet another no-look pass from him that went astray. The truth is, he was playing on a level no one else in hoops has yet understood. How often did the arms go up in frustration as his run was not matched with an early forward ball?
Shortly before he was subbed, he controlled and moved the ball while under pressure with such skill I am doubting my memory. Just as Henrik and Kenny before him, he is improving the longer he stays at Celtic; current form is his best yet. With such a talent, his teammates should always be looking for him. The rest of us can marvel as his story unfolds.
Having been schooled in the first period, Atletico changed things at halftime and when their second equaliser came it was deserved. Celtic were pinned back and ragged. In response, Brendan Rodgers made the huge decision to change to an unused, three-at-the-back formation.
It looked a gamble at the time, but Brendan knew what he was doing. The extra bodies in midfield rebalanced the match. What a decision! This is why he is Celtic manager, instead of you or me.
We knew energy levels would be an issue, Celtic do not play enough games at this level to be fully prepared. The early injury to Reo Hatate meant that we were out of substitution instances as the game neared its conclusion. As we worried for Celtic, Atletico’s true colours flipped the flow of the game towards the home team.
Rodrigo de Paul is another World Cup winner but got himself booked for persistently harassing the referee while looking for a second penalty kick. Have some self-respect, you may think, but that is not something Argentinians in the red of Atletico are known for around these parts.
I left the game full of praise for Griezmann, but disgusted at de Paul, who picked up a second yellow for an out of control challenge on a tiring Paulo Bernardo. On the way home, my youngest asked, ‘What would you be like if you had that Simeone in your face every day of the week?”
With Griezmann on the ground after a head knock, Simeone stopped the club doctor from giving attention. Medical oversight only arrived because the referee insisted Griezmann leave the field. “That Simeone” is a malign influence and a true son of his father.