Celtic attack the ball to win plaudits, if not points


Barcelona won 2-0 with a goal in each half.  The first, a sublime effort from the Sublime Master, the second a disputed penalty during Celtic’s best period of play.  The visitors forced one point-blank save from Craig Gordon, and struck the woodwork, but Celtic limited them to far fewer chances than on any previous visit since the current Celtic-Barcelona series of games began in 2004.

Attack the ball

On match day two, against Manchester City, the most striking aspect of Celtic’s play was their high pressing.  City were harried throughout.  Celtic did the same to Barcelona last night.  One, two, three and often four players arrived on the scene, high up the field, to close space and nick the ball.  This was a risky tactic but proved to be very effective (note: it didn’t work for Emilio down the left in the second half).

As a consequence, Scott Brown and Stuart Armstrong regularly won possession in the midfield.  While you may have detected a drop in the level of our passing game in recent league outings, on a pristine surface last night, and under the greatest scrutiny, our passes were fast and accurate.

This high press combined with crisp passing meant we played the game a lot higher up-field against Barcelona than at any time since Larsson, Thompson and Sutton were doing their stuff.  The performance ended in defeat, so it will not be remembered as fondly as the game in 2012, but our ability to hold the ball, pass and move, was superior.

A few things to ponder:

Whatever was ‘wrong’ with Craig Gordon was fixed after the arrival of some competition.  His save from Suarez was exceptional – even better on TV replay than it looked at the game.

Jozo Simunovic and Erik Sviatchenko were unlocked by Messi once, but that aside, they didn’t miss a beat, and were always comfortable in possession.  The van Dijk-Denayer partnership has been the high water mark in modern times by which other Celtic central defensive pairings have been judged.  You’d be harsh to argue Jozo and Erik are performing below that level.

Honourable mention for Mikael Lustig too.  Neymar annoyed me with his approach to sportsmanship three years ago.  His behaviour last night, when he should have been red carded for two off-the-ball incidents, discredited his team.  It was no surprise he was substituted within minutes of the second incident.

Scott Brown bossed central midfield for parts of the game.  Stuart Armstrong’s dad probably didn’t know he had that level of performance in him.  He’s unrecognisable from the player who couldn’t get near the team last season.

In common with all of our advanced players, Tom Rogic’s opportunities to shine were fewer than our defensive players, but Barcelona pressed him more than any other Celtic player, and he came away with the ball more often than I expected.

Of the 14 Celtic players used last night, we got 45 minutes from Scott Sinclair and 90 from Moussa Dembele, neither of whom were material to our performance.  The rest were all at the club under Ronny Deila.  The transformation in Celtic, with largely the same players, is astonishing.  Store this experience away for the next time we’re underperforming and need to plan a recovery.

Kieran Tierney, Kolo Toure, Leigh Griffiths, Bir Bitton and Patrick Roberts could have easily made the starting line-up without any perceivable drop in standards.  There’s an unaccustomed depth to Celtic’s squad.

Lots going on right now with a Cup Final to look forward hard on the heels of a Champions League game but we’ll pick up on some strategic stuff tomorrow.  Also keen to get my hands on the calculated leaking of part of a store rental deal without the corresponding information.  If you attempt to drive a club into the sea, it’s financial options will leave it exposed to harsh terms.

This torchlight display on 67 minutes phenomenon is a special.  Respectful, understated and classy.  Well done.


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  1. DESSYBHOY on 24TH NOVEMBER 2016 2:48 PM





    And bent referees would have to look elsewhere to influence the outcome


    One of the layers of corruption I referred to.

  2. I had a couple of friends visiting and at the game last night, French and Belgian. Well versed on Barca, limited knowledge of Celtic. Limited to Moussa Dembele, Brendan Rodgers and Kolo Toure, really.


    For no reason other than I’m having a cup of coffee here are their thoughts.



    Celtic Park awesome, atmosphere great, both recognised that it need a Celtic goal to really take off.


    1st half Celtic seemed in no real danger when Barca came down their right, our left as the full back (Izzy) and midfielder (Sinclair) knew where each other were and where they should be and central midfield covered too (Armstrong). Danger seemed apparent every attack down the right as Neymar was one on one with tall guy (Lustig). No apparent shape and cover like the left did automatically.


    Dembele outnumbered and ineffective. Armstrong most fluent footballer in the team. Overall Celtic a better standard than they’d expected but missing quality. McGregor failing to take the ball in his stride in the first half from a Moussa pass with a fluid move forward and then delaying and getting weak shot in when he’d intercepted early in the 2nd were poor biggest opportunities wasted.


    2nd half Forrest looked a threat but previous teamwork gone and never really looked like getting back into it. Favourite moment was Gordon’s save (from a Celtic point of view) and overall just seeing Messi in the flesh ghost around and weave a bit of magic was a thrill.



    No a lot to argue about in there at all. Interesting on the criticism of the right hand side being so different to the left defensively.




  3. KITALBA on 24TH NOVEMBER 2016 2:11 PM






    The cheating still matters – a lot – to a lot of us.






    Indeed it does my friend……..indeed it does

  4. Still reading back from last night and this morning, sitting here in Heathrow waiting on flight to Vegas and thinking is big peat no just a Sandra dee:-))

  5. GlassTwoThirdsFull on

    Not sure I’d agree with the “same players” point, Paul.


    Stokes gone.


    Mulgrew gone.


    Johansen gone.


    Commons out of the picture.


    Don’t think that’s hindering us any.

  6. IMO the ‘Game of Football’ is not corrupt per se – however it’s governance and rules are systematically open to various forms of manipulation (and this encourages specific corruption).


    The 11 v 11 Game Rules should invoke consistent fair play throughout the Football World – interpretation (by referees/coaches/players) has always sought to bend/ test them until a loophole is closed. It’s the nature of the game on the park.


    FFP is the antithesis of the ‘spirit of the game’ – it’s an inadequate form of governance (legislation) at every level of the game. Weighted in favour of the Moneyed and encouraged by every financial sucking marketing ploy (Betting/PayTV etc) at the expense of the fan!


    Association Rules (at every level) are; archaic, ambiguous and too often exempt from the day-to-day legislation that the ordinary fan is subject to – Law Courts, the Taxman, Human Rights etc etc. Full Transparency is a pipedream – there will always be unscrupulous ‘weasels’ looking to benefit to the detriment of the majority.


    The actual game on the park will continue albeit sanitized by technology – sadly the ‘money’ in the game will always encourage corruption at every level.


    These days it’s getting hard to remember when the game was just an innocent kick-about or cheering on your Team!

  7. Dissapointed in the outcome last night. The first half we showed our metal but I would have liked us to be a bit more physical than we were, especially when they started their nonsense. The ref was giving us nothing either, but a few good shoulder charges would have straightened them out. Lustig should have put Neymar in the fifth row. Never a penalty either, cheating Suarez at his best. You would never see Iniesta pulling the crap Barca did last night.



    Armstrong is looking quite a player and has the engine as well. Broonie ran everywhere. Good things to look forward to for the future






  8. Honourable mention for Mikael Lustig too. Neymar annoyed me with his approach to sportsmanship three years ago. His behaviour last night, when he should have been red carded for two off-the-ball incidents



    *saw him do the same thing during the Olympics in the summer, he was captain tae and their main act of contrition for the previous WC humiliation.

  9. mike in toronto on

    Beatbhoy…. I would say ‘publish and be damned’ but I’m not sure quoting the Duke of Wellington would win me too many friends on CQN! or maybe it would :)

  10. beatbhoy on 24th November 2016 2:58 pm






    Ha! You’ve learned!



    Reduced to small case now.



    So much b*tter.






    Ha, of course – small case Chewin The Fat swearies are legit. ;))

  11. VFR



    I’ve no agenda, I tried to support the initiative by formulating as clear and concise a question as I could, given the subject matter.



    On a way forward, as you’ve less questions on this week’s topics, maybe I could ask one relevant to this weekend’s match.



    “Will Celtic challenge any attempt to portray any other present member of the SPFL as holding the record for most league cups won since the tournament’s inception in 1947 by sponsors, organisers or mainstream media?”



    Relying on you due to email problem persisting, but totally at your discretion, and no hard feelings.

  12. That Barca resorted to deception and sleekitness last night was a reflection on how well Celtic competed.



    They HAD to play to beat us this time; we gave them no helping hand in our demise.



    My only gripe was McGregor starting, when Forrest’s pace looked like causing them real problems and/or Paddy Robert’s feet had them sweating; fire with fire when we’re up against such quality – give them something to think about when we’ve got the ball.

  13. mike in toronto on

    George Carlin had a very funny skit about the ‘7 words you cant say on TV…’ any of you budding comedians want to give ‘7 words you cant say on CQN’ a go?

  14. i'vehadtochangemyname on

    well done celtic, the improvement since gibraltar is incredible – the understanding of the game under br is excellent – gotta keep funding br so gets a whiff of 10iar

  15. i'vehadtochangemyname on

    carlin’s a legend mit -love his ‘the country’s goin down the toobs – toobs, I don’t see no toobs’ act

  16. NATNOW ( from yesterday)


    Any news on your wee dugs injury ?




    ANYBODY, Any news on Scott Sinclair’s injury ?


    Ditto, any news on Griff’s injury ?



  17. thought we played really well last night against a team worth a few hundred million.


    looks like i am in the minority here.

  18. mit


    have the album 7 words you cant say on tv.flip side i was a irish catholic.


    great record.

  19. Is the game rigged?



    The guy behind me believed that proof of this was in the length of time the ref (I use that term loosely) allowed Barca to make subs.



    Barca last night left a taste so bitter that you may want Madrid to win the El Classico while actually wanting both teams to lose. Heavily.

  20. Tim H- i am with you, don’t read back post match on here, some delusional stuff mate…. we have progressed remarkably in 4-5 months, another couple of Transfer Windows and we will be able to compete in Europe.HH

  21. I too thought we played well last night. Normally, I get into a panic when we start passing the ball backwards or across the 18 yard line but we seemed so calm against Barcelona, that I relaxed (well, to a degree).



    We played as well as we could. The improvement even since the beginning of the season is plain to see. The team have confidence in themselves and one another. Here’s hoping our injured are ready for Sunday.

  22. Awe_Naw_No_Annoni_Oan_Anaw_Noo on

    AULDHEID on 24TH NOVEMBER 2016 1:55 PM



    Then number one would have been proven even before res 12 was first presented without any shadow of a doubt.



    So it is number two, a situation our club cannot contemplate confirming no matter how diplomatic you are about it




  23. Beatbhoy/italiabhoy


    Re Leicester.


    Can see your point, first time novices in CL being seeded, but could it not be argued they are there based on integrity as champions in the CL?







    I agree to a point, I reckon that Barca decided to break up the game at 2 nil with an eye on the weekend but that they had to do that shows that they didn’t fancy a frantic last 20 mins and believed that we could give them that.



    I reckon we were dead on our feet by then though after a highly impressive modern disciplined performance which saw us give our all.

  25. Since 1995, that’ll be 22 year ago come the end of the season only 1 club outwith the ‘big” 4 countries have won the big Cup and that was lying cheating porto.



    Once brexit kicks in that may be reduced tae 3 countries and then we’ll see change as the FA/Sky challenges the format.



    We have not been a major European side in over 40 years, last time we did I had brown hair and 2 weans at primary, said weans are now adults with 2 grandweans at Uni, 2 at high school and 2 in primary.



    We have had some games of note including Real and Sporting but alas too many where we’ve been shown up tae be a provincial side from a wee country and please let’s not talk about Seville it like Milan 1970 was just another good day oot where we lost. We did get pumped oot in the qualifiers that season also which allowed us tae fall intae the “diddy cup”.



    Tonight I’ll watch manure/feyenoord, 2 former winners, in the Europa, both chelski and liverpool didnae even make it this season, while villa and forest now play in the Championship and england’s 1st European trophy winners (ECWC) got knocked out on Tuesday night.



    I don’t want to go back further but at one time it was a competitive tourney with dutch, yugoslav and french clubs winning it. It’s now a farce and the best we can hope for right now is the group stages complete with the big bucks and hopefully parachuting intae the Europa which I firmly believe we can win eventually. Then we’ll see what post brexit brings.



    Also last night’s elimination may have put tae rest any chance of Gerard coming tae us, so all is not lost. Irenic that he announced his retirement the day.



    I also feel that we won’t see much of Kolo either, he was signed for his experience and yet played in the Nou camp and his errors may have cost us a place in the Europa.

  26. MIT ..



    Kant …or can,t ?


    Just gone for a Neymar,wink wink


    My two times two skin is now very Suarez,and I made a Messi in ma sock…


    I will go blind I know…but practice makes perfect…


    Vixen is the new badger …and I am glad Beavers have been protected…



    Smiley thing






    These are testis times…

  27. Think Manchester might be lively tonight, Feyenoord fans gathering in a square smoke bombs going off drink being taken

  28. Saint Stivs says SACK THE BOARD on

    stoopidy question of today –



    for 22 years PWC published a “Scottish Football Finances” report. I often read it , and the positive spin they put on all things Rangers just had me astounded of forehead




    a snippet from 2011 –



    “for the first time in x years rangers enjoyed a higher turnover than celtic , with the ibrox loyal fanbase outstripping their rivals across the city ”



    “rangers advanced to the europa leage after having a 3rd place finish in the chanpions league”



    I cant see another report since 2013 ,



    anyone got recent versions ?



    did something happen that stopped them publishing ?

  29. DESSYBHOY on 24TH NOVEMBER 2016 5:04 PM


    Think Manchester might be lively tonight, Feyenoord fans gathering in a square smoke bombs going off drink being taken





    *both them and deidco have a wee man that fell aff a horse in common.

  30. Tontine Tim



    Really I didn’t know that, I thought Feyenoord liked Celtic with the European Cup Final of 70 and recently Wim and PVH, you live and learn.

  31. An Tearmann



    I was just showing how absurd the level of rigging would have to be for the CL, with all its faults, to match what we’ve to put up with regarding Sevco.



    Including this Sunday, no doubt.