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.


Click Here for Comments >

About Author


  1. ACGR, Michael they'll be taking you away on

    And that includes the penalty. From my seat in the ground I couldn’t believe it last night, it looked soft. Having watched it hunners of times on replay, Izzy got done up by a clever player who got goal side and forced him to foul him in the box. It was a penalty.



    I have no issue with the decision.

  2. ACGR, Michael they'll be taking you away on

    What’s the bad news about Sinclair? Last I heard was he would be assessed tomorrow?

  3. TTT,









    Are you confusing Niall Ferguson with his with Barry? Barry has a more moderate and compassionate take on life, imo.



    Night too.

  4. Saint Stivs says SACK THE BOARD on

    the chicago architecture tour.



    did a walking version last year, was in the city 3 times in 5 months , from -18 to 82 degrees.


    amazing building, brilliant builds, great phases of history.



    highlight , chicago bulls stadium, and a factory tour, former meatpackers district in a area of the city that make drumchapel look like nirvana.



    read about o’hare, war hero pilot, son of the man who dobbed in capone,



    lowlight, visit to trump towers, wealth beyond comprehension, but ugly ugly capitalism

  5. Hopefully not Armstrong wide left as touted on some sites- prefer him through the middle. Brendan will probably stick with C McG.as Roberts and Forest wide may be considered too lightweight defensively.

  6. macjay1 for Neil Lennon on

    CLOGHER CELT on 25TH NOVEMBER 2016 12:29 AM



    Are you confusing Niall Ferguson with his with Barry? Barry has a more moderate and compassionate take on life, imo.






    We all have our preferences.


    Not too keen on Barry to be honest.




    Not a bad wee C.V. for Niall.



    Academic career[edit]


    In 1989 Ferguson worked as a Research Fellow at Christ’s College at the University of Cambridge. From 1990 to 1992 he was an Official Fellow and Lecturer at Cambridge’s Peterhouse. He then became a Fellow and Tutor in Modern History at Jesus College at the University of Oxford, where in 2000 he held the position of Professor of Political and Financial History.



    In 2002 Ferguson was the John Herzog Professor in Financial History at Stern School of Business at New York University, and since 2004 he has been the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University and William Ziegler Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School.



    From 2010 to 2011, Ferguson held the Philippe Roman Chair in History and International Affairs at the London School of Economics.[14]



    Ferguson is a Senior Research Fellow of Jesus College and a Senior Fellow of the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.



    In May 2010, Ferguson was asked by Education Secretary Michael Gove to advise on the development of a new history syllabus, to be entitled “history as a connected narrative”, for schools in England and Wales.[15][16] In June 2011, he joined other academics to set up the New College of the Humanities, a private college in London.[17]

  7. Saint Stivs says SACK THE BOARD on

    and another bigger concern



    my job as “handome hun finder general” is going out to tender.



    seems i havnt fulfillled the bare minimum role of the job



    1.0 – find a handsome hun



    my annual appraisal feedback



    “there is not one”



    seems its not good enough, and i am on a personal performance plan.



    i am off to phone beltrami



    looks like constructive dismissal to me,

  8. ACGR, Michael they'll be taking you away on

    St Stivs, you have the easiest job on the planet. If I was yer boss I’d give you a massive payoff for your sterling efforts and pamp ye oot to grass.



    No need to replace you either in such a futile job. You’ve proven that……………………:_)

  9. Celtic have been disadvantaged in Scotland for so long by the Establishment. Celtic Beat them.



    Celtic are even more disadvantaged now in Europe.



    It is early days but the signs are excellent that Celtic will continuously punch way above our perceived Scottish weight.



    I suppose if the World became One Superstate – get rid of Borders etc John Lennon jibber jabber – Yes Celtic would Dominate the Fitba World like Never before, especially with all the great initiatives that Celtic Men, Women and Children have done for others in all parts of a troubled World. Every Great would want to play for Celtic.



    No – I don’t want that One World Government where, despite Celtic doing Everything good and undoubtedbly bringing so much help to those that needed it most, no I think even Celtic would be corrupted by being the Biggest Guy on the Block – Celtic is far too precious to become the Most Dominant team in this Material World.



    Celtic will obviously Dominate Scotland but I am guessing they will help the Teams wherever they can.



    Barca done their warm up last night by just going on the pitch and hitting a couple of shots at goal, it looked to me like they were warming up like they were in School. A good thing and hey what do I know, may be a bad thing.



    There is possibly an arrogance in their team now that turns people off them. Unlike the really great team they had a few years ago with Xavi running the show.

  10. The Sheep and the Goats.



    Delighted that Poland went for the Sheep side.



    Uganda Man went earlier – they were plagued by Obvious Witchcraft – unlike the wEST



    Matthew 25:32



    It is not looking good for many Nations right now.

  11. We are Blessed.



    A few players might switch off. I’m sure Brendan will bring in 1 or 2 from the Dev squad after Christmas.



    Celtic not being in Europe AFTER Christmas will have, especially as we will have had a right good Winter Break, Every Manager going AWE NAW.

  12. Petec


    I hope you are right and Brendan introduces a few guys from the development squad to the first team.


    Regan Hendry and Calvin Miller would be a start.Nesbitt is on loan for season i think.


    Rather than loan Ajer i would also keep him and play.

  13. The Young Guys will Always show for the Ball, especially if the Manager is Believing in them.



    Sadly we had players on Wednesday that didn’t move in to space when we had the ball and attacking.



    Brendan is building a really GOOD Team, I have no doubts about that.



    I would let Patrick go back to Manchester City now that we are out of the CL/EL.



    If he wants to sign up… Then I’d break our Record signing for him in January.



    Powerful Brendan played The Celt First, He built the Celts confidence First.



    Imagine what Brendan could do with a Paddy that was a Fully Committed Celt. ;))))



    Brendan is the BOSS

  14. fan-a-tic on 25th November 2016 3:33 am






    I hope you are right and Brendan introduces a few guys from the development squad to the first team.



    Regan Hendry and Calvin Miller would be a start.Nesbitt is on loan for season i think.



    Rather than loan Ajer i would also keep him and play.






    Fingers crossed we have a lot of our own in the first team and Holding our own in that Most Corrupt and In yer face Cheating CHAMPIONS LEAGUE.

  15. Would be a shame if Paddy went back early – but Brendan does not seem to rate him. He was really only here for the Champions League and hardly got a look in. He looked brilliant last season against Hearts and Aberdeen but after injury a combination of Forrests form and some bizarre selections has meant he never really kicked on this season. The fact that Callum starts ahead of him……..

  16. EVERY CELT @ Celtic is a lot more IMPORTANT than Patrick Roberts.



    Skillful Player.



    Brendan Killed any Loan Deals wth Man CITY again Stone Dead.



    Delighted about that, especially with what we have coming Through, Hopefully.

  17. Big Peat of Islay. Lawwell's Gravy train has left the saps at the station. on

    I don’t rate Roberts as highly as others do on here. He’s at CP at the moment for a reason. I don’t doubt his skill, but there is something missing: call it vision or teamwork.



    There are less skillful but better players in the team.



    I wish him well when he goes.

  18. VFR800 is now a Monster 821 on

    Word of The Day (The AGM is here ….)



    Varletry /ˈvɑːlɪtrɪ/


    noun (archaic)


    1. the varletry, rabble; mob


    2. varlets collectively



    Origin of varletry Expand


    1600-10; varlet + -ry





  19. blantyretim is praying for the Knox family on

    Paddy is only a kid, Forrest is about 25 now and McGregor prob about 22


    Give the boy a chance

  20. Good morning friends and a Big Happy Friday from a repetitively clear skied, freezing cold, dry and frosty East KIlbride. A weekend to enjoy coming up.

  21. ACGR




    How do you get away the sort of foul bile that would see ‘certain’ other posters carded ?


    Does the value of the bottle that ye put up for a raffle, dictate the amount of tolerance that you will be shown ?


    Is CQN rigged ?


    Only asking…..

  22. blantyretim is praying for the Knox family on

    Roberts is 19


    McGregor 23


    And Forrest 26



    As I said give the young boy a chance

  23. What does McGregor bring to the team ?


    What does Brendan see in him ?


    McGregor looks like a hun….imho.


    Brendan’s ‘protection’ of McGregor reminds me of, Tommy Burns ‘protection’ of Peter Grant.


    Cronyism dizny work.


    Billy McNeill – Wullie Garner and Dom Sullivan ????


    Tommy Burns – Peter Grant and a ‘done’ Maestro ????


    Nae wunder Brendan’s fore heids getting bigger!

  24. Never mind awe this…..


    “Our aggression was good….”


    “Our pressing was good…”


    We had 3 chances and, the gk could have threw his bonnet on them.




    Park the bus !


    Boot the baw oot the park !


    Run doon the clock !


    Git Messi jumpin oot the pram squealing about anti-football !


    GIFRU Messi and all the other spoiled brats !


    Play ugly and win – wi 2 strikers in the team !


    MO’N did it in the Nou Camp when we put Barca oot !


    Play Dembele as the main striker with Paddy playing off him.


    This will leave space for James Forrest to do his Ribbery-Robben stuff and, set up chances for Dembele to miss….imho


    Would Neymar have bullied Calum Paterson in the same way that he bullied Lustig ?

  25. Positives…..


    Broony was excellent !


    Gordon’s save was excellent !


    Gordon’s excellent save was the ‘only’ save that he had to make in the game….as far as I seen.


    The Green Brigade are at a level, way, way, way beyond the CL….imho.

  26. James Forrest is 25 years and 4 months old.



    Brendan Rodgers is seeing all of these players in training AND in marches. We see only a fraction of what the manager gets to assess.



    So far, Brendan has earned the right to be trusted- only the De Vries signing can be seriously questioned (Gamboa can still be a valuable squad addition and might be needed on Hampden’s wide open spaces on Sunday to sub Mikel).



    He picks who he thinks will match up best based on form, fitness, his own team shape, pitch & weather conditions, and the opposition being faced.



    We just criticise on the basis that he did not pick our favourites but had the cheek to select his own.



    As for “the look of a hun” coming off him, I believe the same accusation was made of both Scott Brown and James Forrest a few seasons back.



    It is not a statement I want any association with. The guys who come to us from other backgrounds have to overcome bigger barriers in order to shine. Our most transforming force, Jock Stein was an ex-mason from a bigoted background.



    I don’t care if the players or managers have huge King Billy tattoos or belong to the Wee Frees, so long as they commit to Celtic and try to make our team stronger.



    The Callum McGregor selection did not come off this time. He was not the only one who failed to play near his maximum but none of them can be faulted on effort or desire- that is not why we lost.



    It’s time for this discussion to grow up.

  27. Aberdeen and the mibs will have been watching how many Cellic players went to ground looking for decisions that they should have known, they were not going to get.


    Also, the watching Aberdeen and, the mibs will have seen a Cellic team that isny tough enough….that comes from the manager…imho.


    Mr Stein – tough guy = teams didny get bullied.


    Mr McNeill – tough guy = teans didny get bullied.


    Mr Hay – tough guy = teams didny get bullied.


    Mr Jansen – tough guy = teams didny get bullied.


    Mr O’Neill – tough guy = teams didny get bullied.


    Mr Lennon – tough guy = teams didny get bullied.


    Mr Rodgers ??????????????




    I’m not saying we would have got over-run with Forrest playing but we didn’t with McGregor on. We can’t assume that Forrest would have been allowed to play as he did, if he’d been on from the start, or that we’d have been allowed to play like we did with him, had we not already been two behind.



    There’s so many factors involved but since we played well overall and limited Barca’s chances dramatically compared to the 1st game, I think it’s difficult to question BR’s decisions.