The most frustrating thing about last night’s meek exist from the Europa League is just how self-inflicted it was. After previous European defeats I criticised Brendan Rodgers tactics, but no tactics in the world will help a team which cannot defend a corner kick or stop a shot from 24 yards into the middle of the goal.
I saw the Hamilton Accies keeper recently concede a similar goal to the second Dorus de Vries failed to keep out of the net last night. At any level of the game, it was an unforgiveable error. For years Celtic were imperious at defending corner kicks. Now, also for years, it has been a persistent weakness.
Celtic have been far too weak at the back this season – not just in Europe. After the game Brendan suggested we lacked the experience necessary to play in such environments – certainly one of our issues. Hopefully the addition of Marvin Compper will bring sufficient authority to allow our youthful defenders to progress.
By contrast, Zenit were a study in the art of defence, even at home against a team from Scotland. We were unable to land a glove on them until the contest was effectively over. Substitutes Tom Rogic and Scott Sinclair both made things happen, but it is difficult to isolate their effect from Zenit’s own tiredness.
This was a European tie which got away. Sure, Zenit are better resourced than us, but on the showing over both legs, I’m not convinced they are significantly better than Anderlecht – who played us off Celtic Park but had their own troubles when we visited Belgium in September.
Lots of excuses, Celtic, but we really should have done better.