ANGE POSTECOGLOU has accepted the blame for Celtic’s end-of-season form nosedive with Hibs adding to the misery with a 4-2 win in Edinburgh last night.
The Hoops have now failed to win in three matches since sealing the second successive title in the 2-0 victory over Hearts at Tynecastle on May 7.
They have lost at Ibrox and Easter Road and drawn with St Mirren at Parkhead, dropping eight points out of a possible nine and shipping nine goals in the process.
It took the champions eleven matches and three months to concede nine league goals to the opposition at the start of the campaign – and that includes the 4-3 triumph at Hearts when VAR raised its ugly head for the first time in October.
ALONE WITH HIS THOUGHTS…Celtic boss Ange Postecoglou watches as events unfold at Easter Road.
Postecoglou has attempted to give fringe players some much-needed game time with the Scottish Cup Final looming against Inverness Caley Thistle at Hampden a week on Saturday when the manager and his players have the ideal opportunity to bring down the curtain on a memorable crusade by claiming the domestic treble.
It will be only Celtic’s eighth time in history they have achieved such a silverware feat.
So far, though, the ploy of shaking up his starting eleven has backfired with the team suffering dire results in fairly awful displays which have made them look like pale shadows of the side that came storming out the blocks back in July.
Their case wasn’t helped by a foolish red card for Daizen Maeda, a first-half substitute for the injured Sead Haksabanovic, when the visitors were leading 2-1 through a penalty-kick from Reo Hatate and a swift strike from Oh Hyeon-gyu.
The Japanese winger was banished after picking up two unnecessary yellow cards and it just wasn’t the Hoops’ night when comeback keeper Scott Bain, making his first appearance of the season, had a howler to allow the hosts to take a 3-2 lead.
Maeda’s red card proved to be a huge and decisive turning point in the contest.
SEEING RED…Daizen Maeda heads for the tunnel after being dismissed by referee Kevin Clancy.
Postecoglou said: “I thought up until the sending-off, we were in a good position and looking to finish strong.
“The red card comes and it is sort of chaos from then on. Cancelled reds, penalties, mistakes, it just seemed the game got really out of control in that last 20 or 25 minutes. That sort of hurt us in terms of the outcome.
“Everyone is making assessments on what is happening right now. That’s fine. Most of that is on me, to be honest. I am the one making five or six line-up changes every week.
“That’s hurting the side and there’s no doubt about that, but I’m doing it for a reason and that has affected our level of performance. That’s the decisions I’ve made.
“In the last three weeks, they haven’t been to be benefit of the team. We still have a big game to play in the Cup Final and then we will come back stronger again.”
CELEBRATIONS…Celtic players congratulate Reo Hatate after his penalty-kick gave the champions an interval advantage.
COMMISERATIONS…the Celtic players look crestfallen at the end of the 4-2 loss.
Postecoglou refused to point the finger at the dismissed Maeda whose sending off was a huge turning point in the contest.
The Hoops boss, speaking to the Daily Record, said: “I would never criticise him, the effort he puts in is just outstanding. He doesn’t go down as easily as others.
“That’s a credit to him. He’ll learn from that. He’s a strong lad who stays on his feet when he gets punished.”
Postecoglou, meanwhile, admits he’s not surprised at interest in assistant John Kennedy.
There are reports linking his right-hand man with the managerial vacancy at Haerts and the Greek-Australian gaffer added: “When the time is right he’ll make an outstanding manager.”