Celtic held the ball for around 60 seconds at the 75 minute mark last night, and, thinking a corner had been turned, I thought “That’s been a difficult half hour since halftime but we’ve come through it”. Dinamo Zagreb soon claimed back control in the middle of the park and the game reverted to form.
Despite incessant pressure, in particular during the three minutes added at the end, I was never convinced Dinamo were going to score. The defence, for the most part, stuck to task, tackled well and put bodies in the way. In this respect it was our classic Champions League performance.
Even when the visitors got sight of goal, Craig Gordon was always the most imposing personality on the field. Our captain looked uncharacteristically meek on the receiving end of a rollicking from Craig. We like goalkeepers with authority.
Virgil van Dijk held the line very well, despite a couple of uncomfortable moments when called on to play the ball with his ‘standing’ foot, while Jason Denayer and Efe Ambrose coped with the incessant pressure. Efe played much of the game high up the field, very much in the wing-back role, but was able to track back with speed.
Emilio also stuck to task but he conceded a needless free-kick in exactly the same manner and field-position he lapsed against Salzburg, who equalised from the resultant kick. Denayer also lunged in needlessly a yard outside his box, collecting a yellow card for his trouble. Both occasions called for the defender to stay goal-side and not challenge.
Football teams are made by partnerships, as Anthony Stokes suggested after explaining the understanding he has with Kris Commons which allowed them to craft last night’s goal. Right now we don’t have many partnerships. Wakaso and Emilio were 10 yards apart for much of the game, but to no great effect. Tonev and Ambrose were similarly disconnected on the right.
Not much could have been done to improve this for last night. Neither Tonev nor Ambrose will retain their positions on the right after a pairing from McGregor, Forrest, Matthews and Lustig return. Wakaso and Emilio need to target becoming a more effective pair on the left.
We knew that without the ineligible Guidetti and the (as yet unproven and) injured Scepovic we would struggle up front, but our creative fulcrum was on hand to both create and finish the decisive opening of the game.
Despite the concerns Ronny expressed after full time, this was our second excellent result in the Europa League this season against two decent teams. The progress since the summer is evident.
Many thanks to everyone who participated in our Magners competition for premium tickets to the Hamilton Accies game on Sunday. The competition is now closed and draw will be made shortly and winners will be notified by email, so watch out for it.
I had a great time track-side with my youngest last night before kick-off talking about the great work the Celtic Foundation (which is you and me) do fighting poverty and hardship, and our responsibility in making sure the ethos of the club is maintained and handed on. On Sunday I’m doing the Great Scottish Run to raise funds for the Foundation, so I’m pretending not to have the sore throat, head and cough. Need a magic potion….
Thank you to everyone who has helped with the fundraising, you can get involved here.