Celtic passed the ball well throughout last night’s game. The players were confident enough to take a touch under pressure, which was key to the performance and a step beyond the more rudimentary show in the Camp Nou last season. In this respect, it was a better performance than the win in Moscow, and was an improvement on even the home game against Milan in 2004.
Countless screeds were written about Efe Ambrose after his mistake against Juventus, which seemed to affect the rest of his season, but the Nigerian international looked every inch a Champions League player. His composure and driving runs were crucial in determining Celtic’s effectiveness.
All played well but if we are going to push for highlights the right flank was exceptional. How proud of Adam Matthews were you after his full-speed dribble through the Milan half? At Euro 2012 I remember some respected observers wrote that Mikael Lustig was the weakest link in the Sweden team. If the Spanish international manager watched last night’s performance he would surely lobby for the introduction of national team transfers.
These two were scouted and brought to the club for a combined total of around £1m. Since arriving they have both grown into players who can excel at the San Siro. The clues of what is happening at Celtic are not hard to find.
Charlie Mulgrew has to endure the mantle of ‘utility player’ and in the absence of Joe Ledley and Beram Kayal partnered Scott Brown in central midfield, his fourth best position. Not that there was any sign of this. Brown and Mulgrew’s intelligent movement made possible all that passing and control.
Despite the great performance Milan came away with the points and a great chance to progress. They gave Stokes, Samaras and Commons little opportunity all night. The chances which Samaras, Stokes and Brown had were ultimately all defended well. Stokes free kick which rebounded off the crossbar would have changed the result but it was far from an easy chance.
Going forward we would do well to remember the importance of winning free kicks around the edge of the box. Teemu Pukki looked to have lost possession but used his strength well to win the infringement which resulted in Stokes free kick. Mario Balotelli needed little encouragement to tumble all night and he did so effectively five minutes from time.
Make sure we win free kicks 24 yards out and don’t concede them.
An away defeat against the second seed in the first game is probably a better result than the 0-0 home draw we achieved against Benfica last season, but Milan have an important 3 points in the bag in what looks like an interesting fight for second place.
Celtic are the team who can most improve their chances of qualification on match day 2. Another win against Barcelona at Celtic Park would give us an excellent chance of progressing but the journey up from pot 4 is incredibly difficult.
Is it a worry that we conceded late goals after the players were showing signs of lethargy? Lethargy is a well-documented part of the game, one which is often crucial in determining success in Champions League football and which we can learn to exploit.
1254125 at The Great Scottish Run.
On Sunday 6 October there is a 10k and Half Marathon. If that is beyond you. There are family events taking place the day before. This is your club, remind the world of what really counts and get involved in 1254125.
Once you’ve done that, you can register for the 1254125 campaign here.
Then you can create a donations page here. Click Start Fundraising, search for Celtic Charity, setup your My Donate account).
Email me and let me know if you are having trouble signing up or need any more help, email@example.com.
To read the new issue of CQN Magazine click here (don’t try to read the graphic below).
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