A game which was marked by unaccustomed misplaced passing by Celtic was lost due to two even more unaccustomed miscalculations by Kolo Toure. Celtic had the majority of the ball but only crafted one gilt-edged chance. Glabach won the majority of the 50-50 challenges, and the second balls, but were not as productive with the ball as Barcelona or Manchester City in Celtic’s earlier group games.
Within the opening five minutes it was evident Celtic were not playing with the confident abandon they did three weeks ago against Manchester City. We were reluctant to press the fullbacks forward in the first quarter of the game, even in possession there was often a back four line.
Gladbach are a counter-attacking team and would have hoped to draw Celtic forward. It occurred to me that, perhaps as a consequence, Brendan was reluctant to get caught too far up field. The upshot of this was that when Gladbach did get forward (which happened often), Celtic defended well. The downside was that our shape when passing out of defence was all wrong.
We didn’t pass well. It looked like players were not making the correct angles early enough. Scott Brown was caught out a couple of times early on and it took him a while to get into his stride thereafter, but Nir Bitton’s night started indifferently, then went south. His first touch, passing and movement were well below standards achieved on match day two. From as early as 30 minutes I was pondering if replacing Nir with Callum McGregor was the right move. Callum hadn’t played in a month, but when he did come on in the 63rd minute, the hesitancy in midfield evaporated (though not until he got one bad pass out of his system).
With central midfield not getting much joy in the first half, Rogic, Forrest and Sinclair saw little of the ball. Moussa Dembele saw even less.
The best chance of the opening period was created with a sublime pass from Tom Rogic in the 45th minute. His diagonal pass from deep into the box split the defence open. Scott Sinclair met it first time, but sent it over. I had a great view from behind Scott. The obvious shot was low to the far post, but the angle was tight and the keeper would probably have blocked.
Trying to finish high into the net was the right decision, if poorly executed.
At halftime the plan looked to be the right one. Gladbach were as comfortable on the ball, as we expected, but we were tight and the back, and could hope to open them with pace and (better) accuracy. Celtic enjoyed their best period in the opening 12 minutes of the second half. Then the game changed.
So many Champions League games are decided by mistakes. If you look back over the home games we’ve won in this competition, we’ve rigorously stuck to task at the back and exploited mistakes in the opposition box. Kolo made a couple of wrong decisions and was punished. The first changed the direction of the game; Celtic’s momentum stopped.
Them’s the breaks. We lost a game without landing a glove on Borussia in earnest, but it MAY have been different if Kolo had cleared that ball up-field on the 57th minute. For Celtic at this level, winning points is all about fine margins. As Brendan said, we’ve no complaints, but there was a point, and maybe more, there to be won. We’ve certainly beaten better teams than Gladbach.
Shout out for Erik Sviatchenko, who had his best game in a Celtic shirt. And for the Gladbach fans, who came with a plan to dominate the Celtic Park atmosphere and didn’t drop the ball.
Andy Lynch’s autobiography, Hoops, Stars & Stripes, is arriving here this afternoon and the man himself will be signing copies imminently. If you have pre-ordered, your book will be with you soon. This is a deep, reflective and revealing insight from a prominent Celtic player under Jock Stein and Billy McNeill:
“[Rangers’ Colin] Stein made a beeline for me. With his teeth clenched and both fists held up to my face in defiance, he came right up to me to celebrate. In a moment of madness, I spat at him. Stein’s celebrations instantly ended, he edged backwards and stood on the sodden Hampden turf looking absolutely horrified. We were both speechless and I instantly regretted what I had done but no-one else had witnessed it.”
Our competition to win TWO TICKETS to Sunday’s semi-final, courtesy of Intelligent Car Leasing, ends at 14:00 today! Thanks to everyone who took the time to donate here to the Celtic Foundation while entering. It is enormously appreciated. To enter, email firstname.lastname@example.org with the correct spelling of Monchengladbach (or close enough). Make sure I can contact you later!!