It’s probably easier to start with what went right last night, than what went wrong. Efe Ambrose was the epitome of composure, trying to retain possession whenever possible, his transformation since Juventus has been remarkable. van Dijk, Lustig and Izaguirre each did well. Fraser Forster had a few saves to make, but this was one Champions League game he didn’t need to pull off a wonder-save. He was totally exposed for the goal but otherwise Ajax didn’t really stress the Celtic goalkeeper, a clue, perhaps, to the solid performance of those immediately in front of him.
Our top two Champions League performers, Georgios Samaras and Kris Commons, both put in their least effective game at this level. Samaras’ normally-reliable touch and ability to hold the ball deserted him, while Kris looked like a guy returning from injury. Slowly.
The minutia of these games are analysed by each team and after last month’s game, Frank de Boer clearly identified that Georgios was the major cog in Celtic’s machine. The striker was triangulated by opponents each time the ball came near him.
Neil Lennon was left with few choices in the middle of the park. Mulgrew and Kayal would not have been his first choice partnership, given a free hand, but the only practical change there would have been to introduce Joe Ledley. It’s far from clear what difference this would have made.
Celtic persisted in playing down the left long after it was evident this strategy was unproductive. Late in the first half one wag text me to say, “Time to bring Forrest on”, which told the whole story. Anthony Stokes was adrift, largely unconnected to the ankle clipping going on behind him. In short, our play was predictable and correctly predicted by do Boer. We didn’t have a Plan B, which even the best of teams need to avoid defeat occasionally in the Champions League.
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