Celtic got what they deserved at Rugby Park yesterday. An inspired early goal by Ryan Christie limited the damage to two dropped points but that aside, Kilmarnock coped easily with everything Celtic could muster. After being caught out by Christie, Danny Rogers in the Killie goal did not have a save to make for the rest of the game. Who would have thought?
Post-match, Neil Lennon referred to Christopher Jullien’s slow start to last season. After a poor performance at Fir Park he was dropped for the infamous defeat to Cluj at Celtic Park. Chris got better then and he will do so again, but he lost Nicke Kabamba in dangerous positions three times in the first half.
He does not have problems with big stirkers, as was alleged on TV commentary; the significance of that goal by Lyndon Dykes at Livingston could not be more overstated. But he is a big lad who clearly needs a better preseason.
Crossing was poor, control cumbersome and the physical battle was often too much. The lack of physicality is a concern; we are small and light in several areas. One of the hottest strikers in Europe spent much of the game a spectator, despite our most valued creatives playing. It really was a team dropping points together.
The manager changed the shape of the team on 65 minutes but to no effect. Olivier Ntcham had the last 10 minutes but by then Killie were settled and Celtic, increasingly desperate. You know me and Olivier, I would have introduced him earlier. Or, had him on from the start.
Neil has dropped points at Rugby Park before and he knows how to build a response. No one was “thrown under the bus”, as he said later. Until then, we have to live like others, not at the top of the table, for a change.
We are going to face a lot of packed defences this season and play on a few plastic pitches. There can be no complaints, let’s just get better at overcoming both.
Given a choice of winning yesterday, or facing two away draws in Champions League qualification, I would take the draw with Killie and home times against Reykjavik, then either Ferencvaros or Djurdargens, the prospect we face after different types of draws yesterday and today.
Home ties until we are well into our season is a huge bonus. There is still work to do, but the prospect of a Lincoln Red Imps rerun is receding. Wish we could attend these games.
Sweden is Europe’s Covid herd immunity test case and the test has not gone well. It remains to be seen what travel restrictions visitors from Sweden are in place when the second round takes place on 15 and 26 August.