A game most of us expected to lose without fuss instead turned out to be a frustrating look into what could have been. Again, we lost four goals in Europe, as we did on three occasions in our Europa League group last season. Again, we allowed a two-goal lead to slip away. Despite the superficial similarities to last season, there are reasons to believe we are on a different trajectory.
Celtic bossed Real Betis for the first 30 minutes; the home side could barely hold possession in the final third. At 0-2, the game could have slipped away from them, but a couple of breaks of the ball 18 yards from the Celtic goal was enough to bring them back into contention and transform the night. Celtic were too fragile to assert telling authority.
Tom Rogic was head and shoulders above everyone else on the field. On nights like that, you wonder what he is doing in Scottish football.
After an uninspiring start against Ross County on Saturday, Jota showed us what all the fuss is about. Forced to play on the right, his deliveries were a delight. His chance to put Celtic three up may, or may not, have changed the outcome of the game; if you can lose four so readily, there are no guarantees. The winger pulled up with cramp on Saturday and was visibly waning after 75 minutes last night, when his touch and composure deserted him, but we have a player straight from the ‘Bums on seats’ drawer.
Albian Ajeti’s movement inside the box set the game alight. He got onto the end of Jota’s cross to score the opener, then tempted Claudio Bravo in the Betis goal into a challenge before nipping the ball away from the keeper. Would Eduard have made either run? Not recently, that’s for sure. The penalty was of the stonewall variety.
After the game, when asked why we keep losing so many goals in Europe, I protested. The central defenders only met last week, the left back has never played there before this month, and the right and left side pairings were completely new partnerships, “This is different”, I insisted. Time will tell.
I have watched a lot of Celtic teams lose in Spain but do not recall going there with such an attacking strategy. I suspect it would never occur to Ange Postecoglou to play any differently.
The game had the look of one of those all-star games we used to see in the 80s, “England v The Rest of the World”, type affairs. Plenty of talent and lots of goals, as no one really knew each other or what the structure was. Both Celtic and Betis will improve. Going on my expectations before the game, there were reasons to be encouraged, despite all the goals against!
BT will be interested to hear that Uefa permit member clubs to veto broadcaster staff assigned to cover games. I doubt it. BT subscribers were denied the channels’s top team when Newco refused to allow Neil Lennon and Chris Sutton entrance to Ibrox on security grounds. Where else outside of the Gangster Clubs will you see behaviour like this? It is like a club being run by children.