I think we all have a desire to be generous to Craig for a couple of reasons: as Ronny said, without him, we would not have gotten through the group stage, and we are due him some support after he spoiled his copy in the first leg. He returned to form last night, made several fine saves, but we would expect him to make all of them.
He also contributed a truly exceptional save from an offside attempt.
Adam Matthews and Emilio Izaguirre
Neither full back was as productive in the final third as they were a week ago, but that would have been a consequence of a different game plan, and the numerical disadvantage. There is a tendency to criticise our full backs, especially Izzie, for bombing forward and leaving gaps at the back, but this is their role in the team. It’s up to someone else to provide cover. We’re as strong at full back as I’ve known us.
Virgil van Dijk, Jason Denayer and Efe Ambrose
For two want-away players, this tie was a big stage. Virgil didn’t give a good account of himself. The first booking last night was incorrect. He stopped the player but played the ball and his challenge was never dangerous. Scouts watching his second yellow will have recorded that he made a very bad decision which ultimately cost his team. The referee had a nightmare, but the second yellow was a correct decision.
Jason and Efe played well. There was one moment Efe failed to follow a player in the box but Craig Gordon saved. Jason was comfortable throughout. If he wants a morality tale on what could happen if he returns to Manchester City, he should look no further than his team-mate up front.
The scouts who were there to watch Virgil would have left with a notebook full of comments about Nir Bitton. At Murrayfield against Legia, Nir was part of a midfield which included Mulgrew, McGregor and Johansen. It was an abject team performance and the Israeli bore much of the brunt of criticism.
Here’s the thing: I’m beginning to think he’s our best player. He could have played in any of the Champions League games I’ve watched this week, Sign him up, Peter.
Scott Brown, Stuart Armstrong, Stefan Johansen
A major reason last season’s European campaign was such a write-off was the absence of Scott Brown following his rush-of-blood red card and three game suspension. We need players with the ability and engine of Scott and Stefan, both must be a nightmare to play against.
Stuart Armstrong looks like he has been playing in this Celtic team for years. He’s fitted in very well and already looks like an automatic choice. Wait to see what he’s like after 6 months.
I couldn’t believe the innate criticism of Ronny after the game on BT Sport for subbing Gary, who was our best player until that point, after the red card. When you are early in the game, away from home in the San Siro, it is a perfectly acceptable tactic to sacrifice a wide player (Gary was our only out-and-out wide player) for a defender or covering midfielder.
We didn’t win the game, but anyone who asserts that we would have won the game by leaving a wide player on in place of a covering midfielder or defender, is stretching credulity. The tactics chosen kept the game alive until the 88th minute, albeit the break required didn’t materialise.
When he was on the field, Gary won the ball in a central position, ripped 60 yards through Inter, before finding a team-mate. He looked to be revelling in the space and opportunity given to him.
John Guidetti, James Forrest, Chris Commons
This was a hard shift for all three. John could have had a penalty but thereafter found himself on his bum too often. He is a player who has not progressed as hoped under Ronny, yet, and has a lot of work to do between now and the end of the season.
James has not returned to his blistering performances from a couple of years ago, when he was clearly our M.V.P. As his limbs mature his speed and injury record could go either way. He’ll be with us for another few years, so Celtic have time to build resilience into those leg muscles and nerves.
Kris came on with 13 minutes left and used his unerring goal-sonar to squeeze an attempt out of the meagre provisions he had. He also appears to have updated the referee on what an incompetent clown he is at the end of the game.
This was the first of seven European away games we failed to score in this season, but the reasons we’re out of Europe all lie in what happened last week. You cannot make goalkeeping and defensive mistakes like that and remain in Europe, nor can you pass up so many clear-cut chances.
Don’t know where to start on the flare last night. I fear the next decision from Uefa will be more than a fine.
Thanks to everyone who donated to our Mary’s Meals school kitchen appeal yesterday while entering the ticket competition. The winner was informed by email a few moments ago, so check your inbox.
If you need tickets for the CQN St Patrick’s Dinner, with a Q&A with Packy Bonner, Joe Miller, Tommy Coyne and Tom Boyd, Archie Macpherson speaking about Jock Stein, and music from Patricia Ferns, let me know, firstname.lastname@example.org