Despite the many portents of doom, Celtic were the better team last night against Midtjylland. When the defence needed a leader, Stephen Welsh rose to the occasion, putting in his best performance in senior football. Honestly, I did not think he had a performance like that in him. The free kick he conceded was harsh.
Midtjylland are not as good as the Copenhagen team we lose meekly to in February 2020 but they left Glasgow with a draw, courtesy of two hangovers from last season: a lack of cutting edge in attack and a keeper error. It does not matter how much better you are at most things in football, the game is all about putting the ball in the net and stopping opponents from scoring, aspects that will give Midtjylland hope.
Last season, a friend noted Vasilis Barkas looked like an outfield player stuck in goals. The keeper’s hands were right below the free kick, taken from what looked like an unlikely tight angle, but Barkas arms did not instinctively extend to make what would have been a functionary block. That’s what you or I would look like. Ange learned what you and I already knew about our keeper.
Players running down their contracts can go a couple of ways; Ryan Christie decided to leave everything on the park. He was Celtic’s fulcrum, one we will miss, for sure. Fortunately, Liel Abada looked every inch the replacement on his competitive debut, marked with a goal before he was hooked to make way for a defender when fellow Israeli, Nir Bitton, was red carded.
I like Bitton, he has the ability to take the ball out of defence, but he is not a defender. On the back of last night’s evidence, he is not much of a thinker either. It is not often we see Instant Karma but Midtjylland’s Dreyer received two yellows for simulation, the first leading to Bitton’s moment of madness. His self-satisfied smirk deserved nothing less. “Gonna knock you off your feet”, indeed
You and I have seen Celtic lose to lesser teams too often, there remains a lot of work to do next week.