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Levein culpable for Hearts red card, keeping Toljan on his toes

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Whenever the next History of Celtic is written, yesterday’s 1-2 win at Tynecastle will hardly merit a mention, but right now, it feels like a hugely significant night.  You, me and everyone else in the country know that if Celtic can win a game like that in the 93rd minute, they are going to win the league.

A few observations:

Passing the ball along our own 6 yard line was always likely to lead to conceding a goal.  It looked like an individual error but it was actually a systemic mistake.  Notwithstanding this, we need to stick with the plan.  Opponents pack tight against Celtic, anything we can do that will tempt them forward, like passing this deep in our own box, should be done.  The answer is to get better at it.

I was worried when I saw Jeremy Toljan substituted for Mikael Lustig, the latter a player Neil Lennon signed for Celtic.  The worry is that players will suspect that Neil is favouring one of this own.  Jeremy should be back in the starting line up on Saturday.

Just as important as not having favourites, is making sure players who are only here for a few months are kept on their toes.  If Mikael can be used to get the best out of Jeremy, use him.  We have seen a few defenders arrive from the Bundesliga (Andreas, Edson, Marvin) who never convinced they gave everything they had.

When Neil Lennon’s excitement at getting the job died down, his mood must have dropped at the realisation he would have to play such an unfamiliar central mid combination.

While there was a large period of the game when we had a man advantage but still did not dominate midfield, we saw three good individual performances.  Nir Bitton was at his deep lying best, even if he gave possession away twice by shooting from ridiculous distances.  Scott Brown’s contribution for the winner was delicious.

Pass of the night came from Ewan Henderson, who took the Hearts midfield out of the game with a 40 yard slide-ruler to Scott Sinclair for the opening goal.

Five minutes before half time I predicted Hearts would get a man sent off before the break (I have witnesses).  Craig Levein bemoaned Jamie Brandon’s recklessness after the game, but it was in keeping with the rest of his teammates until that point.  Hearts figured their best chance was to batter Celtic players into hiding.  Levein should consider his part in the red card.  It was a consequence of Hearts’ tactics.

The only concern on the night came elsewhere.  Hibs won their fourth game in succession, away and with 10 men.  Saturday’s Scottish Cup quarterfinal will be an epic.

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363 Comments

  1. Big George

     

     

    If your priest doesn’t have a homily on Sunday about St Patrick casting out the snakes from God’s country then I will be hugely disappointed in him! Open goal! ?

     

     

    JJ and others…. I persionally don’t think its a binary long ball/play from the back scenario. Rather a blend of different tactics. And a spectrum of risk when playing around at the back. Last night was the culmination of a good few ‘near misses’

     

     

    Pep seems to have taken the best of Barca and the swift efficacy of German football to create the Man City style.

     

    When German international football rules the world 3-4 years ago, the stats showed they retained the ball at their feet for the shortest average vis a vis opponents.

     

     

    Control-pass-move……in an instant. Leave the opposition chasing shadows.

     

     

    Our opener last night wasn’t unlike belgium’s Winner v Japan in the World Cup. Breathtaking pace, precision and execution.

     

     

    PS JJ…. If all mobile phones were like yours, no amount of rebel singing or powder snuffing would ever become public knowledge!

     

     

    HH jg

  2. I noticed the LurkingTim thought that I had missed my alarm call for watching the game last night or 3:30 in the morning as it is known as over here.

     

    Well I actually woke up just before the alarm went off due to nature calling. I discovered that the game was actually on the telly so I didn’t need to use a dodgy sausage. Went back to bed just as the wife was getting up for work.

     

    I did think to myself during the post match wake “are these bassas on Sky being paid not to smile?” Anyhoos was surprised when Kris Commons stood up for Ronnie D after Broony’s comment about the Club being in a bad way before Judas took over. Remember when we had discussions on here about the players having chucked it under Ronnie – maybe not so far fetched after all.

  3. BR – The loss of Calmac and Christie accelerated his departure, nobody will convince me otherwise. Shat his pants and took off.

  4. Any ideas on a pub in Aberdeen to watch the Hibs game?

     

    Child friendly is the other criteria.

     

     

    Malones has been mentioned but it seems to be Egg Chasing that night.

  5. Fool Time Whistle on

    BRTH

     

     

    I really appreciated both of your “Rodgers” posts in the last 16 hours or so. They both seemed to catch what I think the call the Zeitgeist of Celtic supporters.

     

     

    The first was obviously less complimentary than the second one and I wondered was there was some element of compensation for the first in the latter: I could understand it if there was.

     

     

    Personally, my negative feelings about the circumstances of Brendan Rodgers’s departure were assuaged by the performance & especially the result last night. I can only imagine my mood had we lost or perhaps just drawn the match last night.

     

     

    I wonder if there many other fans who were so antagonistic to our ex manager this time yesterday but who are also calming down a bit because of a result & performance last night.

     

     

    The words from your first post that stuck with me were to the effect that Brendan seemed to have run away in the middle of the night. Like some disillusioned spouse who just gave up on her marriage & whose partner only knew she was gone when he came home to find the wardrobe empty & the keys on the sideboard – with no explanation. The jilted partner went out that night to escape his angry thoughts & somehow clicked immediately with the nicest woman in town, who agreed to move in right away.

     

    I think I’ve become all Mills & Boon….

     

     

    I am puzzled & confused by how the last 2/3 days have unfolded & even had a conversation with my son this morning about it. If anyone had said in February after the last Scottish Cup victory against St Johnstone that the manager would be gone before the end of the month & Neil Lennon would be our manager for the next round of the Cup – we’d have laughed in his face.

     

     

    Anyway, I suppose we all need a reality check now & then or we’d start to take things for granted. I wonder though if Brendan Rodgers will ever regret what he’s done. Just like that unhappy spouse, not the leaving but the manner of it.

     

     

    HH

  6. mike in toronto on

    FAn

     

     

    I am still not convinced about Ajer as a central defender … he gets turned far too easily (happens to a lot of players of his size and buld, … so, he is not the only one …)

     

     

    plus, I like his drive going forward, and we could do with more of that in the middle of the park …

     

     

    if we have cover for CB, I would be playing him in the middle of the park beside CalMac when he returns …

     

     

    When they signed, I had high hopes for both NB and Kouassi, but the former has never really done it (doesn’t take the intiative when he plays… and for a more senior member of the team, particularly in the middle ofthe park, that is a serious problem) and the other, I dont know that we will ever see Kouassi get a game … shame as I got the sense there is a player there ….

  7. Has BR left Celtic in a good state? Yes and no, I would say. In the summer we’ll need two central defenders and a right back.

  8. Neil is a smart guy,he will be assessing the squad, and putting a plan in place for reinforcements next season, we can’t stand still.

  9. Just watched last 10 minutes again,that fud Crocker seriously underwhelmed……oh and as for that bint McQueen…..

  10. MIKE IN TORONTO

     

    Agree on Ajer.

     

    Believe it or not i promised a while back never to post on Bitton again.

     

    On Sunday he was ok but really did not contribute a whole lot.

     

    Posted before game last night that it was Bitton and Brown partnership that doomed Ronnie.

     

    Last night was like deja vu.

     

    A player like him nullifies all the speed we possess.

  11. Larry the lurker ? on

    STV lunch time news also opened up with the missiles being thrown from visiting Celtic supporters narrative.

     

    Probably have a more forensic version on the evening news, I’m guessing.

     

     

    Back to lurking, HH.

  12. GLENDALYSTONSILS on 28TH FEBRUARY 2019 3:26 PM

     

     

    I don’t like criticizing Celtic players, but it’s worrying seeing as he was supposed to be the finished article and not someone who needed to work on the basics of full back play

     

     

    Any opposition manager should be picking that up as a weakness in our team. You can be sure Gerrard and his team will have noticed.

     

     

    I’m sure Lenny will be having a word

  13. Go tell the Spartim on

    Ive found the older i get the more joyous last minute winners are, not just for that reflexive reaction (one BR will never have) when we score but when that calms down you just know how many hurtin h*ns its gonna p*ss off and by Jove weren’t they all hurting, from everyone at BBC Scotland, the SMSM and of course special mention goes to McFadden, Commons, McQueen and the coup de gras Neil McCann

  14. GO TELL THE SPARTIM

     

    My thoughts exactly .

     

    The missus is still perplexed when i have reactions like i did to last nights winner.

     

    Knowing how deflated the majority in the best wee country and the tv pics of Levein and 4th official summed it up perfectly my elation was trebled.

  15. Fool Time Whistle on

    Personally I thought Bitton was fine last night. In the 1st half he broke up several of their moves & got blootered several times but never hid. He’s a guy who tries to play football but on one occasion was double tackled/fouled by Naismith & one other.

     

     

    The whole flow of the passing from front to back was not our normal since we had Brown & Henderson trying to do what Calmac & Christie have been doing for us, while Bitton had the usual Brown role. We changed our defence & midfield through injuries & at times, under pressure, it showed.

     

     

    I also wondered if NFL wanted Lustig on for the last 5 mins or so to try and help push us over the line.

     

    I think Toljan is a good player and Ralston apart, he is the best of what we have. I don;t expect him to stay after his loan as long as Tony recovers from his injury by then.

     

     

    I agree with many on the playing out from the back. Possession of the ball is paramount so punting upfield seems counter intuitive, but if your opponent realize that you will never kick the ball away no matter what the pressure you’re under, you give them a golden chance to do what happened twice last night. Seems that players should have the discretion to choose themselves rather than be forced to comply with suicidal tactics when the risk is too high. Under the previous regime it usually felt that players were obligated to try to pass the ball out regardless & despite Craig Gordon’s sometimes questionable kicking – which often led to the very loss of possession that we were trying to avoid.

     

     

    Talking of whom, saw that the only person in the dugout that didn’t jump up to applaud our first goal was Craig Gordon. From the pics on TV he didn’t even seem to be applauding. It’s otugh for him now, but Bain & DeVries have been supportive of him when they were just his training partners so I hope he sees it all now as an opportunity under a new manager.

     

     

    Saw NFL smile broadly & hold one finger up to the directors box at the end of the game last night. If it was to PL which it seemed to be, it’s him saying one game won and onwards to the next one.

     

     

    HH

  16. Personally I would resist being too negative towards Ajer.

     

    He’s not long turned 20, he is still learning his trade.

     

    In all his former years he was a midfielder and on occasion a forward.

     

     

    Only converted as a centre half this last 18 months.

     

     

    He’s on a learning curve. He was also very good over in Valencia.

     

     

    As someone who has played as a defender, all be it not professionally, you do learn with experience the balls that you can win and those that you have no chance of winning. When to stand a yard off, and not get too tight etc. A good defender is all about sharpness of anticipation, and also not over committing. Stand your ground. Be strong and hard to beat. Don’t be rash.

  17. traditionalist88 on

    Lennon 5/6 to be in charge on the first day of the 2019/2020 season.

     

     

    Easy money imo…

     

     

    HH

  18. Fool Time Whistle on

    RUGGYGMAN

     

     

    I agree with your comments about Ajer.

     

     

    He was interviewed on Celtic TV recently & said that when he first arrived at the club he talked with the manager and knew that CB was the position he would end up in in his career. Words to that effect anyway.

     

     

    He’ll be a captain of our side and he’ll move on eventually (maybe) for more money that Virgil.

     

     

    In another “Team Mates” item on Celtic TV he said he was the hardest trainer at the club but the worst dress sense guy.

     

     

    He is also currently in his 2nd year at College/University studying medicine.

     

     

    Just amazed at what cool guy he is as well as his playing.

     

     

    Love watching him getting in faces of opponents when they cross the line & he’ll confront refs too.

     

     

    For a young man of 20, he’s a credit to the club & hs family.

     

     

    Dr Ajer CSC

  19. Just watching the match last night, the slow motion looks on the faces of the supporters as the ball hits the back of the net, absolutely magical! Rodgers will never understand how that feels. Great also to see Peter Lawwell giving it large at the end too, I’ve been critical of him and still am but i loved seeing that.

  20. Two quick points Nir stiffened Naismith twice in the first 10 mins that is a reversal of what Naismith usually does to us,sent a message don’t foul with us

     

     

    $6 million in the bank for a manager ,that has to be a new record in Scotland is there any other team in Scotland who would get $6 million for their manager

  21. glendalystonsils on

    I thought Bitton did ok defensively and in breaking up play . In the latter part of the match though when we were trying to break through the parked bus , his slow , languid style kind of set the tempo at 33rpm rather than 45rpm . (Younger CQN’rs can google that one).

  22. Ughaye,

     

     

    Sorry to be pedantic, but it was £6m GBP not dollars.

     

     

    Some may say it was pieces of gold, but I’ll stick to 6 million of the worlds oldest currency.

     

     

    Cheers and HH.

  23. Fool Time Whistle on

    Glendalystonsils

     

     

    I agree that when we need to break through & score Bitton was no better than others.

     

    I had moaned to my long suffering wife for 10 minutes that we didn’t look like we had a clue how to get through once they equalized.

     

     

    He tried a couple of shots but the body congestion in their box was worse than the old Jungle & shots were blocked. Otherwise he just kept recycling the ball as we probed..

     

     

    HH

  24. I noticed towards the end of the Hearts game when Henderson went off we went more :

     

     

    4-2-3-1

     

     

    Brown Bitton sitting… but the -3-1 was :

     

     

    ———————–Edouard————————–

     

     

    Sincky/Weah Forrest O.Burke

     

     

     

    There is surely scope for getting Burke and Edouard starting in the same team.

     

    Although I am not a fan of 4-4-2.

     

    Surely the shape and personnel above can be repeated ?

  25. I do like a good piece from Phil, he does regurgitate what is already in the public domain and then adds his own insights gleaned from his well placed sources.

     

     

    His latest article has me perturbed. Whilst I had already expressed concern that Rodgers would try and lure some of our first team players, that had been allayed by reports of how some of players had reacted to him sending his emissary to disclose the news that he was leaving.

     

     

    However, I hadn’t considered the younger players. Specifically Dembele and Okoflex. The money available to not-yet-beens in England would certainly be appealing to our youngsters. And wasn’t Okoflex on the bench recently. A worrying tactic by Rodgers to show his interest in him.

  26. Here we go again, all Celtics faults lie with Nir Bitton.

     

    Please tell me your not going to make this blog unbearable again.

     

     

    The truth is we have struggled away from home all season.

     

    I could list them but everyone knows Nir Bitton didnt play in any of them.

     

     

    The last time Fanatic you said all our slow play was down to Nir Bitton, he then went out the team and nothing changed.

     

     

    You repeat yourself over and over, tell us the one about Pep Guardiola being a poor manager and that Conte is the new thing in management.

     

     

    You showed your naivety with how football works saying you hoped the players would be working on more forward passes expecting things to change instantly.

     

     

    I’ve seen six different managers come in to a new club and everyone has emphasised not making changes too soon.

     

     

    Our problems away imo are we carry Sinclair and regularly Forrest, Hayes instead of Sinclair on tight pitches where you need a bit of dig would be an improvement.

     

     

    Edouard is our best player and must start imo.

     

     

    By the way im not Bittons biggest fan and think hes better at home.

  27. FOOL TIME WHISTLE on 28TH FEBRUARY 2019 4:50 PM

     

    RUGGYGMAN

     

     

     

    I agree with your comments about Ajer.

     

     

     

    He was interviewed on Celtic TV recently & said that when he first arrived at the club he talked with the manager and knew that CB was the position he would end up in in his career. Words to that effect anyway.

     

     

     

    He’ll be a captain of our side and he’ll move on eventually (maybe) for more money that Virgil.

     

     

     

    In another “Team Mates” item on Celtic TV he said he was the hardest trainer at the club but the worst dress sense guy.

     

     

     

    He is also currently in his 2nd year at College/University studying medicine.

     

     

     

    Just amazed at what cool guy he is as well as his playing.

     

     

     

    Love watching him getting in faces of opponents when they cross the line & he’ll confront refs too.

     

     

     

    For a young man of 20, he’s a credit to the club & hs family.

     

     

     

    Dr Ajer CSC

     

     

    ———————-

     

     

    This ??????????????Every day of the week.

     

    Came to us as a child – albeit one that would eat you out of house and home – And has displayed a discipline, commitment and respect for manager(s) and the Club as a whole that pros 10 years his senior could learn from.

     

     

    Seeing the righteous indignation of a 2m tall Viking in defence of his teammates is ‘braw’ and should also be more widely emulated.

     

     

    Mr and Mrs Ajer……take a bow.

     

     

    HH jg

  28. GLENDALYSTONSILS on 28TH FEBRUARY 2019 5:08 PM

     

    I thought Bitton did ok defensively and in breaking up play . In the latter part of the match though when we were trying to break through the parked bus , his slow , languid style kind of set the tempo at 33rpm rather than 45rpm . (Younger CQN’rs can google that one).

     

     

    ———

     

    That first goal was 78rpm brother. At least……

     

     

    HH jg

  29. HH all. I’m delighted Brendan has chosen to leave now as opposed to the close season.Nothing dragged out and after the sharp shock it’s cut and dried, heads up, move onwards and upwards. In essence this gives our new manager NFL time to prepare for the Champs League qualifiers. Regardless of all the baloney about the level of deception etc I wish BR all the best in his career move and thank him for the seven out of seven domestic trophies and behind the scenes improvements at the academy that hopefully we can continue with.

     

    Not so keen on him taking our young starlets with him. If he tries that pish and there will be hell to pay.

     

    Delighted for Neil Francis Lennon and hope he enjoys his time with us and hopefully it will be a new successful era for him and the club.

     

    So long as we keep our feet on der Huns filthy squirming throat, all is good.

     

    Fidem servate. Ave Ave