SLOW-MOTION Celtic are on the fast track to European oblivion after a humiliating and embarrassing performance against the team sitting seventh in the Norwegian League.
It was one of the most pathetic displays in European football by the Hoops and ranks alongside the horrendous 5-0 walloping from Artmedia Bratislava in Gordon Strachan’s first game and the 5-1 battering against Neuchatel Xamax when Liam Brady was in charge.
Yes, sadly, it was THAT bad!
Ronny Deila’s men bumbled through an error-strewn 90 minutes that came close to making Molde look like worldbeaters. It was a desperately awful showing from a team that has now conceded ELEVEN goals in their last four European ties and have picked up a mere two points without a win in their first three Europa League ties.
If anyone believes this is acceptable from the Parkhead side, then they now believe that mediocre should be the level of expectations from the Scottish champions.
Deila’s men got lost in blunderland and the manager cannot hide from the flak that most assuredly – and deservedly – must come his way after this shambolic 94 minutes.
Why on earth did he wait until the 74th minute before making his first substitution? It was obvious Stuart Armstrong was having one of those nights when nothing would go right. He tried hard enough, but it was painful watching him go through the motions.
Eventually, he was replaced by Gary Mackay-Steven and Armstrong looked almost relieved to be escaping from the spotlight.
Astonishingly, Deila then took off Kris Commons to the surprise of many when it must be said the former Scotland international was a rare performer showing any urgency. The traveling Celtic support in the cold and rain chanted Commons’ name in protest at the decision.
Stefan Johansen was a mobile disaster area in his homeland and contributed zilch to the cause with a series of dreadful passes and lack of intelligent play throughout.
Scott Brown was hardly an inspiration in the middle of the park and probably spent more time passing the ball in the direction of Craig Gordon than any of his Norwegian opponents.
The goalkeeper, too, hardly covered himself in glory with his appalling positional sense for the opening goal that started the rot.
Dedryck Boyata, under absolutely no pressure, gave the ball away with a simple pass straight to a Molde player on the halfway line. He immediately broke forward and Ola Kamara, who should have been picked up by the dozy Emilio Izaguirre, was allowed to run in, accept the pass and then slide a shot between Gordon and his near post.
Eight minutes later, Molde were celebrating their second goal after the defence yet again proved to be vulnerable at corner-kicks. They couldn’t clear a left-wing set-play, it was blocked twice before it came back in again and once more Izaguirre was caught off guard.
He should have picked up the menacing Vegard Forren, but spotted the danger far too late and the defender hammered the ball into the ground and it flew up past Gordon at his right hand side.
The rain lashed down and didn’t make playing on the artificial surface easy for the Hoops, but there was still no excuse for the stream of sloppy passes that continually gave away possession all over the field.
And when Mikael Lustig and Izaguirre got forward on the flanks their finishing crosses were nothing short of awful and created more danger to the fans in the stands that the Molde goalkeeper.
Celtic, with a mountain to climb, were far too pedestrian and one-paced as they strived to get back into the contest. There were far too many two and three touches when some crisp, snappy passing could have taken them up the pitch and into areas that had a chance of damaging their opponents.
In the 39th minute there was the perfect cameo of all that was wrong with the team when Armstrong and Commons bumped into each other in a Keystone Kops moment and the ball rolled to a grateful Molde player.
It almost got worse a minute from half-time when Mohammad Leyounousi tried his luck from a tight angle on the left, but, thankfully, on this occasion, Gordon got his angles right and managed to flick the ball over the bar.
Deila decided against making substitutions at the interval although there could have been no reason to believe he was satisfied with what he had viewed in the opening 45 minutes from the guys on duty.
Ten minuter after the turnaround, Celtic got a break and Commons scored a smart goal. Right-back Martin Linnes played a ball across his backline and Commons seized upon it, dragged it to his right and clipped a lovely finish over the exposed Ethan Horvath, the American in the Molde goal.
Within seconds, though, Celtic had thrown another into the net to restore the Norwegians’ two-goal advantage. Celtic had shot themselves in the foot for the third consecutive Europa League match and as a result sit rock bottom in the group.
Almost unbelievably, they went straight up the pitch from the kick-off, Izaguirre was posted missing at left-back, the ball was sent over, Lustig made a complete mess of attempting to clear and Leyounousi pounced to squeeze a shot through Gordon’s legs for his side’s third goal.
Commons, one of the only Celtic player s to get anything close to passmarks, was taken off in the 76th minute to be replaced by Nadir Ciftci, who contributed nothing. Commons was clearly unhappy at the decision and it was difficult to disagree.
Molde were picking off Celtic by the end and they should have got a fourth when neither Ambrose nor Boyata picked up Kamara, but he slid the ball just inches wide of the target.
The full-time whistle put Celtic out of their misery. But the inquest will go on for days. This was totally unacceptable to the Celtic supporters who certainly deserve better than this.
TEAM: Gordon; Lustig , Ambrose, Boyata, Izaguirre; Brown, Bitton; Commons (sub: Ciftci 76), Johansen, Armstrong (sub: Mackay-Steven 74) ; Griffiths.