Celtic always had the look of winners last night, but until Odsonne Edouard pounced on the rebound from Ryan Christie’s shot, the outcome was in the balance. We are going to face a lot of packed defences like that this season, though fortunately or not, that could be the last we see of them in the Europa League.
Christie was back to his best. I know his stats are far from impressive and he is criticised (by others) for his decision making, but I spent almost three years during Brendan Rodgers time wanting someone to mix it up. Take shots that would force the keeper to work or a defender to block, or play the low percentage pass that we all know is going to miss most of the time, but will result in loose balls in dangerous areas.
Those poor stats are a consequence of randomness, which is something we loved in Frank McGarvey, but that was before the stats came along to both inform and confuse. Stats are all about interpretation, which is the real lesson of Michael Lewis’ Moneyball for those who never read the book, or those who did, but didn’t understand it.
I tried most of the second half to figure out what changes Neil Lennon made at halftime that freed up Jeremie Frimpong. During the first half, he was so well shackled, I considered the Sarajevo left back as a possible recruit. At the break, the suggestion was made to me, maybe he is better as an impact player?
Sarajevo certainly opened up at the break, which may have helped, but Jeremie was back at his impactful self during the second period. Credit also to Greg Taylor, who had his best game in a Celtic shirt.
I’m still pretty gutted about not being in the Champions League and at the manner of our exit, but Pot 1 seed in the Europa is an important place to land. Last week we spoke about how it was to our advantage that all domestic rivals also reach the group stage. We didn’t want them having a week to plan games against St Mirren etc., while we traverse the Continent. Not this season.
That kind of left hemisphere thinking was nowhere to be found once kick offs were underway last night. You can’t fake this stuff, it is just not possible to subvert the tribal instinct (which is why nationalism is so potent, and why Celtic is my only identity). But, in a crisp and sunny autumnal morning, logic is back on top. No one will get an easy pass to the title this season, including Celtic.
Uefa’s methods of seeding have never been perfect, this is not tennis, but those pots are full of variance. I’m hoping to avoid sides from the big nations. Farewell, Copenhagen, Basel, Sporting, Rosenborg, Legia (sorry, Zbyszek) and yes, even Galatasaray. Strong sides are out of Europe, the potential to join them was real.