It was a strange game. Celtic were so far ahead in the opening 20 minutes it was hard to comprehend how Shakhtar Donetsk managed to win so impressively in Leipzig last week. Our ‘hosts’ soon edged their way into proceedings, scored, and for the remainder of the first half, made Celtic look second best.
At halftime I suspect both teams would have settled for a point. The second half was significantly less open than the first. Shakhtar seldom threw men forward and Celtic cut down opportunities for a counterattack.
Had Shakhtar won, our chances of progressing in the competition would have been effectively wiped out. A draw means we remain very much in control of our own destiny. The disappointing aspect is, that a win, which should have been achieved, would have almost certainly guaranteed European football of one type after Christmas.
There is also the dirty little subject. A win was worth £1.5m more than the draw; our potential income pot shrank a little in the Warsaw air.
It is remarkable how Greg Taylor has grown this season. Repeatedly last night he dragged his body up and down the field, often accepting possession in tight spaces, before mining a way out. The courage he showed in possession is enormously encouraging.
Sead Haksabanovic was thrown in for his first start; a brave decision by Ange Postecoglou. The manager will feel justified as Sead played an important part in Celtic’s goal. Still, Celtic steadied when Daizen Maeda replaced Sead at halftime. He mitigated the risk from Shakhtar’s left flank; had he started, with Haksabanovic making a late cameo, Shakhtar would have found it more difficult to exploit the space they scored from.
Celtic improved again when Liel Abada replaced the exhausted Jota near the end. Perhaps bringing Abada on 10 minutes earlier would have made a difference.
Shakhtar’s goal was a consequence of the gameplan, not just a misjudgement in midfield. Callum McGregor tried to nick an opposition pass 40 yards from goal and missed. He was out of position and the orange and black shirts snapped up a gear. Celtic’s play is all about trying to nick a pass in midfield. It works domestically, (remarkably) worked for a period against Real Madrid and was very effective during the opening 20 minutes last night.
This plan is also energy sapping. At 25 minutes, the tank needed filled and we suffered until the break. We need to manage our tempo more carefully.
Later, there was concern until Real opened the scoring on the 80th minute in Madrid. That win may be just as important as Celtic’s point, come the end of the group.