One of the frustrating things is, you and I watch teams play the way we needed to play last night more than any other type of football. Against vastly more resourceful teams, create a tight defensive unit. Do not allow an opponent space inside the box or in a central position outside the box.
That way, if an attacker drops the shoulder, there is always another body in the way to block him. For reasons that need proper consideration, Celtic’s penalty area was socially distanced. Atletico were able to find dangerous space and make attempts at goal without pressure.
The opening minutes gave us a glimpse of what might have been. Celtic were comfortable in possession and continued the good work from two weeks ago. Then, Callum McGregor dropped deep to head the ball into an empty space he would normally occupy. The shot took a deflection, but we conceded a good chance to Atletico’s top striker very cheaply.
Until 42 minutes we looked able to get into the dressing room still technically in the game, then something changed. The second goal was preceded by Celtic’s disintegration, Atletico could easily have scored twice in added time at the end of the first half.
Did we run out of energy inside the first half? There is certainly an energy deficit compared to other Champions League teams, but before halftime? That’s a worry. The contest was over by the break, the only question remaining was how bad the score would be.
Brendan Rodgers is entitled to take chances with the game gone. He chose to leave the back four as it was, but none of the six who started in midfield or forward positions finished the game. With five subs and one red card, we looked like a Celtic Select team, assembled for a testimonial. Whenever Oh managed to take control of a clearance, he was surrounded by defenders (and still 40 yards from goal).
Manager’s often moan about individual errors costing their team defeat. There were precious few individual errors from Celtic last night, in fact, Joe Hart and his defence all came through the game remarkably well in that respect, considering the scoreline. The problem was one of structure.
They tell us it can be more difficult to play against 10 men than 11. That’s because the 10 drop deep, deny space and stop trying to compete up field. ‘They’ don’t watch Celtic. We have a skilful squad full of potential, but we can be a soft touch.
You could convince me Daizen Maeda’s red card was an Atletico objective. There was no injury, no weight or even stiffness behind Daizen’s leg as he went to block. Atletico know all the dark arts; when an opponent blocks, leave your leg there. It’s sure to result in a great photo op.