Celtic were overflowing with fine performances last night but mostly this was a tactical victory. Ajax dominated possession against Milan and enjoyed lots at the Camp Nou, so Neil Lennon knew what to expect.
Despite playing at home against our lowest-ranked opponent, we never chased the game, allowed Ajax time on the ball, and waited for the opportunity. We had the intelligence across the field to outsmart Ajax, with agility (Forrest), combativeness (Mulgrew, Kayal) and experience in the box (Stokes) to get the job done. We also have perhaps the best keeper in the competition. Shhh.
At some point before the return game in Amsterdam, The Bore may consider that his team deserved to lose, just as Nir Biton deserved his red card. Lunging into tackles inside the box is a recipe for defeat. Take the ball or you take your opponents leg. The noises from Ajax after the game suggested some bewilderment at the defeat; a well-worn track for teams to leave Celtic Park after Champions League games.
I hope de Boer carries that sense of entitlement into the next game, if he does, he’ll have learned nothing and his team will lose again.
Celtic’s area for remedial action is also clear. Over three Champions League games they have not conceded in the first 75 minutes but conceded four times after that point. This is not a complaint, it’s hard to maintain the levels of concentration, not to mention the physical effort, late in a game, but the stats suggest that, at this level, we wilt before our opponents.
The Dutch are known as progressive and tolerant people but the behaviour of Ajax fans (I hear from the moment they arrived at Schiphol Airport) was deplorable, without question the most violent European fans in all my time watching Celtic.
Football hooliganism is nothing like it was in the 70s and 80s but it is on the rise across Europe. Remain ever-vigilant.
On a more prosaic fan issue…. We were not at a pantomime last night. The moment between Nir Biton lunging forward with his studs up and the referee producing a red card was filled by a “Oooh” from many in the home support.
As soon as I heard this I knew the card would be red. Biton may have gone without the sound effects, but we don’t need to authorise the ref to make a big decision.
All this and the Big Glasgow Derby coming up!!
Between now and Sunday you are going to hear lots about the collection on behalf of the Greater Maryhill Foodbank, taking place before the Thistle-Celtic game on Saturday. What a great cause to be a part of.
[calameo code=000390171853d2bfc4f69 lang=en page=38 hidelinks=1 width=100% height=500]