The greatest save, fighting the urge, goodness – a masterstroke


Space inside the box when you have the ball at your feet is at premium and whatever you have, closes quickly.  The ancient part of our brains kicks in at this point.  We become alert to the dangers of the shrinking space.

This reaction is biologically evidenced.  The associated rush of adrenaline flushes the muscles with energy but it also obscures peripheral vision.  You will know this yourself if you’ve been in possession of a football for as much as a second with defenders closing a loop around you.  This is why, from the stands, we can often see a pass, but the player in possession fires off a shot that is easily blocked.

Watch Odsonne Edouard before he passes to Ryan Christie for the equaliser.  Running towards goal with the ball, he has to fight against all of these biological factors to suppress the urge to panic into a premature shot.

His presence in the box induces the same adrenaline rush in the Lazio defenders’ brains and limbs: they focus on Odsonne, but the Celtic striker is winning the fight against nature.  He maintains enough peripheral vision to spot the slenderest gap at 90 degrees to his right.  Ryan Christie is in space and while all others panic, Odsonne pings a pass into Ryan’s path.

You can give players all the benefits sports science allows, train them until they are built like supermen, but the game is played in the mind.  That ability to defy the natural instinct and control your body is where greatness lives.

I was troubled at halftime.  Celtic did not deserve to be behind but Lazio scored an excellent goal and were clearly a very good team, while Cluj were ahead in Rennes, the result we did not want.  The opening 15 minutes of the second half were controlled by the visitors, with Celtic unable to hold possession.

We needed energy from somewhere and Ryan Christie stepped forward.  He covers 20 yards with great speed and regularity.  His run to the corner around the hour, which created our first chance of the second half, looked like he was propelled forward in a pinball machine.  His sprint forward, drop back, then repeat action, change the flow of the game.

It is not just Celtic who seldom score from corner kicks, such goals are the Hen’s Teeth of the modern game.  Defenders mark the main threats, while others attack the space most likely to produce a goal.  With the inevitable numerical defensive overload and set plays video analysed to within an inch of indecency, corners are the football equivalent of a Brexit deadlock.

But still, when Scott Brown’s shot from outside the box was deflected wide with two minutes remaining, we could dream. Christopher Jullien is as commanding in the air as any Celtic player since Bobo Balde.  His sheer upper body bulk make a challenge from lesser mortals futile.  His leap and glancing header inside the far post were like a great cruise liner gracefully launching down the slip.  We were going to win this, or so we thought.

Fraser Forster had already made an incredible block with the score at 1-1, but in the final minute of added time, his leap to stop the unstoppable volley from Cataldi was the best save I have ever seen.

Crowds react to great save with cheers, or applause on lesser occasions.  This save was met with an audible gasp.  Shock from the ancient part of our brains was articulated an instant before the subsequent joy, not to mention respect.  We were not to be denied.

When Hatem Elhamed went down injured inside the last 10 minutes, Moritz Bauer, a straight replacement at right back, was told to get stripped, but Neil Lennon quickly changed his mind.  Instead, there was an Israeli shuffle, with Nir Bitton replacing Elhamed.  Celtic went to a back three and two minutes later, Neil replaced Boli Bolingoli with Jonny Hayes.  Coming so late in the game, Lazio had no time to react; Celtic were setup to control the middle of the park.

Goodness.  In the dying minutes of a game against the top seed with the score at 1-1, we change tactical formation, going three at the back against two strikers.  You have to hand it to Neil Lennon.  Without this change, Scott Brown is nowhere near the Lazio box to be able to latch onto a loose ball and shoot to secure the corner that produced the winning goal.

It was an absolute masterstroke.  Well done, boss.

For most of us, our days are full of small joys and trials.  Spontaneous, shared, exhilaration is in rare supply.  But, here we are.

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  1. Siempre Celtic (formerly Traditionalist88) on

    AN DUN on 25TH OCTOBER 2019 11:53 AM



    Yeah, Lazio will be looking for 6 pts at home to us and Cluj.



    Cluj performing surprisingly well and we have to go there last. They could be top if they beat Rennes again next.



    It could be tight and qualification could be about avoiding defeat in Romania.



    Pressure on Lazio though, they drop any more points we should be fine.



    My guess



    Lazio 12pts


    Celtic 11 pts


    Cluj 10pts


    Rennes 1pt




  2. I’m going to be the negative guy and rain on everybody’s parade. Celtic have done well in this European Campaign so far but they could have done better. We need a stronger mentality. We were the better team in Rennes. They were there for the taking.


    Last night the great wall made a worldy save but Celtic were fluffing clearances and panicking in the build-up. Even after the save the ball was headed out for a corner with no pressure on the defender.



    Need some cooler heads.




    Cluj got a good win last night but the result has to be taken into context of Rennes being a man down for almost the whole match and two men down for almost half the match.



    I wouldn’t rule Rennes out of getting a result in Romania so long as they still retain believe in their ability of qualify.

  4. Jaysus Timaloy29 – You for real ?



    We were robbed off a penalty in Rennes that would have won us the game and the defender, knackered from his exertions, puts the ball out of play calmly in a box crowded with Lazio players, to allow us to regroup.



    We need some cooler posters if that panics you….



    I beleive it’s called nitpicking.

  5. Siempre Celtic (formerly Traditionalist88) on

    AN DUN on 25TH OCTOBER 2019 12:26 PM



    I know but thats whats happened and Cluj have those points in the bag, and they also beat Lazio at home – a betting man wouldn’t be going big on Rennes away to Cluj anyway, put it that way! A draw probably the best we could hope for.



    I think 4 pts more will seal qualification for us, if we win in Cluj and beat Rennes we win the group. Very doable – I’m taking anything in Rome as a bonus right now as we will be up against it in many ways, lets get a good performance there and see what happens too.




  6. PRESTONPANS BHOYS on 25TH OCTOBER 2019 @ 10:55 AM



    “Once the competition entries knock-out stage then UEFA will not use them. No VAR in Scotland means no refs without VAR participating”.



    I’ve read this elsewhere, but find it hard to believe. Bobby Madden was refereeing Barcelona game this week where VAR was being used.

  7. Fantastic article Paul.



    At the moment Eddy gets the ball 5 Lazio players surround him, within a flash the ball is no longer there and Ryan has all the composure to clip a beautiful shot passed another 3 ( bewildered) defenders and the keeper. It was a stunning equaliser.



    The winning goal was deserved – from a corner no less- but, my Lord, what a save from FF at the end. Epic end to an epic Celtic night.

  8. Another thrilling night of European football at Celtic Park and why it’s so important for the team to continue to test themselves against the best teams on the continent, one of the great highlights of the season.



    Celtic were comfortable in the first half and played some nice football and had the Lazio defenders on the backfoot until the Italians scored completely against the run of play, although a fine goal it must be said. Celtic lost composure for a spell after that score which continued into the second half but then Lenny after a little consultation with Duffer on the touchline made some changes.



    Celtic were back in control and started created chances and it was inevitible the goal would come eventually. A brilliant headed goal by Julien, who was outstanding, at the death for a deserved winner. We just knew the Italians were not finished and Fraser was back in the form he showed many years ago against Barcelona keeping Lazio at bay with brilliant goalkeeping.

  9. First of all- a fine article Paul- one of your best in recent times- hope all is well with you.



    I do not think we survive that game without the experience and work rate of both Scott Brown and Callum McGregor. Far from having poor games, I think they were vital in reducing the number of live threats that Lazio were posing to us. They took the ball from our defenders and, for the most part, delivered it on safely. They also, Broony especially, chased down, harassed and robbed Lazio midfielders and attackers. Our only reliable alternatives in delivering that level of game are the mercurial N’tcham (would probably have been ok in a big Euro shop window game) and the languid Bitton (who is having a good season since his injury return but is prone to being careless in judging aerial balls).



    My vie is that Broony and Calmac did more than most (well apart from FF) in restricting Lazio to one goal. Big Julien admitted as much in his post match interview where he acknowledged there were deficiencies in our defence but his team-mates had bailed him and them out.



    James Forrest did have a hard working and ineffective game. Everything he tried, in an attacking sense, floundered on an organised, cynical and well covered Italian defence. He became gradually more careful and less penetrative in his use of the ball but, yet again, he never stopped working and making himself available. Ryan Christie and Mo Elyanoussi had similar difficulties in that first half ; they tried to penetrate the Lazio defence and failed regularly.



    I thought the pace slowed at the start of the 2nd half and Celtic’s ball control and error count was at its worst then. I don’t think it was a deliberate tactic but Lazio began to get slack then too. We really got a very soft equaliser – Edouard did well but Ryan’s shot was both blockable and saveable. Vavro was cowardly in turning his back and all he did was obscure the keeper’s view. The keeper should still have saved it but I believe he was touch and go for playing at all and his worries about his injuries may have been on his mind.



    If the equaliser was soft, then the winner will have Italians perplexed. They do not allow many free headers at set pieces. Who failed to grab, impede or block Julien?



    Kris Ajer takes 2 Lazio defenders to the near post but there are still 4 of them defending that prime central position against Julien and Bitton. The ball takes the first and 4th player out of the equation but the middle two, stay with Bitton a good 3 or 4 yards away from where Julien meets the cross. In fact, it is one of Kris Ajer’s markers who gets nearest to him. When Ryan sent that corner in , there were 5 Celts in the box and 9 Lazio players, including the keeper there (10 if you include the short corner defender who had strayed back into the edges of the area). It was their tired minds and our doggedness that got us over that line.



    So, I have no compunctions, in admitting that they were the better team last night. So were Man U when they lost here and so were Blackburn when they drew with us during the Seville run, disdaining to attempt for goal as they strutted their Men against Boys superiority all the way to a fatal 0:1 loss to a late Larsson goal. It does not diminish my satisfaction one bit to acknowledge we were a little fortunate, because we used our good fortune to score 2 goals and that is still the one statistic that trumps all others. My celebrations were just as high as if we had been fully dominant and won 9:0, maybe even more so.



    Without Scott Brown’s industry and will to win, those 2 goals last night would not have been enough. He was my MOTM

  10. Talking about “nitpicking”, I think we were trying to walk the ball in in the first half. We were in the box loads of times and failed to get a shot away. I don’t think we troubled the goalkeeper at all.



    The build up was good but, the tendency to take a touch proved to much and we took the touch and the chance to shoot was blocked.



    In the second half, when Christie got the ball, he shot first time.



    The crowd lifted us then and we pressed on.



    The substitutions changed the picture which helped but we are still a little short in confidence and retreated to our 18 yard line

  11. Lenny moving eddy out left and Christie up front through the middle worked instantly. What a player Christie is

  12. A quick lunch break and delighted to see that 45 folk have already had their say on who our best performers were from last night’s game. Of course, that’s still a long way from the games that generated most interest so far – Sevco (68) and Cluj (75) – so I’m relying on a steady stream of emails coming in between now and 10pm. If you’re reading this and haven’t yet voted it’s time to take the plunge(new voters are always most welcome!) – one email, three names to cqnpoty@gmail.com . Please ;-)

  13. CORKCELT on 25TH OCTOBER 2019 10:55 AM


    Ruggyman, Strange how 2 men can watch the same game & see 2 different things, I thought Brooney was brilliant.



    CORKIE, good point. I see a few posters (on the previous thread) suggested Broony had a poor game. Like SFTB above @ 1.11 Broony was my MOTM (and you can look for his name anytime soon Jobo!)

  14. Paul67



    Good article, and reading of the game.



    Thought NFL did well with the subs Tom Rogic raised his game, and with both Bolingoli and El Hatem excellent, till late in the game and carrying knocks, there were no failures in our side.



    James Forrest was more subdued than normal due to the Serie A upgrade in marking, and El Youanoussi will become more and more effective as the season wears on.



    The preference of Fraser Forster over two decent keepers, is another feather in NFL’s cap, and the current overall fitness levels make a nonsense, of sports science.



    Three games inside seven days will test the better squad theory to the full, enforced change seperates the wheat from the chaff, with Lazio now just another notch on the gun.

  15. Boli improving, still the odd mistake in bad areas, but McGregor picking the ball up 10/15 yards further forward due to his play.

  16. Paul67 et al



    “….his leap and glancing header inside the far post were like a great cruise liner gracefully launching down the slip”



    Translation. Hasn’t been seen in Glasgow since back in 1968.

  17. I hope Rogic got a rocket at FT,for trying to dribble out of defence, forcing FF to make that save.

  18. You are right there Bada. I had forgotten about it with all the euphoria but it was total madness at that stage of the game.

  19. A wee aside from the splendours of the game and its aftermath, and wee noise-up of our uniformed custodians of the peace.



    My mate and I always approach Celtic Park from the Commonwealth Village and cross Springfield Road to walk up alongside the Emirates. When we arrived last night I looked across the road and there were a dozen or so uniforms across the start of the path up the Emirates. We crossed anyway and attempted to walk up the path but, as expected, were blocked from doing so. “What’s the problem Officer?” I enquired very politely. “We are keeping you separated from the Lazio fans (90% of whom were in the stadium by this time as it turned out and which the police officers should have known, I assume) so you will have to walk along London Road”. “Will we not be walking through Lazio fans on London Road, while there are no Lazio fans walking alongside the Emirates?” “Aye, well, you’ve to walk up Springfield Road and along London Road, to keep you separated”.



    Having seen Groundhog Day a number of times I know the ending doesn’t change so I just smiled and headed up Springfield Road. I’m sure it had been well thought out, somewhere, by someone, very carefully, but ………..



    BTW what was Wee Wullie Gollum getting up to last night? Missed the details.

  20. Shall My Soul Pass Through Old Ireland



    ​In a dreary British prison where an Irish rebel lay


    By his side a priest was standing ‘ere his soul should pass away


    As he gently murmurs father the priest takes him by the hand


    Tell me this before I die shall my soul pass through Ireland



    Shall my soul pass through old Ireland pass through Cork’s old city grand


    Shall I see that old cathedral where Saint Finbarr took his stand


    Shall I see that little chapel where I pledged my heart in hand


    Tell me this before I die shall my soul pass through Ireland



    T’was for loving dear old Ireland in this prison cell I lie


    T’was for loving dear old Ireland in this foreign land I die


    When you see my little daughter won’t you make her understand


    Tell me this before I die shall my soul pass through Ireland



    With his soul pure as a lily and his body sanctified


    In that dreary Brixton prison our brave Irish rebel died


    Prayed the priest his wish was granted as his blessing he did give


    Father grant this brave man’s wish may his soul pass through Ireland



    On this day 99 years ago Terence McSwiney Sinn Fein Lord Mayor of Cork died in Briton Prison after 73 days on Hunger Strike, His soul has never left Cork City,

  21. I think the finale to our group will be tight.



    After last nights defeat, Lazio may well put even less priority on the Europa. Then again, they might not.



    If we lose in Rome, I would hope we beat an already out Rennes at home, then gain a point in Romania.


    Giving us 11 points, which is surely enough to go through

  22. BIG WAVY on 25TH OCTOBER 2019 12:28 PM


    Jaysus Timaloy29 – You for real ?


    We were robbed off a penalty in Rennes that would have won us the game and the defender, knackered from his exertions, puts the ball out of play calmly in a box crowded with Lazio players, to allow us to regroup.


    We need some cooler posters if that panics you….


    I beleive it’s called nitpicking.





    So, because we won the game we must pretend all aspects of the game went to plan? Was it part of the plan for Rogic to hoof a ball backwards first time without looking around him? You can praise Fraser Forster’s save while acknowledging that Rogic was erratic.



    In the closing stages there was a bit too much of that.



    We can talk about what worked and what didn’t. Elyounoussi was ineffective and unreliable. He completed only half of his passes. Being dispossessed twice and generally showing poor control of the ball. Rogic was also poor in the same areas. Boli is improving but needs to cut out the unforced errors.



    That Lazio side weren’t a patch on the Valencia side who gave us a lesson last year. This group is easier than last year. Don’t expect this Lazio or Rennes side to have an impact on the CL next year in the same way Leipzig and Salzburg have. Admittedly Cluj are better than Rosenborg.



    Forster’s distribution isn’t great. But that’s the tradeoff. He is a great shot stopper who doesn’t make many mistakes.



    Great performances: Elhamed, Julien, Forster, Ajer, Edouard



    As for Rennes, we should have had a penalty yes. But if we score the first one, the balance and mentality of the game shifts.. we let off in the last ten minutes because we had something to hold onto. We were letting Rennes back in the game in the late stages as we dropped off and got nervous. Only looking to attack after Bayo puts their CB in hospital and they go down to 10 men.


    You cannot rely on getting two penalties away from home in Europe. Rennes could have had a penalty for a second Ajer shirt tug.



    Point is, score a goal from open play. It’s not like the Christie penalty was preventing Celtic a goalscoring opportunity.



    We need to calm down and not rely on goalkeeping heroics.

  23. Timaloy29



    You are correct. It wasn’t a great performance. It was a great result.



    There is already a Neil Lennon quote, where by he salutes the players will to win, despite not delivering a good performance.


    Enjoyed the night. Enjoyed the result, but Neil Lennon is correct. We now need to re-focus quickly for Sunday.



    And we will, lets just be clear. We will have to play better.



    Last night, I thought Forster, Jullien, Elhamed, and Christie all had very good games.


    Outwith these guys, there were many below par. I say whilst appreciating Lazio are much better than your average Scottish Premiership side.

  24. In spite of the fact ( opinion, really) that we didn`t play all that well last night,I felt only Elyyounoussi had a poor game,,,,and even he wasn`t awful. Ajer was also a wee bit ruffled and Forrest below his often excellent standard but all the others were very good. Our below standard play, I feel, was owing to a feeling that we had to do everything at a frantic pace to combat the talent of a good Lazio team. This led to many passes going astray.


    We seemed to realise , in the second half, that beating them was not beyond our collective ability. If that was the case, I would hope that we approach the second game with a bit more belief in ourselves.


    Commitment could not be faulted and more of the same should stand us in good stead against Abereen on Sunday.

  25. I thought we started the game comfortably enough. First 20 mins or so.


    Had the shot from edge of box that shaved the post.



    Then Lazio scored. And it seemed to knock us and lift them.


    The last 20 minutes of the 1st half weren’t great. Seemed to lack spark or ideas in final 3rd of pitch. Our 2 wide players subdued.



    Then half-time, and your expecting Lenny will give them a rocket and get a reaction. But it never really panned out like that. First 15-20 mins of 2nd half, we looked tentative.


    But then Boom ! Christie scores, and its game on.


    We then ride our luck a bit. Lazio pass up 2 or 3 good opportunities.



    But you know what, Credit to all the players. They stuck at it. And the corner goal was well worth the wait.

  26. He sure was Bhoylo, I think Ruggyman is the only Poster who didn’t rate him. He was in my top 3 in Jobo’s Competition,


    With a couple of minutes to go I was going, Julien. Brown & Christie but when Forster made that wonder save I just had to include him so I had to drop one of my original 3, So poor Christie lost out, having had a magnificent game,


    I also thought Boli played quite well for most of game, he obviously has a licence from Lenny to bomb forward so I don’t blame him for goal. As the second half wore on he seemed to he a bit unnerved and I was glad to see Jonny come in but Boli did a lot of good stuff in the game.

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