CELTIC coach John Kennedy has defended zonal – despite the Hoops losing THREE crucial goals against Malmo from corner-kicks.
The Scottish Champions failed to learn their lesson against the Swedish side after losing a late goal from a corner in the first leg of their Champion League play-off in Glasgow.
Celtic still travelled for the return with a 3-2 advantage, but another two goals conceded from corners saw them exit the competition on a 4-3 aggregate. To make matters worse Celtic scored from a corner only for the referee to rule it out for handball by a CELTIC player when it was clear that it was a Malmo arm on the ball.
Virgil Van Dijk also complained about being fouled at the first Malmo goal on Tuesday and this was also missed by the referee and his assistant behind the goal.
“There’s always debate about zonal and man-marking and it will go on for ever more,” explained Kennedy.
“With the height and presence we have in the team, zonal marking has worked for us. It doesn’t make it wrong because of one game.
“When you concede from man-marking someone points the finger and says: ‘It’s his fault.’
“But no-one takes into consideration the team might have two players blocking the man who is trying to mark a player.
“If you go man-for-man it is easy to get blocks and you can take our biggest defenders out of the areas where the other team are going to put a ball in.
“Whereas with zonal, we know pretty much where the ball is going to go, we can protect the most dangerous area of the box and put our best headers of the ball in there.
“It failed for us the other night, but it doesn’t make it wrong.
“We had a fabulous record last year and it was obviously disappointing to concede three over two legs.
“But if you look at the whole performance, in the second leg especially, it wasn’t like us.
“We have been performing of late with a real confidence and desire to attack and score goals.
“We were lacking that the other night and we have to take responsibility for that as a coaching team and players.”
Former Celtic right back Mark Wilson agrees with Kennedy and commented that in his time at the club he would be tasked with stopping the runner, something Nir Bitton failed to do on Tuesday.
A sneaky foul on Van Dijk, a runner getting away from his man and Malmo possibly spotting the only weakness in Craig Gordon’s game – a reluctance to clear out anything in front of him in the six yard box – seems to have turned the tie in Malmo’s favour.
Celtic actually scored the only goal in the previous round against Qarabag from a corner with Leigh Griffiths backing into the keeper just enough to make a difference. That was the only goal over two matches and it took Celtic through. Likewise the blocks on Van Dijk by Malmo players went unnoticed and gave the Swede a multi-million euro windfall – at Celtic’s expense.
Against Malmo, Celtic were too weak and a little naive at corners, zonal marking or not. Celtic’s goals against stats in Europe over the last year or so means that this all has to be looked at before we make the same mistakes again in the Europa League.
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