Shakhter Karagandy covered 5k more ground than Celtic last night, 500m per outfield player. That’s 5.5m per minute, per player, or an extra meter every 10 seconds or so. That kind of advantage means that when the ball breaks loose in and around the danger area, the more active team are in space – which happened at both goals.
Conversely, when Celtic were in advanced positions Shakhter players were there in numbers. The difference was not caused by exceptional exertion by Shakhter, in their match with Maribor last night, Viktoria Plzen covered 11k more than Celtic, or a clear 2 meters every 10 seconds per outfield player.
Despite enjoying the vast majority of possession the Celtic players were lacking in movement and ideas. Being short of ideas is one thing but lack of movement is altogether unacceptable. We have to prepare fitness levels ahead of the second leg meticulously; Inverness on Saturday is only relevant for those who need game time ahead of Wednesday.
The Mouhokolo-van Dijk novice partnership was a surprise; a lot of faith was shown in players few of us know much about. Could we have held Kelvin for another few weeks? Would it have been less of a risk to play Ambrose and/or Mulgrew in defence? Yes to both, I suspect.
We learned Georgios is not a striker in 2009. He is one of our most effective players when away from home but not as a striker. Anthony Stokes is a striker but his style is just as unsuited to the formation we played last night as Georgios’. We seemed to pick a team to combat Shakhter’s strengths which didn’t play to our own.
I’m not convinced signing a player one week before an important game is an ideal preparation but taking the money early for Hooper, weeks before Amido Balde (or anyone else) has settled and considered a viable starter, is a calculated risk which is now in sharp focus.
We should also show some respect to Shakhter. The club are miles out of their depth at this stage of European football but they left with all the credit. After the game, manager Kumykov played down his chances, “we are not the favourites”. He’s a clever man who knows what he is doing.
It is possible Celtic will play as badly next week but it’s more likely that we will put on a vastly better performance. Between now and then we have plenty of opportunity to wallow in an embarrassing defeat, so knock yourself out, but I’ll hold fire until the tie is decided, which I expect to be in Celtic’s favour. Bring it on.
You got to love European football.
Penalty kick practice, please……
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