I woke up this morning without the expected hangover I normally associate with European nights. Instead I had a clear head and no recollection of any nightmare moments from last nights match at Celtic Park.
Neil Lennon must have a similar feeling this morning. His team of youth and inexperience in the Champions League acquitted themselves well and he can feel proud that they did not buckle under such pressure.
The players themselves will perhaps feel disappointed that they did not get a victory on their opening game in Europe’s top club competition. Even more so as it was on home territory, but there lies the motivation for the fixtures that follow.
Since Neil took over at Celtic he has had his plate full. He took over from a inept predecessor and was left to evaluate a team of under-performers.
What he has done since then is put together a squad of his own and take them into the best club competition in Europe. Last night was a huge step forward for Neil and his players.
Despite not troubling the opposition keeper last night, Celtic managed to keep a clean sheet of there own. The players didn’t look phased by the experience either.
The best part of the game for the team was the first 15-20 minutes when they passed and moved forward with belief. As the game wore on Benfica came into it more and the second half even more so.
Overall I would say that the defence did well considering that Brown and Wanyama were one player short of midfield superiority. There was some early pressure from them but the success of the midfield in recent times has been down to a profusion of talented options.
The injuries to Kayal and Ledley (and the departure of Ki) were an obvious loss. One more option in the middle of the park would have been sufficient but we will have to wait a bit longer to see one or both of these Bhoy’s back in contention.
The same goes for Samaras, easily a key inclusion for a fixture like last nights. His holding up of the ball and meandering down the channels would have have taken the strain off Commons’ solo efforts.
He worked hard and tried the keeper a couple of times, but no joy there. Unfortunately, Forrest was unable to infiltrate such is his trade, but he did keep some of the Benfica players busy off the ball.
Miku, who was given the nod due to Hooper’s fitness was fairly quiet. He received little or no service, but as I say it was largely down to the midfield’s lack of strength in numbers.
Regardless of this assessment, I still feel the team executed credible performance. And like I said: no hangover, no fear.
Bring on Match Day 2 in the Champions League.
Stevie, Celts from the South