Ronny Deila’s players kicked off their Europa League campaign with a positive result. Despite leading twice, Celtic had to settle for a draw but it was a fair result.
Celtic started the stronger and looked good for the first goal. That came true after some nice one touch passing in the final third of the field involving captain Scott Brown, Kris Commons and finally debutant Wakaso Mubarak, curling a low drive into the far corner.
Salzburg would respond some twenty-two minutes later courtesy of a deflection. That goal came during a period when Celtic were sitting back and were duly punished, albeit cruelly.
Celtic took the lead once more in the second half through Scott Brown after he latched onto a loose ball outside the box. With space and time to breathe, Brown smacked the ball home calmly, though took a touch of a Salzburg players boot en route to goal.
Later in the second half, Celtic made attacking changes. It was inevitable given that some players, young Callum McGregor in particular, were surprisingly quiet and ineffective, though he himself would remain on the park throughout the game.
Anthony Stokes and Aleksandr Tonev replaced Stefan Šćepović and Kris Commons respectively. Whilst Commons can always conjure something out of nothing, Šćepović has yet to settle into the team though he did come extremely close to scoring a long-range effort shortly before going off.
However, Salzburg came back into the match with twelve minutes remaining. A free kick conceded by Celtic was sublimely placed into the goal by Salzburg striker Soriano.
Chances came and went toward the end of the game but it finished a stalemate. The main talking points were positive in my view, though I still question Efe Ambrose’s placement at right back.
With injuries to Lustig and Matthews, Ambrose’s experience has won over Ronny Deila. For me though, it is Darnell Fisher who should filling that position for now given Ambrose’s lackadaisical performances.
On a positive note Scott Brown’s return to the midfield was warmly welcomed in European competition. His influence and determination is important amongst these other midfield players who do not possess ability but perhaps not that same aggression and spirit.
For Callum McGregor it was not such a fortuitous night but Ronny Delia has a great deal of belief in him. I wouldn’t disagree with him either as McGregor is easily one of Celtic’s best players right now.
I save my main praise for goalkeeper Craig Gordon though. Celtic’s decision to bring him to the club (not Ronny’s) left me with mixed feelings, particularly as it meant a certain exit for “La Gran Muralla”, Fraser Forster.
Delia has given Gordon the nod and he has not let the team down. In fact, Delia said that Gordon’s influence in the dressing has been substantial.
On the field of play he evidently more vocal than Forster was and has a few years more experience as well, even though he has been out of the game for so long. He himself has indicated that he needs to improve more which is welcome, though for now he his doing a fine job.
His efforts last night kept Celtic in the game when they could quite easily have conceded. Disappointment was visible on his face at both goals but knowing that he does has room to sharpen up those reflexes and that decision-making is heartening given that he is also one of Celtic’s best players right now.
As far as the result goes I would have taken a draw before kick off. This competition may not be the Champions League but it doesn’t mean Celtic will walk it.
Ronny Deila has only obtained key players at the eleventh hour of the transfer window. Only now can he carve his vision onto the field of play with the squad he has.
That will take time and patience so in Europe particularly Celtic will need to tread carefully. Its as much a learning curve for Deila as it is for this squad.
It can be a platform to better things but should also be approached with greatest respect to the opponents in Group D. Nobody will be a pushover in this tournament but for me it is an excellent opportunity for Celtic to make a run.
The sad thing is that John Guidetti is one player we will not see in the group stage. If Celtic make it beyond Christmas in the Europa League, we might just get that wish.