Celtic took the lead in the first leg of their Champions League qualifier against Qarabağ last night. Overall it was a decent performance by the Bhoy’s but clean cut chances were few in numbers despite the home advantage.
This wasn’t a dominating performace by Celtic. In fact most of the stats I found Qarabağ to have had slightly more in the way of possession.
Still, only one of those chances were on target for the Azerbaijan side. Celtic managed four on target from eight, scoring just one but Sehic wasn’t tested enough.
For the third consecutive European tie Ronny opted for Nadir Çiftçi in “attack”. Unfortunately, that meant few chances, less pace and not much movement.
Givent that it was a home tie, I’m fairly certain that Griffiths would have provided more dynamic last night. I’m aware that Çiftçi and Griffiths offer different services in attack but Cifcti isn’t fully incorporated into all things Celtic just yet and looking short of well…everything.
He did have a little flutter in front of goal at one point but he was largely ineffective. Whilst Ronny acknowledged to the media that he opted for Çiftçi over Griffiths due to the latters ‘toothache’ he was still available to play.
It isn’t as though he wasn’t fit and had to omit him from the squad and put Šćepović in instead. In fact, I’m surprised by the absence of the Serb given his goal return in Europe for Celtic.
I am happy with the pressing game Celtic are playing and one or two moves came off last night but the fact is we have zero penetration. Mackay-Steven showed some promise early in the game but then fell out of things.
Brown and Bitton were superb in midfield to begin with but then look tired later on in the game. Ironically it was the Celtic TV commentator who said that Qarabağ were beginning to look ‘leggy’.
I don’t know what game he was watching but I didn’t see any evidence of that. In fact I thought Qarabağ did a good job last night.
They didn’t park the bus as our previous opponents did. They positioned themselves well and made good use of the ball.
That was why they came out on top with possession. Celtic failed to hang onto the ball more in the second half than in the first.
Most of the moves broke down in the last third. It is one thing to persevere with Çiftçi, particularly with a domestic ban hanging over his, but at what cost?
I was more relieved than celebratory when Boyata scored last night. He’s now scored the same amount of goals as Šćepović in Europe, one more than Griffiths and two more than Çiftçi.
To be clear, I am not putting the boot in on the Turkish forward. He needs a little more time but these games are crucial and I don’t think Griffiths should be left out of the equation with so much at stake.
With a slender advantage next week’s return leg will be a nervy one. It was important to keep a clean sheet last night but another goal would have been more settling.
Whether Qarabağ will adopt a more offensive style at home I don’t know. Whatever their approach, Celtic will need to be better than them to protect a 1-0 lead.