Celtic were magnificent last night. Every player, the starting eleven and those who entered from the bench, put in a shift that deserves the utmost praise.
Despite the injuries, despite the over all performances we’ve seen this season, the team were relentless against Zenit. Either the visitors were overwhelmed by Celtic or they were saving themselves for the home tie.
They didn’t offer much in this, their first competitive match since early December. I expect more from them in Russia for the second leg, but I also expect more of the same from Celtic.
Thursday night in Paradise was all about Celtic. The set-up was slightly different to lineups we’ve seen under Brendan Rodgers.
A big question mark over the central defence was answered with the inclusion of Jozo Simunovic and Kristoffer Ajer, the latter being there on merit. The midfield was the real surprise though.
Scott Brown captained us as ever and the unplayable Olivier Ntcham was along side him. Perhaps it was the inclusion of Eboue Kouassi and the responsibility handed to Callum McGregor which had us all wondering how this might pan out?
They didn’t disappoint either. The movement and passing had good rhythm.
There was a constant supply forward. James Forrest was heavily marked but he was still able to interact with his team mates.
On the left flank the almost ever present Scott Sinclair was confined to the bench. With that gap being filled by a combination of Ntcham and Kieran Tierney, the bad news for Scotty was that he wasn’t missed.
Up top was a hard working Moussa Dembele. He never found the net but he was tireless in his efforts before being replaced by Odsonne Edouard.
Such was the level of performance, Celtic bossed this match. As others have observed, this could be a glimpse of things to come.
We may even have come to a point of realisation. That we can push on to the next level.
I found it tough to choose a man-of-the-match. Everyone played so well.
It’s the best home performance Celtic have had in Europe since beating FC Astana in August. Coincidentally, the last match I attended before this one.
The fans were in good voice. Paradise was jumping.
The only thing that wasn’t coming off was finding the net. When we did it was a moment of brilliance.
Charly Musonda, on for Kouassi, collected a ball from Dembele out on the left. With some nifty footwork he picked out McGregor in space whose chest control allowed him to lash the ball with his right foot, high and past the Zenit keeper.
Euphoria! To say we deserved a goal would be an understatement.
Brendan Rodgers’ reaction summed up the moment as he exploded with joy down the touchline in front of the jubilant home fans. Who could contain themselves after such a long wait for a goal?
This kind of performance should be used as a marker. A benchmark for how we can play when we put our minds to it.
We won’t be able to play every game or opponent like this. We can play like this though.
Well done Bhoys. More of the same next week.