The starting line-up was predictable, but the performance was ineffective. Salzburg outclassed Celtic in the first 45 minutes of last night’s crucial match at Celtic Park and even an improved second half performnace wasn’t enough to earn the point we were seeking.
However, as it turned out, Rosenborg did the unthinkable and stole their first point in this group in their final match. The outcome of that unlikely result allowed Celtic to progress despite suffering defeat in Glasgow.
Thats because we won three, lost three. Leipzig won two, drew one, lost two.
I’m not going to excuse anyone for last night’s poor effort. We should have changed tactics much sooner than we did as it clearly wasn’t working.
Salzburg enjoyed themselves so much, they looked like Barcelona. Wave after wave of attacking, free flowing football.
Nobody would have argued with our starting line-up. It has brought us recent success on the park.
It was evident early on though that it wasn’t going to work against Salzburg. So obvious, you knew we’d have a different shape at half time.
We should have instigated that change no later than the half hour mark. So why didn’t we do that?
We were hanging on by the skin of our teeth in the first half. How we didn’t concede is a miracle.
I think most of us were satisfied with the team Brendan put out and wouldn’t have disrupted that. As it turned out it yielded nothing.
When Brown and Olivier Ntcham entered the fray we looked a different team. But we were gutless on the left wing with Scott Sinclair and James Forrest never really got the service until the second half.
Kris Ajer had a terrible time at right back filling in for Mikael Lustig who went off with a head knock. I’m not even sure Cristian Gamboa would’ve been the answer either had he even been on the bench.
Kieran Tierney was getting rinsed in the first half and was even a culpable at the first goal. Overall I thought Jozo Simunovic and Filip Benkovic didn’t do too badly, but they had no protection and made some poor decisions under pressure.
Tom Rogic looked way off the boil, even when he did get the ball. Callum McGregor didn’t impose himself enough and Ryan Christie never saw much of the ball before eventuallygoing off injured.
I thought Odsonne Edouard did okay considering the pressure on the young striker. In fact he worked harder in the first half defensively than in an attacking sense.
Overall this was a game to forget. And yet Brendan Rodgers must learn from this.
It was a tactical error and he should hand changed things sooner. You could argue that had Craig Gordon, who was keeping us in it, not made a second half blunder we’d have got the draw.
The fact is we got it totally wrong and must learn from it and move on. We’re in the last 32 because we got more points than Leipzig and Rosenborg.
Many have focussed on the fact that ‘Rosenborg did us a favour’ and I’ll be sure to buy a pint for the first of their supporters I meet. However, if Rosenborg had got a draw in Trondheim against Leipzig earlier in the tournament and lost last night it would have been the same outcome with Celtic going through.
So I’m not going to start saying we got lucky. It’s about six games over a period of three months.
The permutations can vary. What Celtic must do now is invest in our squad.
We have to buy players to plug the gaps now and for the ones that will appear come the end of the season. There is also a need to inject further quality into this team.
If Lewis Morgan is to be the replacement for Sinclair then I want to see him now. Edouard will need support, especially with Leigh Griffiths on a sabbatical.
Our defence needs surgery particularly at right back. The centre of defence will be without Benkovic and probably even Dedryck Boyata by January or June.
We have the makings of a good team, but it requires an upgrade to progress. Success doesn’t come cheap, but we don’t have to break the bank either.
European football is secure for another two games. On Monday we will find out who we face in the Europa League draw.
Last night was in our hands and we blew it. Fate played its part and gave us a helping hand.
We won’t always get a rub of the green. We must make our own luck.