Celtic laid to rest their Gibraltar woes at Celtic Park last night by finishing off Lincoln Red Imps with succinct victory. The Hoops continually threatened from the first whistle, but they would have to wait until the 23rd minute to do what the failed to do last week and score a goal.
In fact Celtic helped themselves to three goals in the space of six mintues. That was enough to finish the job and more importantly, exorcise last week’s result.
We saw a total change in passing quality and tempo in this match compared to the first leg. Not just the lineup itself, but the attitude, urgency, formation and of course the surface.
The game was done at half-time and we had hoped to see more goals in the second but we didn’t. Chances were missed though with Celtic still in preseason, the players are not yet functioning at the desired level.
For Brendan Rodgers, the most important factor was getting through to the next phase. Unlike us Cetlic supporters, he remained calm after last weeks result whilst we dealt with the embarassment of losing 1-0 to a semi-professional side.
Our anger was warranted, even if winning the tie overall was never in doubt for the manager. That’s not an unsual difference of opinion but we’ve already seen two failed attempts at entering the Champions League under Ronny Deila so we desperately need Brendan Rodgers to make it first time around.
As for the playing side, we still need investment. The next round is a tougher test with the away leg in a totally different time zone and at quite some distance.
Don’t expect Celtic to win that one. The last trip to Kazakhstan saw Celtic lose 2-0 in August 2013 in the Champions Legaue play off to FC Shakhter Karagandy.
Celtic overturned the scoreline at Celtic Park winning 3-0 in the second leg. That was a test of nerves but as it turned out, a pretty awful experience in the group phase.
The question remains whether we will see additions to the squad for this next round. FC Astana are a new club, having only been founded in 2009 but they reached the group stages of the Champions League last season.
Despite finishing bottom of their group, they proved to all away teams that Kazakhstan wasn’t an easy place to come to. They drew all three home fixtures against Benfica (2-2), Atletico Madrid (0-0) andGalatasaray (2-2).
Even though they managed a 1-1 draw in Turkey, they lost 2-0 in Portugal and 4-0 in Spain.That left them foot of the group but against that opposition in your first group phase it’s not too shabby at all.
So Celtic will have there work cut out for them. Some investment will happen soon but it remains to be seem if that will happen before tonights deadline even if it is just one player to shore up the defence.
Lincoln Red Imps may only have got a goal courtesy of Efe Ambrose’s comedic defending but you can be sure FC Astana will be more threatening to Celtic’s unsettled back line. Erik Sviatchenko needs someone to step in alomgside him and steady the ship.
Mikael Lustig is capable of playing centre half and may be an option should any signings fail to materialise. It wouldn’t be ideal but not a disaster either.
Eoghan O’Connell is another possibility. Even thoughhe lacks experience, he knows the team and always looks steady in that position.
I feel more comfortable after watching last night’s performance but as Chris Davies said it’s about getting the right player on the right deal. There’s no point in just signing anyone – we’ve done that before and it’s a waste of resources.
So let’s see what this evening brings. Consider the Imps dispatched.