Winning and whining

Celtic got off to winning ways in Champions League qualifying with a 2-0 over Stjarnan FC. The score line could have been higher but as the squad continue to shape up it remains a positive result for Ronny Deila.

Throughout the match Celtic were in full control. The Icelandic side offered little in terms of offensive play which to be fair was not a total surprise.

A sharper Celtic team would have put them to the sword and I don’t mean that disrespectfully. They deployed their team to with their best strengths in mind.

Celtic could have had a better game, but they could also had a worse game. It’s only match day 1 of the competitive season though so we’re just getting started.

There were many talking points as early as Ciftci starting ahead of Griffiths and even Mackay-Steven being replaced by Forrest at the warm up stage. Then there was another pedantic penalty incident which shouldn’t even be a talking point but it was.

With new boys Boyata and Ciftci both making their competitive debuts we were all hoping for a thrilling match. There were plenty of opportunities for Celtic and a good one did come from Ciftci early in the first half but he failed to capitalise on it.

After a several chances, it would fall to another debutant to open the scoring. Boyata, lurking at the back post latched on to a cross ball to header home with no challenge to put him off.

The timing was perfect for Celtic with the goal coming just before half-time. It would have been rather frustrating to go in at the interval 0-0.

Although the Hoops weren’t exactly ticking along, there was never really any danger given the stance taken by Stjarnan even though they created decent chances for themselves. Celtic continued to attack in the second half though and came up with a second goal courtesy of Johansen who finished well from a Armstrong pass.

The tie looked to be heading into certainty late on in the match when Celtic won a penalty after Johansen was felled in the box. His goal earlier on was soon forgotten as he declared himself as penalty taker.

Griffiths, who had just come on earlier in the match was making his case as the penalty taker in chief. In the post match interviews, Deila explained who was in the right (Griffiths) and who was in the wrong (Johansen) but could not explain why the spat had occurred.

Given that Johansen has known Deila longer than anyone else in the team, you would think he’d be the first to remember the head coach orders? A wee bit disappointed with such a good player having such a schoolboy whine.

The unfortunate part was that Griffiths missed the penalty. It was bound to happen, given the distraction caused by his team mate.

So the game finished 2-0 and although it wasn’t a crisp performance, no goals were conceded y Celtic. Next week the players should be sharper and looking for a similar result if not a better performance.

By that time, Celtic will know who they could face in the next round provided they don’t mess up the second leg! For now, they need to continue their training and get their match fitness and sharpness back to where it should be.

These qualifiers are now common place in our summer schedule and there is a sense of better preparation for them. I don’t expect any hiccups next week but I’m sure Stjarnan will have a good go regardless.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

 

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Heart Attack!

Tonight’s match at Celtic Park has been billed as a must win game for Ronny Deila. The only difficulty going into this fixture is that Celtic have yet to achieve the long-term consistency we all crave.

As for the opponents, Hearts, they are sitting top of the Championship three points ahead of Rangers. Celtic sit fourth in the Premiership, five points behind leaders Dundee United.

Now as you well know, form rarely matters in the cup competitions. Nonetheless, this is a big fixture for Celtic and Deila.

He is losing support from areas of the fan base already. A loss tonight would be an immediate blow to any chance of a domestic treble.

The pressure on Deila right now is immense. A convincing win tonight would go a long way to releasing some of that.

Hearts will feel they have nothing to lose playing a Premiership team. At the same time they will be thinking “we couldn’t have got Celtic at a better time.”

With that in mind, Ronny Deila must respond by putting out a strong side. Then it is up to the players to do the business.

An early goal would be ideal for Celtic just to get settled. Then to press for the second before Hearts get a chance to make any real attack.

There has been some decent play at times by Celtic, but not enough and in particular, in the final third. Possession isn’t an issue for a squad like this but they have to make that possession count.

With any luck Šćepović and Guidetti will light things up for the forward line. Tonight would be a good starting point.

Go for the jugular Celtic.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie