Last night was not a good night for Celtic. A failure to win the game may not in itself be fatal to our European prospects, but it has brought to a head a possible crisis between Manager and Board about the John McGinn situation. The two matters are apparently unconnected, but nevertheless they are now inextricably linked in that if we do fail next Tuesday, there will be a stick with which to beat the Board. It was a bad day.
The game itself saw an appalling misjudgement from Kristoffer Ajer to allow the Greeks an equaliser. It was a blow just before half time from which the team never really recovered. Celtic pressed throughout the second half, had hard luck on occasion, but never really showed the flair and the panache that they displayed in the first half.
Everyone had said “we mustn’t lose anything”, and when we did, it was as if we all believed that we had blown everything! Callum McGregor, in particular, went from brilliant to ordinary, and Odsonne Edouard never really got going in the second half when he was clumsily fallible.
And yet the first half hour saw Celtic at their best.
Everyone played well with Tierney and McGregor outstanding, and McGregor’s goal one out of the top drawer. Had we held out until half-time, it might have been a different story, but a goal just before half-time is always a bad pyscholgical blow. And last night, we simply did not cope with it.
I feel – and it is always very easy with retrospect – that it was a mistake to play two young central defenders together. Jack Hendry had a poor first half, but recovered well in the second, and Kristofer Ajer had a good game apart from his catastrophic switching off, but I still feel that either Jozo Simunovic or Dedryck Boyata should have been played in this game.
So where do we go from here?
In the first place we must believe. What we are asked to do is difficult but it is not impossible. We simply have to score in Athens, preferably more than once. 2-2 would do us, but we must be positive.
And we must never fall asleep or switch off.
AEK, who looked like East Fife of old in their black and gold except with a couple of guys with ponytails and a tendency to exaggerate injuries, were a very competent defensive team, but I don’t think they are unbeatable. I would hate to see Celtic’s European self-destruct impulse in action again.
And on the other apparently unrelated but nevertheless equally important matter, I think that, if there is any friction between Manager and Board, the matter must be addressed promptly with a joint statement if necessary.
It is hurtful to think that an English Championship side who have a glorious past but no great recent form have been allowed to out-manoeuvre Celtic and take away a man who is Celtic daft.
It should not have happened, and we would like to know the truth. There must not be a rift between Manager and Board. It is fairly obvious whose side the supporters are on.
In the meantime, we have Hearts at Tynecastle on Saturday. That is another severe test.