Celtic, Europe and the dreaded Second Ball

While watching the highlights from last night over again, one of the most glaring issues with Celtic (that is ever present) is our total inability to deal with the second ball when defending in-and-around the box.

It feels like Groundhog Day, but this has been a perreniel issue when trying to defend on the continent. For some reason, when defending we cannot seem to clear the ball far enough either with the head or feet. This invariably leads to sustained pressure, more often than not leading to a goal.

Each time we bare witness to these types of goals conceded, it’s hard not to let your imagination run wild at what would happen to these second balls if we had defensive midfielder with nous and grit. Dare I say someone like the much loved Victor Wanyama..?

Borja Iglesias of Real Betis. Photo Joaquin Corchero

It has been sometime since I can recall a sitting midfielder at Celtic that could competently clean up the scraps. Although Ange speaks of high ideals and a philosophy of play, it is an undeniable aspect of football that you must win the battle before you can express yourself through your style. The Celtic midfield could do with a player akin to Neil Lennon or even Joe Ledley at present.

For the first goal we conceded last night, a cross comes into the box first which is poorly headed away by Ralston, leading to pressure continuing on the defence. Jota misses the football completely with a swipe at the ball, allowing Betis to play a one-two – with Soro unable to stop the ball from sliding through the defence. That’s three attempts at clearing our lines which gives Betis a lifeline before half-time.

Players of Real Betis celebrates after scoring 2-2 during the Europa League match Photo Daniel Gonzalez Acuna

Then, early into the second half, Betis have a corner at 3-2 which Cameron Carter-Vickers tries to clear and fluffs, falling to Tom Rogic who’s weak header finds it landing at the feet of Juanmi, who controls well and rifles a shot into the net past Joe Hart. Celtic from 2-0 up are 4-2 down and on the ropes again.

Why is this so important?

Well, taking into account that the game finished 4-3, if we had managed to deal with the second ball around the danger zone, we could have won the game 3-2. Fine margins at this level, always.

Below are the highlights so that you can see for yourself.

Paul Gillespie

Photo: Joaquin Corchero

READ THIS…Sandman’s Definitive Ratings: Celtic at the Vale of Tears

About Author

I'm a Garngad Bhoy through and through. My first ever Celtic game was a friendly against Italian side Parma at Celtic Park, in 2002. Currently a student of English Literature and Education at the University of Strathclyde for my sins. Favourite game would be a toss up between beating Manchester United with that Naka freekick, or the game against the Oldco when Hesselink scored in the dying seconds. I'm still convinced Cal Mac is wasted playing that far back.

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