Celtic will need to reset and refocus after that abject performance

Celtic’s hopes of landing a treble in Ange Postecoglou’s first season in Scottish football came to an end today as Celtic gifted theRangers passage to the Scottish Cup final where they will meet Hearts next month hoping to win the competition for the first time in their history.

Yesterday was a strange one. Shortly after Celtic went 1-0 up I actually turned to my father-in-law and said ‘if Celtic manage to win this playing the way we have done today it will be a killer blow to theRangers mentality going forward’. Then Celtic had that glorious opportunity through Cameron Carter-Vickers to end the match as a contest which unfortunately ricocheted off the crossbar. I think it was Chris Sutton who said at the time ‘could that moment be the turning point’. Sadly, it turned out that it was.

Let’s not sugarcoat anything however. Celtic did not perform well. I would be saying this whether we progressed to the final or not. All I could think throughout the game was that we looked like the team that had just played 120 minutes on Thursday, not them. The Celtic players looked sluggish throughout the whole game and they have had over a week to prepare for this tie. That’s worrying and something Ange Postecoglou and his coaches will have to thoroughly investigate.

Celtic blew it big time today. When we went 1-0 up we should have been good enough to see the game out. theRangers weren’t anything special, far from it. That’s probably what makes the result so disappointing. At 1-0 Celtic were in prime position to advance to the final and be that one stage closer to a treble that you know Ange Postecoglou would have been desperate to claim in his first season at the club, especially with the things said about him in the media in the early stages of his career in Scotland.

There weren’t many who left Hampden today with pass marks. I thought Callum McGregor tried his hardest to influence the game and was hard to fault. The defence also coped well for large parts of the match, especially with corners and free kicks which was encouraging after failing to deal with these situations earlier in the season.

Others failed to turn up today. Tom Rogic, who was sublime against the same opposition just a couple of weeks ago, was anonymous today. His midfield partner Reo Hatate wasn’t much better. The Japanese star came straight off a long season playing for Kawasaki Frontale and into a Celtic team only half way through their campaign. He may be struggling due to basically playing for a year non stop, the fact that Daizen Maeda is still producing the energy levels he is may be nothing short of a miracle.

Liel Abada was handed an excellent opportunity to win back his position in the starting eleven going forward and failed to take it. He has looked so threatening when coming on as a substitute lately, I really was expecting a big performance from him today. Jota was another who was expected to step up and show what he’s all about on the big stage today, but after looking lively initially, he faded like so many of his teammates.

One thing that really worried me was when Juranovic and Taylor came off for Ralston and Welsh. We looked horribly exposed after these substitutions. Ralston was getting embarrassed by Kent at times, his lack of pace being totally exposed. Welsh also looked out of his depth, and the right back position certainly didn’t suit him. His link up play with James Forrest during extra time was a shambles. It will be up to Ange Postecoglou during the summer to decide whether these positions need strengthened going forward. I feel both Ralston and Welsh are good players and could do a job in domestic competition but I certainly wouldn’t want to see them line out next season in a Champions League game.

People have mentioned how badly we missed Giorgos Giakoumakis today, and I’m glad that after today most people will realise how important the big Greek striker is to this team but there was someone I felt we missed even more, Nir Bitton.

Now there has been no mention of why the Israeli international was missing from the bench today, I can only presume it was due to injury otherwise leaving him out was a grave mistake. With 20 mins left, theRangers started to get a foothold back into the game after Celtic’s best spell of the match, it would have been the perfect time to introduce Bitton to help see the game out with Hatate starting to toil.

It’s important Celtic pick themselves up after today as seeing out the league campaign is of vital importance now. If someone had offered us the League and the league cup at the start of this season we would have bit their hand off so even though today was disappointing, we need to reset and refocus our attention on the most important thing this season, winning the league.

In the long run today may be a blessing in disguise. It will dispell any notion anyone may have that we only need to turn up to win these matches. Nothing will be easy and the team need to be ready to give everything they have got in our next two matches against Ross County and theRangers. Win those two and it’s over.

Hopefully today will light a fire inside their belly that drives them on to prove that today was a one off.

Keep your eye on the prize Celtic.

Conall McGinty

About Author

Hailing from Cushendall in the North of Ireland my formative years were spent watching Celtic during our barren spell through the 90's which meant I have appreciated our recent trophy-laden spell even more. Favourite matches home and away I've attended has to be beating Man Utd 1-0 at Celtic Park and being with my 2 brothers watching us beat Lazio 2-1 in Rome. Best away day experience? Has to be Munich with friends from Coatbridge...what a few days!


  1. we lost because we bottled it, talking from kick off. 6 million for jota ?, his shooting is a fecking disgrace for him and our coaching staff, if you hired a plumber, spark, taxi driver and they performed like these players, you would not pay them, any person in any job, oh boss it’s just a bad day i am having, you get sacked. why did they look fitter ?, or did they just want it more. correct about bitton, was he injured ?, who knows but when i seen he was not there, i thought we might miss him and gg was a massive loss. not doing it myself, but if you watch that game again, and watch our front players decisions and delivery it is atrocious, we were awful. the game today showed me why that mob get good results in europe, they have good in game management, not really dictated by their manager, but the players do it on field, they slowed the game down when they felt the need, in a sense they dictated the speed of the game to their desires, wee madden helped, but was not the reason for our defeat. winning the title will ease the pain, re group we go again in the highlands.

  2. David Potter on

    I have already had my say about yesterday, and I am glad that so many people seem to agree with me. There was something clearly wrong with the attitude yesterday in so many of our players. Only to a point can I sympathise with players being “tired” or “had a long season”. This is the sharp end, and we must be focussed. There is a world of difference between Rangers and St Johnstone, but the quality of football displayed last week leaves me in no doubt that we have the ability. It will count for nothing however if we cannot produce it when we need to. And we certainly need to produce it now. Time for certain players to take it on the chin, have a long hard look at themselves and then FIGHT BACK!

  3. I think we have little to be worried about. I don’t for a minute believe there was any problem with attitude.
    It was a disappointing result and the front players pressing bar Maeda let us down badly – but for Jota and Abada the pressing side of things is hardly their strong suit. Behind them Rogic and Hatate couldn’t cope with the defensive shift required but also received little protection from the officials when trying to break. Yet defensively until the injuries to the full backs happened we coped well.
    Had CCV scored with that chance we’d have won despite not being at our best.
    Neither side was good yesterday, the fact it took until extra time for them to beat us shows despite edging the midfield physical battle – with a blurring of laws from Madden – there was little creativity in their ranks.
    We need to hold firm to the principles that got us to this point. It’s been a long journey, a testing one, and where we are now is scarcely believeable considering where we were last summer.
    One defeat after extra time in a cup semi-final should not result in self doubt. Instead we should have confidence in a manager and group of players who haven’t lost a game in 90 minutes since 19 September by believing in a process and philosophy that got us to this point. They’ve earned one aberration surely.