It was a tale of two halves in Rotterdam for Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic side. An impressive first half showing, albeit lacking in cutting edge and composure at key times, a set piece goal just before the break is as close to a ‘Celtic in Europe’ moment as you will find.
A timid start to the second half, coupled with the red cards to Gustaf Lagerbielke and Odin Thiago Holm piled together to rule out any chance of a result for Rodgers, seven years on from his first taste of Champions League football in the Celtic dugout.
A first half where both sides failed to take the game by the scruff of the neck, in terms of chances and possession, Celtic edged it. Rodgers got his tactics spot on. In particular, his side pressed with such elegance and structure not seen from a Celtic team away from home in Europe in a very long time.
A freakish Calvin Stengs free kick was the turning point in the game for both sides, and perhaps one that VAR should have been looking at given the clear interference in the Celtic wall by the Feyenoord player. Journalist Stephen McGowan writing in Scottish Daily Mail explains:
“Under law 13.3 of the game, the Calvin Stengs strike which turned the game should have been ruled out for interference in the Celtic wall from home attackers.”
Watch this and ignore the punditry, just watch the Feyenoord player’s interference with the Celtic wall.
“I don’t know why he was in the wall” 👀
Martin O’Neill and @jjenas8 critical as Celtic concede from a free kick…
— Football on TNT Sports (@footballontnt) September 19, 2023
Putting that aside, Feyenoord came back out in the second half brimming with confidence, Celtic the complete opposite.
A more nervy, cautious start to the second half for Rodgers’ men eventually led to the Feyenoord penalty and the second yellow card for the unfortunate Lagerbielke, who looked to have been fouled before his arm movement got him dismissed.
An erratic tackle from Odin Thiago Holm, followed by a subsequent red card rubbed salt in Celtic’s wounds and ruled out any chance of a comeback in Rotterdam.
Once again it was the same old story that seems to be followed year on year for Celtic sides on the continent, lacking in both experience and quality told.
In a game where Reo Hatate struggled badly and Liam Scales shined, very few Celtic players received pass marks for their performance. Matt O’Riley, Liam Scales and Alistair Johnston (to a lesser extent) were small positives in an overall disappointing night for Rodgers side.
Yet not all hope is lost. Five games remain, along with the colossus Cameron Carter Vickers to return in the coming weeks, hopefully in time to face Lazio. If Celtic can build on that promising first half performance in the rest of their European campaign, results will follow.
But for now, the tale of Celtic’s woes in Europe continues.