“I could see it coming,” Ange Postecoglou rues Celtic’s second half survival mode

Joe Hart put his hands up, taking full responsibility for the gift of a second goal for RB Leipzig last night but that was then dismssed by his manager Ange Postecoglou who criticised his team for slipping into a survival mode in the second half of the Champions League Group stages match after Jota had levelled the scoring just after the break.

“I am at fault for the second goal. No doubt about it. But that’s the way the manager wants us to play and that is how we play. Sometimes it is going to hurt us. But most of the time, as we showed, it works to get us through the press and get opportunities to score,” Joe Hart told BT Sports in his post-match interview.

“They were pressing with three and I wasn’t sure whether to go to the centre half or Greg Taylor. I went for Greg and I missed. Those are the simple facts. But this is high-level football and something that I love playing. You make a mistake and you get punished,” Joe Hart said.

That though was not the way that his manager saw things, dismissing any criticism of the Celtic goalkeeper and instead asking questions of his outfield players who for some reason stopped trying to play our football, preferring to attempt some kind of hold on to what we’ve got plan that always looked like backfiring.

“It’s not about the mistake. It’s about before then. We had a lot of the ball, but were just passing it back to him,” Ange said in his media conference after the 3-1 defeat that lifts RB Leipzig off the bottom on the table to be replaced by Celtic.

“You are doing what you think is safe, but it’s not really who we are. In the first half, we played balls that were on and sometimes we’d make a mistake and that was okay because we were trying to be positive. I just felt after we scored we almost settled for that and kept passing the ball back to him. A mistake is a mistake. It’s not about that it’s about what the lead up to that was.

“We kept giving it back to Joe for no reason. For us to get over this hump of being a good side and having results is about having a really strong belief and mentality. It’s not easy to do. I could see it coming. If it wasn’t Joe making the mistake, it would have been somebody else.

Joe Hart  after Christopher Nkunku of RB Leipzig (not pictured) scored their sides first goal during the UEFA Champions League group F match between RB Leipzig and Celtic FC at Red Bull Arena on October 05, 2022. (Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images)

“When you get into survival mode, the best you are going to do is survive. When you come away from home in a game like this, when you’ve fought so hard to claw your way back into it, you don’t want to survive. You want to sustain a positive mindset. That’s how you affect the opposition and make them uncomfortable.

“It’s just experience. Players are people. At some point they’ll switch into some kind of safety mode. But you can’t play safe at this level. If you play for survival then that’s all you are going to get. And to survive, you aren’t really getting anywhere. It’s something we’ll learn from.”

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Perhaps the most significant factor in last night’s disappointment in Leipzig will be the loss of club captain Callum McGregor who injured his knee in attempting to recover from his own error that allowed Leipzig to counter attack and open the scoring.

The injury actually occurred as McGregor reached the ball but his toe-poke merely provided an assist for the opener in what was a dreadfully unfortuate 15 seconds for the Celtic skipper. His absence is also the likely reason that the players stopped play their football and slipped into the survival mode the Ange Postecoglou criticised.

On his captain’s injury Ange said: “It doesn’t look good, but we’ll wait and see what the doctor has to say. The fact he felt he had to come off suggests it’s not something small. It came from our corner and we got a bit unlucky. Callum got injured in that moment and still had the courage to run back.”


Sumarising the match Ange recognises that his side can’t expect to succeed if they are going to lose goals like the ones conceded last night because at Champions League level teams will always punish you.

“For the most part, we matched them. We had some good opportunities in the first half, we get level. We just got a bit negative with our mindset after that. We sort of invited pressure and you can’t give away goals like that at this level. We paid the price.

“We have given them a second goal and, after that, the game gets stretched. It’s hard for us to then contain him. It’s difficult because most of our players are playing at this level for the first time. There’s nothing that can replace the understanding of being out there and knowing what you can and can’t do. We’re kind of learning as we’re going along.”


About Author

The Celtic Star founder and editor, who has edited numerous Celtic books over the past decade or so including several from Lisbon Lions, Willie Wallace, Tommy Gemmell and Jim Craig. Earliest Celtic memories include a win over East Fife at Celtic Park and the 4-1 League Cup loss to Partick Thistle as a 6 year old. Best game? Easy 4-2, 1979 when Ten Men Won the League. Email editor@thecelticstar.co.uk

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