“I think we kind of got bullied,” admits Matt O’Riley

Celtic play a passing game and when that fails we’re always going to be in trouble…

Yesterday Brendan Rodgers reckoned that in that awful second half at Rugby Park is his abandoned their usual passing game, failed to play as they should and instead allowed themselves to be dragged into a different kind of match that suited Kilmarnock, with Celtic going long and then losing the battles all over the park.

Speaking to the media after the 2-1 defeat Celtic’s goalscorer Matt O’Riley agreed with his manager’s assessment and admitted that because of this he was NOT surprised at the eventual outcome. He did rue his own missed chance in the second half that could have turned the tide back in Celtic’s direction but insisted that he is not worried by what happened yesterday and was emphatic that the team will bounce back.

But he couldn’t disagree with the manager’s assessment of the match.

“Yes, I think there was an element of it. We started the game really well and could have put the game to bed in the first half. I had a chance which I should score in the second half as well and at that point you can kill the game off,” O’Riley observed, as reported by Football Scotland.

“But, irrespective of that, second-half, I think we kind of got bullied a bit as well just in terms of most duels they were winning. At the same time, I thought we were very sloppy on the ball and probably weren’t showing enough – what’s the word – courage just to want the ball, get on the ball and take responsibility.”

Matt O’Riley went on to admit that he was NOT surprised at the way the second half unfolded, due to the manner in which the Celtic team played.

“Not if we play football that suits them. We went long a lot and they have big players who are good in the air. They like to fight for second balls, third balls and we played into their hands in the second half. I think, because of that, I’m not surprised the game went like it did in the second half.

“They just came out more aggressively in the second half and we weren’t as prepared as we should have been for that sort of pressure. That’s what I noticed on the pitch as the only difference. I don’t think it was a lack of mentality, well it was at times with the duels and stuff.

“But overall I think it was more of a calmness and composure kind of thing where, if we do that, we would be fine.”

The result yesterday opens up a genuine title race, indeed Chris Sutton was saying in midweek that the title race was on and there’s no doubt that the momentum is currently with the chasers rather than the league leaders. O’Riley though is in no doubt that we will see a suitable response from the Bhoys.

“I’m not worried about us responding. We will respond,” he told the media at Rugby Park. “I just think there were times we could have showed for the ball a bit more, been a bit calmer as well. Not necessarily courage in that sense, just calmer on the ball.

“Don’t always play the occasion and the crowd sometimes, slow it down and relax. But I’m not worried going forward because, if teams press us, it should be a good thing as it means you have more space in behind to hurt them. We are used to playing against low blocks which we find challenging as well, so we can’t really make excuses.”

Celtic are back in Champions League action on Wednesday night looking for our first home win in a decade in the competition, a sorry record that needs sorting, especially as the support has already paid in advance for the privilege of attending an otherwise meaningless game.

The we have five Scottish Premiership matches before the winter break and of course the opening of the transfer window. These matches – three at home and two away – look like being highly significant in the destination of the title.

We start with two home matches against Hearts on Saturday then bottom side Livingston on 23 December. Then we are away to Dundee on Boxing Day before taking on theRangers at Celtic Park on 30 December. We finish off away to St Mirren on Tuesday 2 January.

The Champions League game aside, we want to win but it’s essentially a dead rubber, win these Scottish Premiership games and we’ll be back in a really good place as we look to defend our title. And in January where money is tight across the city, Celtic have the chance to add the quality that is needed to the first team, if this in the boardroom are minded to do so.

And getting the Champions League out the way has one major side benefit, the return of the Green Brigade and Celtic Bhoys – we need everyone signing from the same hymn sheet, quite literally, over the Christmas period.

Time to get it sorted and to have the ultras back for Saturday.

The walk of shame at Rugby Park…

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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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