Midtjylland v Celtic: Abada’s unfinished business, his debut saboteur will watch from his couch

Spare a thought for Liel Abada this morning. You’re handed a dream Champions League debut a week after signing for your new club, you score the opening goal and the team around you are playing a determined high paced style of football you just know will offer you further opportunities to stake a claim for your shirt on a regular basis, this is the debut you dreamt of – and bang!

The one pal you’ve made, the one that’s being showing you around your work and introducing you to everyone and everything sabotages your opportunity by being sent off for jabbing a finger into the head of an opponent and seconds later the managers index digit takes a crooked shape and you too follow your countryman from the field and sit your backside in the stand. Bubble well and truly burst. It was harsh on the new lad and tough on us all.

A night that began with a mixture of optimism and trepidation as to how ready this Celtic side would be with so little time for Ange Postecoglou to get his message across to his players, had turned into cautious optimism as the match developed.

By full time however it was a case of fear and loathing in Glasgow’s east end. The fear exhibited by a goalkeeper who appears to be a full paid-up member of the self-preservation society, more Harry Flashman that Harry Hotspur, and the loathing directed toward a central defender chosen for his experience above all else and one who saw red for what can only be described as rank idiocy. If we’d been looking for naivety, we could have stuck with one of the kids and taken the risk. Postecoglou’s decision to start Nir Bitton was for a cool head in a pressured situation and Bitton displayed a petulant anger more akin to a teenager going through a hormonal imbalance.

Despite those two aberrations last night however there were a great deal of positives to take as Celtic progress under new management. On last night’s evidence the players look like they are understanding and implementing Postecoglou’s high press, high risk football and thriving on it.

The middle of the park with Captain Calmac, Soro and Turnbull, Celtic look to have an excellent balance to their play. Young Abada showed a great deal of attacking intent and promise on the right and Ryan Christie looked like the player of two years ago last night, full of energy, endeavour and most importantly linking with teammates rather than ploughing a loan furrow. Is the penny dropping or was it shop window stuff? Who knows but it was great to witness.

Callum McGregor. Photo Jeff Holmes

Meanwhile our prize possession in attack supplied an ability to link up, drop deep and even get in behind, and even though he fluffed his lines at a somewhat inopportune moment and tired considerably as they game progressed, Odsonne Edouard certainly didn’t look disinterested. Once again that may be to ensure the eyes of others remain fixed on his talents but for now, we need him and it was good to see he hadn’t succumbed to the Kris Ajer head cold that’s been going round the office.

Odsonne Edouard. Photo: Jeff Holmes

In central defence a special mention must go to Stephen Welsh who worked so hard and snapped and tackled into everything and perhaps was a little over zealous in the tackle that led to the concession of free kick and a goal but I’d take that commitment and bravery over the stand offishness his goalkeeper portrayed trying to defend the resultant set piece.

Young Dane Murray who replaced Bitton alongside Welsh also did his future first team chances no harms as he looked a composed defender who blended well with the aggression exhibited by Welsh. We can and must look to strengthen defensive positions for the season ahead but we also must be careful not to block the way to first team experience for some of these young players who have come to the fore this preseason, it may have been out of necessity rather than design but now it has to be encouraged.

Anthony Ralston left and Tom Rogic appear dejected after the final whistle during the UEFA Champions League second qualifying round, first leg match at Celtic Park, Photo: Jeff Holmes

One area however that is essential however with transfer market reinforcements is the full back area. It was obvious from the start that in Ange’s new set up the full backs are absolutely pivotal. In Greg Taylor and Tony Ralston there are able enough deputies but for this system to really work both right and left back need quality additions for the season ahead.

In the end a 1-1 draw has to be acceptable considering how the game panned out and with another week for Ange Postecoglou to refine his system some more and now we’ve seen the opponent we face is nothing more than functional, we must have belief we can go to Denmark and finish the job we started last night.

Celtic v Midtjylland – Liel Abada celebrates scoring Photo: Jeff Holmes

Liel Abada may just be the man with unfinished business we can turn to in the second leg, particularly now his debut saboteur will be watching from his couch.

Niall J

THE GREATEST CELTIC STORY NEVER TOLD. UNTIL NOW…

About Author

As a Bellshill Bhoy I was taken to my first Celtic game in the summer of 1987. It was Billy McNeill’s return to Celtic Park as manager and Celtic lost 5-1 to Arsenal . I thought I was a jinx, I think my Grandfather might have thought the same. It was finest gift anyone ever gave me when he walked me through Parhead's gates.

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