Chris Sutton reflected on Celtic’s 3-2 defeat against Leverkusen on Thursday night in his newspaper column this morning and reckons that Ange Postecoglou has probably over-achieved this season given the absolute state of a situation he inherited back in the summer.
“I didn’t think Celtic would even get to the Europa League group stage,” Sutton revealed in his Daily Record column. “When they went out of the Champions League qualifiers, I couldn’t see a way past AZ Alkmaar at that stage of the rebuild. I didn’t think there would be much of a sniff once they got to the group stage either.
“To get within 10 minutes of taking it down to the last game to get to the knockout stages was more than could have been expected,” Sutton added.
Very could argue with that assessment although various hacks and pundits haven’t been slow in having their say with more than a few overjoyed at the Europa League exit being confirmed.
Celtic took the game to all three opponents in the group stages in the three away matches. Celtic scored eight goals on their travels, were leading in all three matches, came back from a goal down against the top seeded side Bayer Leverkusen to get their noses in front until the latter stages. And Real Betis must have wondered what had hit them on match day one when Celtic raced into a 2-0 lead in the early stages and remember Jota had a one-on-one to make it three. Small margins.
Sutton continued: “Dropping down to the Europa Conference League is hardly a disaster. It’s more like job done when you consider the state the side was in during the summer and the sheer amount of players who came in.”
Looking forward Sutton sees plenty of ground for optimism, but accepts Postecoglou’s team remains a work in progress. “It’s also pretty clear there is still work to do.
“The Celtic board should have seen enough to know the club is in safe hands with Postecoglou. He’s got the fans on board and he’s building a team that plays some devastating attacking football.
“Even a Bundesliga outfit like Leverkusen could’t contain Celtic’s front three and they are capable of scoring some sensational goals. Jota’s effort the other night was top class, from the ball from Joe Hart, the touch from James Forrest and the pass from Kyogo.
“The finish was sublime. It was no surprise coming from a player who would be a steal if Celtic can secure him for just £6.5m.”