‘Fear grows in darkness; if you think there’s a bogeyman around, turn on the light.’
And into view came Mohammed Elyounoussi. Not sure the famed journalist Dorothy Thompson would approve of her words being used to describe Celtic coming out of a poor run of form, but then again you never know, she did have an affinity with Ireland!
Celtic may not have banished the darkness entirely but it’s fair to say there is less threat from the bogeyman than we’ve felt in a couple of weeks – the fear is certainly subsiding. Last night, against an unbeaten Lille team, one only behind PSG on goal difference in the French top flight, Celtic emerged from the darkness of a slumber, and after a blistering 45 minutes, two wonderful goals from Moi Elyounoussi and a brilliant penalty save from Scott Bain it looked like lady luck was shining on Celtic at long last.
Instead by full time the Celts had to settle for some shade returning as Lille fought back for a 2-2 draw, but it wasn’t enough to cast a permanent shadow over a team who not only returned to form but also returned pride, hope expectation and belief into a support and a season that was beginning to cause concern.
Let’s not underestimate this performance for a moment. This Lille side is a team expensively and carefully assembled over the last three years by Christophe Galtier, a coach not normally renowned for much in the way of error and one with a reputation for in game management. Lille have been behind for no longer than nine minutes in any game in any competition this season yet Celtic had them trailing by two goals for over an hour.
Yes, Lille came back and perhaps some will feel the weaknesses and inadequacies of the Celtic side were to blame, but you’ll be hard pushed to find a team who will give Lille a fright like that on their own patch again this season. Celtic have been much maligned of late; they should be lauded for that performance last night.
The point keeps Celtic’ hopes of qualification – from a Champions League group in all but name – alive and now face a double header against Sparta Prague where there is now hope for progression, a chink of light that European football may not end with Group H of the Europa league.
It also gives great hope that Celtic can transfer the confidence boost tonight will have given the team into a tough month of November in both Europe and the domestic game. A Scottish Cup Semi-final awaits on Sunday and the players who played tonight would probably wish that particular game could kick off tomorrow. Instead, some weary limbs and tired minds will need resting. Hearts and heads however will remain buoyed and enlightened by that performance tonight. If you were an Aberdeen player watching tonight, your own conviction may have taken a turn for the worse.
Celtic in truth have been improving since they kicked off the second half against AC Milan at Celtic park seven days ago. The attacking intent then moved to the Granite City and didn’t quite receive the plaudits it deserved as Celtic shipped three goals.
The rebuilding of defensive confidence however is taking a little more time. It’s much more of a work in progress than the link up play of Albian Ajeti and Moi Elyounoussi or the overlapping full back runs of Jeremie Frimpong and Diego Laxalt, both of whom were superb tonight. The midfield still seems leggy at times though you could discount Callum McGregor from any criticism tonight, he was simply immense.
Defensively there are still issues to be ironed out, but game by game the creases are flattening out. We could have done without losing another player in such a vulnerable area when Kris Ajer limped off tonight. We can only hope his absence is temporary in nature and if it’s to be longer then Nir Bitton looked more than able to step in on tonight’s impressive showing.
On Tuesday Neil Lennon came out swinging at his press conference, last night his team matched him punch for punch at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy. Notice was served that Celtic were back. They may not have left the darkness behind entirely, but the Celtic we know was recognisable again at least, as it emerged from the shadows of a tough couple of weeks tonight.