Oh dear, why must you continue to do this to us, Celtic? Why do we have to be led up the garden path, then concede FOUR very preventable goals, then fight back at the end – but not enough to get us anything out of the game? Why can we never be able to find a defence that can defend in Europe? We can no longer blame Lennon and Lawwell. Ange must now carry the can. He has a difficult job.
Tonight we had a great first half hour, a great last ten minutes and an awful 50 minutes in the middle where, frankly, we disappeared out of the game. There was the sinking feeling at half-time with the score at 2-2 that the game was up – and indeed it was.
That old funny, familiar but not really forgotten feeling that once again we had made ourselves the laughing stock of our opponents, including the gloating ones back in Scotland. An objective assessment of this game would be that 4-3 was not the worst ever result in Europe away from home, and that we are still very much in the section with five games to go…but the bottom line is that good teams – teams that win trophies – do NOT lose four goals in less than half an hour.
We cannot blame free kicks or corner kicks. All the goals came from open play – and we were found wanting, forgetting the most obvious maxims of them all, namely that a big boot up the park is no bad thing, that a hard but fair tackle is equally no bad thing, and that the ball must be kept out of the penalty box as much as possible.
To an extent, we can blame the makeshift team, to a lesser extent we can blame the heat – but after that, the excuses really have to stop and the proverbial “long hard look at ourselves” has to begin. Yes, Real Betis are a good team, but they are all good teams in the Europa League. It is of course early days, and John Hartson was right when he said that time is required.
But he was also correct to say that time is not always given. Things really have to improve, otherwise this season is going to be added to the long and grizzly list of European horror stories. As it is, I am far from confident about Livingston and Raith Rovers.
To the specifics, I felt that the defensive capabilities of Anthony Ralston were cruelly exposed, yet full credit to the man, he never gave up and deserved his late goal. I could never make up my mind about Tom Rogic. He did some good things, but there were other times when the game just seemed to pass him by, as it did David Turnbull.
It may be that we have something in Jota, but he too was seen only in patches, admittedly spectacular ones like the first goal. And the much talked about Albian Ajeti scored a good goal and had bad luck now and again, but it seems unlikely that he will still be in the first team when Kyogu returns. Adam Montgomery is young and will learn from this experience, but will the team?
We will meet Betis again on a cold winter’s night in Glasgow. That might affect them, but the facts are now that Celtic are up against it in a very difficult group. Bayer Leverkusen come to Celtic Park in a fortnight’s time. They were the other winners tonight. We will have to be an awful lot better than we were tonight to make any sort of impact on them.
In the meantime we really have to pick ourselves up for Livingston on Sunday. It would be awful to feel the League slipping away in the same way as the Europa League is slowly disappearing – unless we can grab it.