CATCH UP with the Part 1 of Sandman’s Definitive Ratings – Celtic v Sensitive Orange-Growing Batpeople before you read any further. You will find this below.
Now where were we? Part 2, that’s right, back over to Sandman…
Part 2, after Part 1. Who’da thunk it?
CHRISTIE – 4/10
Nope, reprised the heidless chicken routine from the first leg and failed with his touch and timing. Was surprised he started because his running game plays right into their barrell – they simply close off the space and channels as they start deep and he’s got nowhere to go, no lines to get between, so he shuffles side-to-side out of the game, confused like a jakey who’s wandered onto the park in search of free pizza.
Might have been more effective bringing him on later as they open up but anytime he was on the ball it wasn’t coming off for him. Rest him ’til he gets his mojo back. Play Weah in his central position.
FORREST – 5/10
Jamesy looked hot at the start – flashing hot – and linked up well with Burke but his effect faded after Toejam delivered the foreplay facial and wrecked the night for the right-hand side.
Still, surprised Brendan Rodgers took him off instead of sending him central, as has worked to devastating effect in Europe before (Karagandy heroics). Once Jamesy goes, so does our out-ball.
Big roving Snatch bust a gut tonight and deserves his stolen jersey. Seemed to have learned from last week’s frustration and ran the channels to great effect. Couple of clumsy touches denied him a goal when galloping clear. Unsettled them – particularly main defender Garay from Birmingham who hobbled off after 20 minutes.
However, we’ll never know how close we were to glory as once down to ten most of his work was harrying and containing.
FRENCH EDDY – 5/10
Still lacking a cutting-edge which should come with match fitness. It was a forlorn hope he might wriggle free at some point and strike.
MIKEY J – 5/10
An exercise in experience for our New-New Romantic; promising positioning and movement on a few occasion, fluffed his lines with final ball/shot.
BR – 7/10
Got brave, looked like his tactics were working. We certainly had them uneasy and having to decide if they were up for the contest. Then…
Well, it was BR’s pet signing to replace Lustig who shafted his boss’s grand scheme. I was slightly surprised he didn’t revert to Mick’s big-match experience for the Mestallah and especially after Toejam struggled to contain his winger last week. We’ll never know. BR defended TJ to the hilt but the players knew; got caught, got cute, got sent off.
Valencia played the same pattern as they did the first-leg – sit in for fifteen minutes then gradually adjust upwards, pushing you back, applying a higher press and having you revert to your Centre Backs as playmakers while they close down the midfield. They give you nowhere to go as initial zip relents and a little tiredness makes your one/two-touch football become three/four-touch. You beging to overplay and they’re on you.
It’s creepy… Vampiric, you might say… That bat thing…
I thought we might go under but BR’s gameplan succeeded in allowing us to get round their press and if Calmac had been more involved we might have bust them open before the red. But BR has also developed a habit of subbing Jamesy in matches like this which leaves us struggling to release the pressure.
However, he can be pleased enough that the team responded to the plan and offered Valencia a test for a while. They even threw on Bruce Lee with fifteen to go just to make sure!
Brilliantly, Broon didn’t flinch.
AWAY SUPPORT – 10/10
Great x 7,000+
OVERALL – 8/10
Well, it was fun while it lasted. There was real hope for half an hour. But then our mountain to climb became a moon-landing and later on we were trying to put the first man on Mars.
Another finger pointing exercise for the ‘now we know our level’ brigade. However, wasn’t it always thus? We’re playing out of Scotland, ffs. We’re playing in a rigged league with 84% of officials favouring a basket-case of a club and business because it’s an ‘institution’.
Our successful forays into Europe are legendary – but we achieve the desired level of performance only after a few hidings to whip us into shape. Think most recently Zenit home last year, Leipzig home this year – in between we’re stuck battling on a ridiculous domestic plane of existence – where pure football is second to underhand manipulation of the laws of the game to achieve the outcome most desired by Sevco.
We’re financially handicapped as well – rock and a hard place; even spending £100 million guarantees you no Champions League place. Valencia were chucking on £35 million substitues, and are sliding themselves towards oblivion with their own debt mountain. If ever a team needed CL money, it’s them.
We competed, that cannot be denied. In the first leg that first goal was all-important as they closed out our tactical approach after 20 minutes of sitting deep. Tonight, with our European away form, no shocks. But no complaints here.
Europe is a party. Until we get TEN in a row, and hit 55 CLEAN titles before them, it is of crucial importance only in a financial sense, not to my love of Celtic.
Personally, after a lifetime of ups and downs in continental competition I principally want Celtic to finally bury them on the home front (check that ‘Dad’s Army’ fans…). Eclipse all their ‘records’, sicken them to their malevolent cores and drain their hope. THEN look to Europe as a serious ambition. THEN discuss major player investment. THEN seek competition beyond these shores.
Tonight’s bonus is belief – players returning with heads high, grit and guile proven and a rueful sense of what might have been.
Go take it ourt on the rest of the Premiership, Celtic.
Sandman Adios (see what I did there, cosmopolitan europhiles?)