Sussed – Celtic’s Tactical Disaster

The Rangers left Celtic Park with all three points this afternoon and it has to be said Celtic got exactly what we deserved from the game that was a tactical re-run of the League cup final earlier in the month.

Since that game when Celtic rode their luck to lift the trophy despite being outplayed by Steven Gerrard’s side, Neil Lennon has been playing with Olivier Ntcham in the number ten role with James Forrest on the left and Ryan Christie on the right.

And social media and phone-ins were full of supporters’ chat urging the Celtic manager to play players in their best position. The only trouble with that – and the evidence was presented to us at Hampden – is that Steven Gerrard has it sussed.

As soon as the team sheet was announced my own pre-match confidence evaporated. We were playing into their hands. Anyone care to check Mikey Johnston’s record in this fixture? It’s not good and neither was today.

Lennon won the tactical battle At Ibrox in September but has been outfoxed twice in December and his side deserved to lose today.

Not that we weren’t given the rub of the green at key moments today. Remember when Samaras missed that penalty at Ibrox which effectively cost us the league. MacGregor dived hard to his left to make the save. That’s what he does. Had Samaras then and Christie today hammered it down the centre then they’d have scored. It’s simple intelligence stuff on the opposing goalkeeper and we didn’t do our homework.

Then after Christie “did a Samaras” Kent volleyed past Forster to give the visitors a deserved lead.

Celtic got lucky with a bizarre equaliser when a speculative McGregor shot deflected off Edouard’s arm – which was in a natural position – to wrong-foot McGregor and give Celtic an equaliser.

The score line was level at the interval but Steven Gerrard must have been confident that his side could win the points.

Neil Lennon ignored the evidence from the first 45 minutes, that Forrest was running on empty, Johnson not up to speed and that Bolingoli first touch is wasteful at best and the Rangers were happy to allow the ball to end up with him as it invariably led to them winning back possession.

If ever there was a game for a couple of changes at the interval it was this one but that didn’t happen and after a series of corners Katic got a free header at the near post to restore their lead. It was coming. The decision by Clancy to award the corner was debatable – those watching on TV will know better but from the North Stand it looked like it was an Honest Mistake.

Changes inevitably came with Ntcham and Bitton being introduced at the expense of the two ineffectual wingers.

Griffiths was the final throw of the dice as desperation stage was reached. He wasted a free kick and undercooked a corner and that just about summed up his year. Frustrating.

Celtic have better players than the Rangers but they have our system sussed.

The players were applauded at the end despite the disappointment but this one goes down to the manager. Someone on our bus just said as I was typing this. “Today was the biggest tactical f*** up since Napoleon crossed the Rhine” and that is down to the manager.

Morelos cheated to the very end and got sent off deep into stoppage time for trying to con a penalty. The subsequent ban could come in handy. His disgraceful gestures on the touchline should result in a longer ban.

The January window opens in a couple of days. The money is there to solve the problems we have. We need a striker, another central defender and we could certainly do with the return of Victor Wanyama to our midfield.

And at left back it’s time to give Greg Taylor a run in the team.

Man of the Match went to Callum McGregor at the game, however I’d go for Kristoffer Ajer.

About Author

The Celtic Star founder and editor, who has edited numerous Celtic books over the past decade or so including several from Lisbon Lions, Willie Wallace, Tommy Gemmell and Jim Craig. Earliest Celtic memories include a win over East Fife at Celtic Park and the 4-1 League Cup loss to Partick Thistle as a 6 year old. Best game? Easy 4-2, 1979 when Ten Men Won the League. Email

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