‘That’s harsh,’ claims Celtic star Lustig as Brendan says ‘we have to keep fighting’

MIKAEL LUSTIG looked back on the events in St Petersburg yesterday and ahead to today’s vital Premiership match at Pittodrie.

Both sides are coming back from disappointing defeats, Celtic against Zenit and the Dons from their comprehensive loss at Easter Road last weekend. Both also know that Rangers picked up the three points yesterday against Hearts and particularly of the home side get something today, will feel that there is going to be a league title race after all.

The Celtic manager of course has pointed out that the Champions are now able to focus on the domestic run in and will be playing just the one game a week like the rest of the league – something Celtic haven’t experienced this season at all. Read Brendan’s comments HERE.

The Swedish full-back also took a wider view looking back at his six seasons as a Celt, he is now one of the longest serving players at the club. He dismisses the somewhat hysterical chat that this is a bad season for the Champions.

“When I first came to Celtic, we were winning one trophy and we weren’t always in the Champions League,’ the big Swede said.

“So when you look at our situation in the season right at the moment, it is pretty harsh for anyone to say it is a bad season.

“We can still make a really good season out of this. There are many things still to fight for and that is what we are now going to do.”

The Zenit loss, though, was hard to take and Lustig was criticised for the loss of the vital third goal which effectively ended the tie as a contest. The Russians had hardly got themselves out of second gear and were three goals to the good. How could Celtic have let that happen after out-playing them in Glasgow seven days previously?

“I don’t know what the biggest disappointment was for me in Russia,” Lustig stated.

“It’s never good to lose three goals in any match. But it was also so hard to take because they did not have many opportunities.

“Over the game they had about four or five shots and scored three times, so that’s a hard one to take. It’s hard to go through in Europe when that happens and when you don’t create that many chances yourself.

“It was not easy to accept, especially as we had played so well in the home game and managed to win it. We felt the tie was one we could manage to come past.

“We thought if we could go to St Petersburg and play our own game — the way we did in the first leg — then we had a good chance to go through into the next round. That wasn’t the case and that was the disappointing part.

For the Celtic management it is going to be a time of reflection on the current squad – particularly the current defence – regarding their suitability to take the club past these type of challenges. Zenit, from the evidence of the two games we saw, are hardly likely winners of the Europa League.

For Brendan Rodgers too he has to look at his tactical choices for European football. He stated quite clearly after the heavy defeat in Paris in the Champions League that he would never park the bus. But many teams have parked the bus to defend a home lead to help achieve European success. Jock Stein did it in the European Cup semi-final second leg against Dukla Prague in 1967.

Lustig recognises that there’s a debate on all of this to be had.

“Of course it is going to take time and it is going to take experience. Learning from experiences is the only way that you can get better.

“The scoreline of 3-0 sounds quite bad and, in some ways, you have to admit that it is. But we went away to Russia and had more possession of the ball than they did.

“When that happens, you are hoping to create a little bit more like we did in the home game against Zenit. They are a pretty good team who have spent a lot of money, but the performance was not the best.

“The way we want to play and being able to do it is getting better, but Thursday was not a good night for us.”

For Rodgers, he’ll have the team focused and ready for this afternoon’s challenge at Pittodrie. His take on the European campaign might be better judging by his subsequent actions in the transfer market – and for that the Board must support him. In the meantime he’s summarized the Russian disappointment and it’s worth noting what he said.

Brendan chooses his words carefully so there’s always the chance of a more profound meaning in there, starting with the players.

“I looked at Moussa Dembele and thought he was a great reference, had great physicality in the game, he was a real handful for them.

“Olivier Ntcham was excellent in midfield, taking the ball. He had belief in what he was doing.

“Scott Brown is Browny, every game he plays he is top class. It’s important our younger players learn from that.”

Rodgers looks at the qualifying challenges that the Scottish Champions face with some real frustration.

“It gets tougher each year. I suppose it’s managing expectancy really,” he said.

“If any Scottish team qualifies for the Champions League that’s a big achievement.

“Then you look at Bayern Munich winning 5-0 against Besiktas this week. We’re normally in with two teams at least of that real quality in a group.

“So, qualification is a big achievement for a Scottish team and if you can then either get into European football after that, in the Champions League ideally or into the Europa League, you would hope you could make the steps.

“Against Zenit, we were much better than them last week, but our consistency wasn’t so good and so you end up going out.

“Year on year, you have to try to improve. But there is always going to be the balance, we’re always going to have young players, that’s where we’re at. It’s great to see them develop and flourish. We hope next year in Europe we can take more steps forward.

“We have to keep fighting,” Brendan concluded.

Sometimes though you have to box clever. Just like Jock Stein did, against his own principles.

ALSO ON THE CELTIC STAR this morning...‘Celtic can put ‘Humbling Period’ behind them against ‘promise much but deliver little,’ Aberdeen,’ Jim Craig…read HERE

AND ALSO ENJOYJohnny Doyle was simply one of us – a bhoy who, like his close friend Tommy Burns, lived the dream…read HERE.

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 editor@thecelticstar.co.uk

1 Comment

  1. Harsh? No it was spot on,Lustig has been caught out like an amateur so much this season.We need him to be on his game the next few matches,I’d love nothing more for the big mad Swede to ram my words back down my throat