Celtic Diary Thursday September 28: Celts Come Of Age On Big Stage
Maybe the passing was a little nervy at first.
Maybe one or two players took a little bit longer to settle than usual.
Then twenty eight passes, patience at its best, a defence splitting ball from Ntcham, a perfect low cross from Tierney and the fantastic finish from Griffiths.
No one seems to have noticed that the opening goal was the perfect team goal. At the highest level. Away from home.
Anderlecht must be shite, eh ?
Well, they aren’t.
They are a good, established side , experienced at this level, and they were taken apart by Celtic, who rediscovered their confidence.
Patrick Roberts added a second after the break, and Scott Sinclair the third after another great ball from Ntcham set him free on the left.
Anderlecht 0, Celtic 3.
Apart from Scotland, where the football media has its own way of looking at things, Europe will have noticed.
In Scotland, as summed up on twitter by The Heat Of Lisboa, things are viewed according to an agenda…
Celtic to others…
Treble = no competition
No treble = we are in turmoil
CL lose = not good enough
CL win = opponents not good enough
Never will Celtic get the credit they have deserved.
And last night, they earned a massive pat on the back.
Manager Brendan Rodgers gave it to them..
“I think that we started the game with good confidence and gave the ball away loosely at times and we just needed to be cleaner in our build-up play, but our confidence grew with the more passes we made.
“We got the first goal from a great move and from that point, certainly offensively, we were a real threat. The defensive organisation of the team, I thought their concentration and tactically and these are the things you are looking to see at this level and how they cope and deal with that. There are still areas to improve but they were absolutely exceptional.
“Two of the goals we scored came from real high pressure and having that courage to press the game. You saw the fitness and everything of the players at the last goal. When we scored, we had five players in the box, all in good position – from protecting the middle of the pitch and then having that speed and ability to go away and score.
“It was an outstanding performance. We played very well, and for a Scottish team to come away and get a 3-0 victory and keep a clean sheet at this level is a big achievement.”
Early on, Olivier Ntcham looked like he wasn;t up to this level yet, but he didn’t hide, he kept plugging away, and delivered the pass for tierney to feed Griffiths. A lesser man would have faded from the game and been hooked. Htcham showed immense courage.
In the second half, a defensive leap was enough to put an Anderlecht forward off target with his header. He came good, and will get even better.
Dedryck Boyata, the man pinpointed as a weak link by unemployed former Rangers manager Alex MacLeish, was outstanding, and along with his fellow defenders, put in a titanic effort to limit Belgian opportunities.
Craig Gordon showed a determination to remain focused which paid off a few times, two outstanding saves, one low and one high will do him no harm either.
Scott Brown was, er Scott Brown, and even when he went off injured, Nir Biton strode around in his place quite confortably.
That was the difference between last night and other European forays.
The squad strength and unity.
“It’s a great victory for us and, for me, it shows the development of the squad over the last year or so,”
“But there is a long way to go in the group. We just need to take the victory and reflect on the game, and I believe we can better than we were tonight.
“But the players deserve a huge amount of credit. On the back of a high-intensity game at the weekend, to come away and deliver that type of performance, they deserve all the plaudits they can get.”
Coupled with the UEFA youth league win as well, the youngsters did a similar number on the Belgians with a 2-1 win in the afternoon, things are very much moving in the right direction.
The media are now saying that European football after christmas is a certainty, after all, Anderlecht would have to win 4-0 at Celtic Park, if other results go as predicted by the “experts”, to finish above Celtic in the group.
Maybe Celtic won’t pick up any more points, and maybe neither will Anderlecht.
But that would be a little surprising, given the improved belief around the players last night.
So, next up theres a double header with Bayern Munich, who also beat Anderlecht 3-0, and who were also taken apart by Paris St Germain.
The management needs to continue to make the players believe in themselves, and if they do, there might just be a chance of last sixteen UCL.
It certainly isn’t as unlikely as it seemed a couple of weeks ago.
BT sport made the game free to air last night, and with the charismatic Rob MacLean on the microphone, you can see why they decided against charging a fee for it.
MacLean, presumably a boyhood Anderlecht fan , never missed an opportunity to whinge about Celtic not being in their stride, or generally not being up to it.
It was hard to believe that this was a Champions League game against an experienced and established side, and even when Celtic were ahead, MacLean commented that Anderlecht ” have to believe “, and hoped for a “twist in the tale “.
I’m not expecting a partisan commentary, but a little bit of praise and even enthusiasm for Celtic wouldn;t be entirely out of place, after all, he must know his audience would be largely of the Celtic minded.
Why would he try to alienate them ?
Chris Sutton was a little more objective, but again the idea seemed to be to criticise Celtic, and not to praise them.
However, no matter what you hear, or what you read, nothing can change the result and performance, and they were both something to be proud of.