Celtic duly exited Europe after a valiant display against Valencia in Spain.
It won’t be the most disastrous European exit this year, or even this spring, but it still felt bad.
Finally, the team showed that they can be disciplined-if you don’t count the sending off of Jeremy Toljan-, that they can play controlled , aggressive football, and that they are prepared to fight for each other and for the shirt.
Apart from a ten minute spell after the sending off, which Brendan Rodgers excused the German from fault , choosing instead to blame the referee, who he had heard had Rangers as his favourite subbuteo team, Celtic were more than comfortable and arguably the better side.
The manager had switched to a back three, presumably to stifle the Valencia forwards, and two wing backs. With no natural striker playing, this allowed for pace on either side with Forrest and Burke able to pick up the baton when Celts were on the offensive.
The back three, esepcially the addition of Ajer, made everyone feel a little more confident, and the norwegian provided an outball through the middle as he was prepared to run with the ball and not play a short pass.
The different style certainly surprised Valencia, and it wasn;t until the sending off that they posed a threat.
When the game was over, you had to be reminded Celtic were down to ten men, such was the effort put in.
As for the sending off, maybes aye, maybes naw. Toljan should have been more aware, I’d venture, as he’d already been booked.
Brendan saw it differently..
“Kris has come in with the striker, maybe a bit too far in but you’re looking for James Forrest or Jeremy to close the space
“Guedes makes the run from behind and he bumps Jeremy slightly and he makes contact with him.
“I said to the referee I didn’t think it was sending off at all, it was just a coming together which should have been a foul for us.
“He said ‘it was a definite sending off’.
“From there it was very difficult. I thought the pride and the performance, I’m so proud to be the coach because the kept fighting and kept working.”
Defeat we can take, if the fight is there, and if anything is to be learned from the tie overall, its that the performance last night, and all round effort, is the way forward.
That, and a few surprises in how the game is approached tactically.
Scott Bain came of age in goal, with one or two spectacular saves.
Johnny Hayes ran, fought and then ran again.
Kris Ajer may yet prove to be the eventual replacement for Scott Brown, his strength and size a factor last night, combined with his fitness.
Even Jozo Simunovic looked interested, and when he does, he’s a far better player than he’s given credit for.
Now, who would have thought back at the beginning of the campaign in July that those four names would be the stars of the show in arguably our best performance of the season on the continent ?
There are signs that the team has improved this year, although ultimately it won’t be looked back on as a great campaign.
Maybe they can take heart from that, and use what they have learned in the next campaign, which will be along fairly soon.
Last word goes to Marcelino, the Valencia boss..
“We are satisfied with having passed the tie as expected, although the first 35 minutes I liked rather little.
“It is logical because when you have such a favourable result of the first game, 0-2, in the second you always tend to relax.
“To that possible relaxation, in that time Celtic was superior and, after the expulsion, we were clear dominating and deserving of the triumph.”
Elsewhere, and the big story is that the JusticeforJohn campaign has seen the police finally make arrests in the death texts case..
Police have arrested three men in connection with abusive messages sent to a referee after an Old Firm game.
The texts were sent to 36-year-old John Beaton following the Rangers v Celtic match at Ibrox on 29 December 2018.
The official was criticised after Rangers striker Alfredo Morelos was not punished for several incidents in the 1-0 win over Celtic.
Three men, aged 31, 33 and 41, have been charged in connection with communications offences.
All three have been released to appear in court at a later date.
A report will be submitted to the procurator fiscal.
The new BBC Scotland channel could show the trial live, as a warning to others.
We will keep an eye on this story, as Justice will only be served when they are suitably punished…
Another story that has the football authorities and media gleefully pouring all their energies into is the Steve Clarke speech which left no one unaware of the problems of sectarianism in Scottish football.
Clarke deserves praise for telling it like it is, but when its reported by a media who are afraid to tell it like it is, there’s a feeling that he may become the story as opposed to the sectarianism itself.
Nil By Mouth managed to get their guy n the telly to explain the problem, but frankly, as they always do, their man sat so firmly on the fence that immediate anal surgery was required.
Which was surprising, because he managed to talk out of his arse for the whole interview.
The Sky interview is available online, and he just kind of waffles for a bit.
He was more precise in the Record, taking care to bring Kris Boyds abuse into the argument, to allow for the two cheeks of the same arse argument..
“In the space of a few days we’ve seen two prominent figures in Scottish football – Steve Clarke and Kris Boyd – subjected to sectarian abuse as they go about their work.
“What we have at the moment is a complete abdication of responsibility from Scottish football. They wash their hands of it, they say it’s someone else’s fault.
“It’s a spineless gutless, response to a very real problem. While clubs and governing bodies continue to bury their heads in the sand when faced with bigotry, we’ll continue to see such incidents blight the game.
“It’s time to seriously consider introducing Uefa’s Strict Liability system into the Scottish game to end the zero liability culture that has been allowed to fester for decades.”
Nil By mouth, who have achieved the square root of fuck all in their short and meaningless existence, are blaming someone else for blaming someone else.
He certainly was in demand yesterday….
“It is difficult to combat if you don’t throw a punch,” he told BBC Radio Scotland.
“The vast majority of people who go to matches have no truck with this, they just want to enjoy the game. The problem is this noisy, sizeable majority who are dragging us back to the bile and hatred of the old days.
“The dilemma for the silent majority is how you actually deal with the people within your ranks who are behaving in this manner? The clubs, particularly the Old Firm clubs, invest hundreds of thousands of pounds on sophisticated software and CCTV footage where you can identify people.
“But what we have is a reluctance to pursue this. There can be hundreds of people – whole stands – chanting and police can’t wade in and make arrests.
“So we are brought back to the elephant in football’s room, which is ‘strict liability’.”
Strict Liability. Thats the phrase of the day.
I would wager that its not the authorities who are against this, its the clubs.
Strict Liability is just another soundbite thrown forward by those who know it will never happen so that they can say they had the solution but no one listened to them.
It makes them seem like they know what they are talking about, in their own minds at least.
Of course, there was the usual default position.. adopted by some who are even less aware of the world outside their window than even Nil By Mouth..
Twitter is awash with hand-wringing about sectarianism in Scottish football. Again. It all starts with separate schools for those of different religions. Until that issue is tackled, the bigotry will continue!
Neil describes himself as..
I’m an Aberdeen-based journalist, who is interested in many things, but particularly art, films, history and sport. Views my own.
Well, there goes the theory that sectarianism is a West of Scotland problem…this guy cannot see that his solution is the equivalent of not telling black people about slavery to eradicate racism.
The real problem is in the mindset of people-the right word in this context-who have absolutely no desire to live and let live, to tolerate others who may have a different set of beliefs from his.
There’s a word for them….
There’s an article that is relevant to this debate, which will be on the site at 1pm today.
Read it, it’ll put some things into perspective, and whilst not in the text, there is something between the lines that seems like an obvious course of action if we are to eradicate-or at least reduce -sectarian behaviour, firstly at the football, and eventually , within society itself.
It’s Friday, and of course that means its time for the Etims
Knob of the Week
He’s done it again..
Rangers boss Steven Gerrard asks why Steve Clarke didn’t highlight Kris Boyd Celtic bigotry abuse
Some people shouldn’t be allowed out without adult supervision, far less allowed an opinion.
Perhaps he’s unaware of the level of sectarianism in Scotland, as , indeed, it had slipped Steve Clarkes mind having been away.
But its there, and largely concentrated in one place.
When a mainstream media panders to a section of society, terrified of calling it out, this is the result we get.
When the club itself wonders why another club isn;t being dragged into it, the subject becomes inflamed.
And thats when people get hurt, or even killed.
Gerrard -or whoever writes his speeches-has shown a crass and irresponsible attitude to a serious subject.
He’s going to win the first upgraded award, reserved only for special examples of Knobbery.
He’s the first ever Etims
Proper Knob of the Week
yesterday , we had this picture..