Celtic Diary Wednesday September 14: So What If They Are Barcelona ?
Celtic suffered a second half collapse in the Nou Camp last night, ending up the victims of a 7-0 mauling that will go down as the clubs worst ever result in Europe. Getting beat by a team that often racks up scorelines such as this against top class opposition isn’t a shame in itself, but the manner of the performance in the second half, where Celtics players decided to join the crowd and stand back to admire the Catalan side, is simply not acceptable.
Captain Scott Brown, who had performed better than most in the first half, agreed;
“It’s the second half that we’re really disappointed with,”
“To lose five goals in 45 minutes is unacceptable. Everyone is disappointed in that changing room.”
“It’s a heavy defeat. We didn’t do well enough on the ball. When we got it, we kept giving it away.
“They’re entitled to score goals, they’re a great team, but we should do better than that.
“It’s 7-0. I’m not going to come away from here laughing and joking, am I? It’s hard to take, but they are a great team.
“Now we need to bounce back. We’ve got Man City in the next game and we need to try and get something at Celtic Park.
“We know at Celtic Park, with our fans, anything can happen.”
Anything can happen in any football match, which is why a team usually has a plan and sticks to it.
Celtic did have a plan, and for the most part, in the first half, it worked. Well, sort of.
Where Brendan Rodgers has excelled in his short reign as manager thus far, is spotting a problem and dealing with it. What he didn’t see, or ignored last night, was that the players weren’t pressing enough, and the change to five at the back was allowing the Barcelona players freedom to roam…and if you do that, they will eventually destroy you.
Previous away games in Europe this season have been disasters, from the embarrassment in Gibraltar to the near disaster in Israel, and one can understand rodgers trying to tighten it up at the back, but the central defenders merely seemed to get in each others way. With Nir Biton and Scott Brown having showed time and time again that they cannot play together, that meant a four man midfield became a solo performance from Brown, with Sinclair and Roberts largely anonymous due to a lack of service.
He did quite well, to be honest, and impressed with his attitude. Especially as he calmed down after a silly booking and didn’t get himself into more bother.
Unfortunately, he was the only one.
A combination of a lack of spirit, which is unacceptable, and an unwillingness to stick to whatever game plan Rodgers had outlined saw Celtic collapse in the second half, and yet it could have been so different.
At one down, after Barcelona had scored before keeper De Freeze was ready, A swift counter saw Moussa Dembele brought down by keeper Ter Stegen, and had he not taken longer to take the penalty than the move that earned it, it would have been 1-1, and that would have changed the game, if not the outcome.
A tangle in defence saw Barca increase their lead, but the first half did have its moments for Celtic, and had they continued in that vein,well, who knows..
One goal chalked off, and a run from Brown which led to a booking for Ratikic after a professional foul showed that Barca are not invincible, but what it also showed is that some Celtic players have neither the belief nor the ability to take advantage.
Goalkeeper Dorus De Vries had worreid a few of us in his previous outings. Last night we saw why those doubts had been in place. Apart from a lack of movement, an unwillingness to control his area and a phobia about round leather objects, there could be a keeper in there somewhere, but so far his stats show thirteen shots on target and none goals conceded.
We’d have been better off using one of those training statues, because at least one or two might have glanced off it. De Vries is a terrible keeper, on a par with Gordon Marshall and Ian Andrews, and we can only hope Rodgers kept the receipt when he bought him.
At right wing back Rodgers opted for Christian Gamboa, a man who only met his team mates a couple of weeks ago, in a repeat of the Jo Inge Berget fiasco, and if I remember correctly, Strachan had the same issue forced on him before Artmedia hit us with our previous worst night out.
For a manager of Rodgers experience, including de Vries and Gamboa against the worlds most fearsome front three is an inexplicable and inexcusable error.
With Mikael Lustig then out of position and forced to cover for Gamboa, who looked lost and completely out of his depth-though he wasn’t the only one- any solidity about the back line, which had come about after a lot of hard work, disappeared.
And with a lightweight midfield offering no protection the result was inevitable.
Maybe that result would have happened no matter how Rodgers picked the team, but the manner of the result is what stings.
Celtic lay down and allowed Barcelona to tickle their tummies.
For a club that has a reputation in Europe for fighting and overcoming seemingly impossible odds, that is too much to bear.
However, there is a little bit of hope for the rest of the campaign. If rodgers realises that its better to play our game, our way, than to adapt to the way others play then we still have a chance in this group.
Lets have no more talk about how the other teams have more money, and how we are a big fish in a small pond , and all the other nonsense about knowing our place in the big picture. We aren’t expecting miracles, we aren’t even expecting progress, this is just the first adventure of many for the club in its most recent phase.
But I do expect more than we got last night.
Borussia may be a formidable outfit, and Manchester city may have all the money in the world, but what they don’t have is that little four leafed clover on their shirts, which up until last night gave the player who wore it an edge.
It can turn decent players into good players, good players into great players, and great players become legends.
For the remaining five games, lets remember who we are, and show what we can do.
If we are going to go down, then at least go down fighting.