By Jack The Lad
Celtic crashed out of the Champions League after a 2-0 defeat to the Swedish champions in Malmo.
A Markus Rosenberg header and an own goal from Boyata consigned Deila’s men to a 4-3 aggregate defeat, one which undoubtedly raises question over the Norwegian’s management credentials.
In the lead up to the most important game of the season, the pre match jitters had slightly subsided following the team news. Saidy Janko made his first European start in front of Efe Ambrose, while Mulgrew looked a solid choice in front of Izaguirre at left back. Griffiths finally started ahead of Nadir Ciftci, who with every passing game is looking more like a big fud. Maybe the guy deserves time to settle in. Decent team selection.
Unfortunately, that was the only positive feeling in what turned out to be a despondent night in Sweden.
Malmo got the game underway, with both teams looking to deal early blows. The Bhoys tested the water early on, with both Armstrong and Janko fizzing crosses into the Malmo penalty area, who barely managed to scramble clear.
As we seen in the reverse fixture, Deila’s team looked liable to a counter attack. It wasn’t five minutes before the Swedes hit Celtic on the break, with Jo Inge Berget firing a shot wide of the far post. A minute later the Norwegian delivered a dangerous cross which Van Dijk managed to hook clear. Was he no meant to be shite?
The Hoops began to ease their way into the game after a frenetic opening 10 minutes. A succession of poorly taken corners and free kicks followed a decent chance for Griffiths, who outpaced the Malmo backline after a clearance from Janko; his first time shot flashed wide of the near post.
The Swedes were soon back on the attack themselves, with the talismanic Rosenberg looking sharp after missing the first leg through suspension. Indeed, it wasn’t long before the captain made his mark on the tie.
On the 23rd minute, Rosenberg got on the end of a decent Malmo corner. The talented striker rose high above Van Dijk, who was already pre occupied with another Swedish player, and glanced the ball into the far corner of the net. It was difficult to find blame with anyone out with Craig Gordon, who really should have collected a high cross into the 6 yard box. Instead he lay crumpled in a heap after a ‘fuck it, better late than never’ attempt to come out and punch the ball as it was heading in the back of the net.
3-3 on aggregate with Celtic down on away goals.
With the complexion of the tie now drastically altered, the Bhoys pushed forward in search for a goal.
Leigh Griffiths found a new means in which to vent his frustration, stupidly pushing Rodic off the ball, who reacted like he’d had something shoved up somewhere it shouldn’t have been. There was a hardly a dry eye in the house. The hitman was lucky to escape with a caution.
Forrest, still on a high after his performance in last week’s fixture, looked dangerous on the right flank, with the Swedes unable to handle his blistering pace. The winger, looking for an instant reply, cut inside and fired goal ward, forcing a save from Wiland in goal.
On the opposite flank Stuart Armstrong looked equally as menacing, continually getting the better of his man whilst managing to win a few threatening corners.
One such corner had the ball in the back of the Malmo net. Armstrong himself delivered a dangerous ball into the six yard box and, after a brief scuffle, Nir Bitton rifled a shot into an empty net. Ya fucking dancer.
Hawd oan the refs blown the whistle for suhin.
What happened next was a performance that could rival that of Steven McLean and his officials on THAT day for biggest refereeing fuck up of all time. It appeared at the time that the 5th official behind the goal had disallowed Bitton’s goal for a foul on the keeper. On watching the replay however, there was no such infringement. On the contrary, it was blatantly obvious that the Malmo centre half, on seeing that Bitton was about to glance a header into the back of the net, handled the ball to prevent a goal, before the Israeli buried the ball in the back of the net. Therefore, if anything, the Swedish defender should have been sent off for denying an obvious scoring opportunity and Celtic should have had a penalty. At the very least, a caution should have been awarded for the attempt to illegally prevent a goal which was ultimately scored.
But no. The referee decided to make use of poetic license to disallow the goal and award a free kick to Malmo.
Ah well, the great Jock Stein once said, ‘If you play well enough, the referee doesn’t matter.’ Unfortunately we weren’t playing well enough.
Half time. If ever there was a time for an inspiration team talk, it was now. Hopefully it wasn’t anything like that offered by fans in response to a tweet from the Celtic twitter account earlier in the day. Wee mental Davie’s suggestion of ‘Come on you Bhoys in the green’ wouldn’t cut it.
Kris Commons came off the bench to replace Stuart Armstrong. A bewildering change after the left sided midfielder looked dangerous in the first half. Perhaps it might have been more reasonable to take off Johansen, who looked sloppy throughout.
Within a few minutes off the second half getting underway, Jo Inge Berget won a free kick 30 yards out from goal and decided to take it himself. After last week’s performance, it would have been no surprise to see the Norwegian bury the ball in the top corner. However, he barely managed to keep the ball in the stadium after ballooning his shot high and wide. There’s the Jo Inge we know and love…
Five minutes later and a double save from Craig Gordon typified the performance on the night. Brown lost out to Rosenberg, who sprayed the ball wide to Rodic, who had his well struck shot excellently palmed away by Gordon. Rosenberg, whom Brown failed to track back, somehow managed to get to the ball before the flat footed defensive partnership of Van Dijk and Boyata and to hammer into a near open goal, before Gordon made a stunning second save to put the ball out for a corner. Disaster almost averted.
The corner was duly whipped in and met at the front post by a Malmo player, who glanced the ball to the back post where Boyata was on hand to put the ball into the back of the net for an own goal. If a film was to be created to show youngsters how not to defend, the Celtic performance over the tie would be the number one contender.
Deila’s men were now 4-3 down on aggregate, with 3 of the goals coming from corner kicks. Abysmal would be a generous term for the Celtic defence.
Now in search of two goals to save the club from embarrassment, you would think Deila would have wanted to go out all guns blazing. Indeed, a positive substitution was made in the introduction of Ciftci for Nir Bitton, but the decision to replace James Forrest, the only player willing to run at the Malmo defence, with GMS was a total aberration.
The game petered out without incident, besides a tame shot from Mulgrew inside the box. With that, the 1000 Celtic faithful headed home from Sweden despondent.
The result, in footballing and financial terms, is cataclysmic. Of course, we have the runner’s up prize of the Europa league, but missing out on the pinnacle of European football once again is nothing short of devastating for a team that has made so much ‘progress.’ We can moan about the goal that should have stood all day long, but in truth, a team which cannot defend a simple corner on 3 occasions over a tie does not deserve to be competing with Europe’s finest. In regards to Deila, he proved his tactical naivety both in not being able to set a team up to defend, but also in his choice of substitution. Questions need to be asked as to whether Ronny is the man to take us into next year’s qualifying campaign.
For the Europa League, the Hoops will be in Pot 2. Potential opponents can be found at http://kassiesa.home.xs4all.nl/bert/uefa/seedel2015.html.
A disappointing night to say the least.