Saturday, January 28, 2023

Celtic in Europe

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Celtic’s European Campaign 2017/18
Last night, under the lights at Parkhead, Celtic brought their 2017/18 UEFA Champions League campaign to a close with a 0-1 defeat to reigning Belgian champions RSC Anderlecht.
The performance was undeniably poor from the Hoops. There were certainly positives, but not enough to merit even a draw. On the night, the better team won. But, despite a poor result on the night, they got what they needed, and have progressed to the knockout rounds of a European competition for the first time in 3 seasons. With this in mind, let’s take a look back at Celtic in the Champion League group stages this year.
Celtic 0-5 Paris Saint Germain
Celtic limped through the start of their Champions League campaign this year after being taught a football lesson by Unai Emery’s PSG. Goals from Mbappé, Neymar, Cavani (2) and a Mikael Lustig OG saw Celtic off to the worst start possible, and if they were to cement themselves as Europa League candidates their next game away to Anderlecht, would be vital in keeping that dream alive.
RSC Anderlecht 0-3 Celtic
While many Celtic fans were hoping, perhaps expecting a big performance from their Bhoys in Brussels, it is possible that few were expecting such a convincing victory. 3 goals scored away from home in Europe? A clean sheet? 63% possession? Simply marvellous. After a run of 16 Champions League games without a victory, this was exactly the result Celtic needed, and the result the fans deserved. Celtic would go into their next game in the group (away to Bayern) with a just little extra swagger about them.
Bayern Munich 3-0 Celtic
And just like that, it seemed, the bubble was burst again. Perhaps, had Ancelotti still been in charge this game would have gone a lot more smoothly for Celtic, but Bayern legend Jupp Heynckes had set a far more efficient side than Celtic seemed prepared for. Celtic’s defence was all over the place, with Lustig playing centre-half rather than right back (filling in for the injured Simunovic) and not doing a stellar job, and Gamboa facing up to Coman as well as a mouse to a cat. In the last half hour of the game Celtic brought on Dembélé and Rogic and Celtic looked a lot better, coming close on a number of occasions, but to no avail. If Celtic could replicate their performance from the last half hour in the return game at Celtic Park, they stood a chance.
Now for many Celtic fans, this was a sore one. From the get-go, it was clear to see, Celtic was fired up. At the very least they had to put up a fight, and fight they did. They may have gone behind just over 20 minutes in but they responded well, once again getting after Bayern, making them feel the pressure. It wasn’t until the 74th minute that Celtic saw a breakthrough. James Forrest cut through the Bayern defence sliding the ball to Callum Mcgregor, who in turn shook off the demons of the last time he missed a sitter against German opposition and put the ball through Sven Ulreich’s legs. Euphoria. This feeling wasn’t to last, however, as not even 5 minutes later Spanish international Javi Martinez headed past Craig Gordon to make it 2-1, and that was how it finished.
Paris Saint Germain 7-1 Celtic
Goodness, gracious. What a horrible game to watch this was. It’s easy to forget but Celtic actually took the lead in this game, and for the first 20 minutes they didn’t look too bad. They countered quite well, were unlucky not to have added to Moussa Dembélé’s 1st-minute strike. But in the end, it was disappointment, after disappointment, after disappointment. With another four disappointments in there as well. But on the plus side, Anderlecht lost to Bayern that night, meaning Celtic were in pole position to claim 3rd and a Europa League spot. All they had to do was not lose by three goals against Anderlecht at Parkhead. Easy, right?
Celtic 0-1 RSC Anderlecht
In the first half of this game, Celtic was just awful. Absolutely dreadful. The Belgians were near enough playing them off the park. They were unlucky not to be ahead two minutes in, with Kums being denied an absolute sitter by Craig Gordon, who was forced to make a number of good saves throughout the game. Anderlecht was unable to capitalise on their dominance in the first half, however, and it was until the second half where Celtic was in the driving seat, having replaced a sloppy and inconsistent Armstrong with a calm and composed Ntcham, that Anderlecht got the breakthrough from a Simunovic OG.
So, having analysed their European run so far, what are we to make of it? Well, perspectively is important. To any who say no progress has been made on last season, I would suggest they look at their group stage table from last year. Rodgers promised European football after Christmas and delivered. That said, Rodgers does need to invest in some new players for the upcoming Europa League last 32, as certain members of the squad have proven they are not mentally ready to hang with the best.
Quality wise, aside from maybe centre-back, Celtic have lots of great players, but some just don’t have the head to be the best.

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