Scott Sinclair’s goal in the ninety-third minute to put Celtic three up put the sheen on a fine team performance and, more or less, guarantees Celtic third-spot in the group table and a Europa League parachute. European football after Christmas is not something we’re used to and after getting hammered by PSG the doom-mongers (let’s call them Ranger’s supporters) were predicting, once again, zero points in the group stage and an embarrassment to Scottish football. After PSG hammered Bayern Munich, who, incidentally, sacked their manager, Celtic’s trip to the German champions isn’t exactly bringing us out in a cold sweat and thoughts of damage limitation. Here last night Celtic players held their heads up, had most of the play, and did to Anderlecht what they usually do to inferior Scottish opposition such as Rangers.
The first goal was the pick of the bunch. Oliver Nitcham played a perfectly weighted pass in behind the Anderlecht defence, full-back Kieran Tierney higher up the pitch than midfield or forwards, overlapped, looked up and picked out Leigh Griffiths at the back post who had a tap in.
Brendan Rogers won’t be getting sacked any time soon. We now know who he sees as his first eleven. The same team started here as did against Rangers, with the exception of Nitcham for Stuart Armstrong. Ironically, Nitcham before that 38th minute goal had been the Celtic player most likely to misplace his passes.
The second goal after fifty minutes was an own goal, a deflection from a Patrick Robert’s shot, who claimed it. Olivier Deschacht, the Anderlecht defender, dawdled on the ball and was robbed by Roberts and it was a pivotal moment in the game.
Celtic strolled the rest of the match, and it’s not often you can say that in Europe, and the substitutions followed a familiar pattern. Rogic being replaced after sixty minutes to give McGregor the last thirty minutes. Forrest, who prior to the Ranger’s game, had scored four goals in two games, replacing Roberts. And in the last few minutes an injury to Scott Brown meant Nir Bitton was given game time. The first away win in Europe for five years, hopefully, not the last. There’ll be a shakeup of this team for Saturday’s game against Hibernian, but for now everything in the garden is green.