Celtic 1—2 Ferencvaros

Celtic are becoming overly familiar with Champion League elimination at the qualifying stages. But we’re getting earlier and earlier.  Last year it was Cluj, who did a job at Parkhead. The year before that AEK Athens. The Hungarian champions managed to eliminate Celtic with two shots on goal and two goals. Rather than playing the attacking threat at right, full-back, Frimpong, Elhamad who was meant to be more defensive option, sold the second goal, allowing the ball to bounce and substitute Tokmac to skip past him without about ten minutes remaining. The Hungarian forward running in on goal at an acute angle, put the ball through the Celtic goalkeeper’s legs. Game on. Game over.

Barkas can be counted as unlucky with the first goal after seven minutes. Midfielder Siger, outside the Celtic box, looking up and finding the corner of the net. But I’ve watched Barkas playing four games and I’ve still to see him make a save. If anyone asked me how good he is, the answer is quite simply, I don’t know.

Celtic are soft centres, that I do know. The Hungarian’s first goal was a case in point, no closing down in the centre of the goal. While Celtic tended to dominate possession almost every time they lost the ball, the opposition flooded forward and looked dangerous on the flanks and in the centre of the park.  Ferencvaros, like Cluj before them and like AEK Athens, before that, they’re no great shakes, but they don’t need to be.

Celtic fall into the qualifying pot for the Europa League and with two qualifying rounds, but with no guarantee they will qualify. Whisper it, they might not even win the league.

We started the game without Edouard, our talisman. So what? We should be bigger than that and we have two strikers on the bench (three if you want to include Griffiths). Christie played at centre-forward and he did get us back into the game with a deflected shot at the start of the second half. Great player, but never a centre-forward. But it allowed Lennon to squeeze in Ntcham for his second consecutive match. The French player had a couple of shots on target and his passing was pretty good.  But it was Elyounoussi with a delightful touch in the box after twenty minutes who looked most likely to score. Then towards the end of the game Elyounoussi does that disappearing thing. You see less and less of him. He’s like James Forest on an off day. Christie cutback behind Elyounoussi was perhaps the loan-stars best chance to score, but he didn’t.

A few cameos and the running down of the match in the last ten minutes. The usual Scott Brown booking that wasn’t a booking. Perhaps taking off a holding midfielder when hunting for an equaliser would have been an idea. Managers need to make hard decision. The season has just begun and Celtic are already out of the Champions League and behind in the big one, the Scottish league.

Goalkeeper—don’t know if he’s good, bad, or indifferent. He’s not Fraser Forster that’s for sure.

We need a left back. Taylor, the ex-Kilmarnock player is sometimes good, sometimes bad. Here he got caught defensively and was alright going forward, without doing much.

Elhammad for Frimpong? Didn’t work here, indeed in terms of spectacular misjudgements, the Israeli had a howler defensively, while not adding much in attack. Celtic were much better with Frimpong on the park, but the clock was ticking and the countdown to another disastrous result looked inevitable.

Here’s where we need to get creative. Julien and Ayer. Julien and Bitton. We keep losing balls in the air. We keep losing goals. The Hungarians pressed hard up the park knowing mistakes would be made. Cluj, Copenhagen (and Rangers) figured that out too. Fling in Kilmarnock. The soft centre is really the centre of defence. Both of them can go.

Scott Brown—warrior.  If Lennon is desperate to play Ntcham, then he should play him in Brown’s positon, simple.

McGregor, hmmmm? Yeh, good player, but

James Forest? Discuss?

Elyounoussi would I thought get us as many goals as Sinclair, but…

Ryan Christie is a bumper, but he’s not a centre-forward. He’s played behind Edouard and on both wings. But he also has some terrible games. Most noticeably against Kilmarnock. His off days tend to come with the team having an off day.

No Edouard, the future is now. The Frenchman is a joy to watch. No guarantee he’ll be fit for the season or he’ll stay at Celtic. If Ajeti is able to put the ball in the net-y then we might do something this season. We might even get ten. Really, it’s a toss of the coin. Not a matter of who is best in Scottish football, but who isn’t the worst. Right now that looks like us. Problems running from centre forward to centre midfield (Brown must go) to centre-backs (both can go) and a goalkeeper that is yet to make a competitive save. Put your money on us beating Motherwell on Saturday and getting carried away with the usual pish. This result leaves me with a heavy sense of foreboding. Not because we got beat. That happens. But the way we got beat. That happens too much and in the same way. Lennon needs to fix that. I hope he does. I hope it’s soon.

AEK Athens 2—1 Celtic.

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Celtic out of the Champions League. Brendan Rodgers experiences his first serious setback at Celtic. And I wasn’t too chuffed either. Early goals in the first and second half from Rodrigo Galo and Marko Livaja put AEK on easy street. I’m a big fan of the dog’s chance. With twelve minutes to go Scott Sinclair –believe it or not – scored with a header. The dog’s chance was up and running with three legs and a Hoopy the Hoops strip. With almost the last kick of the ball Jozo Simunovic stuck a leg out and the ball squirmed past the AEK post. Game over.

The most annoying thing is Kilmarnock beat us and drew with us last year. AEK were better that Kilmarnock, but if we use the Rangers manager Stevie G’s metric the neutral fan (if such a beast exists and certainly not here) would say over the two legs Celtic were the much better team. AEK, like our Ayreshire friends, went up the park and scored goals that were amateurish from the Celtic perspective. The second and killer AEK goal, in particular, was a bog standard ball chipped into the box from just over the half way line. Hendry lost the first header. Lustig lost the second and Celtic were two goals down. In the Champions League such defending is punished. In the Premier League it was also punished. The only good thing here was it wasn’t Kyle Lafferty that scored against Celtic.

We’re left with a lot of what ifs. If Dembele and Edouard had remained fit then I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t have being having this mini-crisis. In the first leg Dembele would have knocked the AEK defence about and created chances. When he come on last night we looked more dangerous. Over the two legs we had three or four chances to every AEK effort. They scored more, obviously, and had a Walter Smith like back to the walls defensive performance. At least they didn’t bring on Laudrup to gallop away and score the winner in the last minute. I remember it well.

Our defence is rotten. Tierney is the exception to the rule. A big player in every game. The rest can go. Simunovic, in particular, just can’t hack it. But I’ve never been a fan. I’d be willing to give Jack Hendry and Ayer a chance. Lustig is borderline. When we need to defend, as was shown against AEK, they go missing. As for Boyata, no better than Effe and for many of the same reasons. He lets us down in big games and now in the biggest match of all decided he’s not fit. I’m with Sutton on this one, fuck off Boyata.

It’s a major kick in the finances for Celtic. Money invested in players is not money wasted. Rangers are on the rise and really, all kidding aside, we need to start again. We’ve went backwards. We’re still be far the best team in Scotland, but when our best players are missing, we’re bog average, even Hearts can beat us and Rangers will beat us. That unbeaten run of two years ago seems like a distant memory. History is created every day. Celtic need to start now.