Celtic 0—1 Anderlecht

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I’m delighted with European football after Christmas and I love Celtic playing in the Champions League. It doesn’t bother me that much that Celtic get whopped 7-1 by PSG, obviously I don’t like it, but funnily enough there were encouraging signs and on another day Celtic might have sneaked a draw, or even won, as the newly-promoted French team recently did. Hyperbole? Here we’re back to reality and I said before the game that it wouldn’t surprise me if Anderlecht won. The manner in which they won was the most disappointing aspect. The bones of Ronnie Deila’s team shone through here. This was probably Celtic’s worst performance in Brendan Rodger’s reign and that includes the Barcelona and PSG gubbing.  Three players got pass-marks, our much maligned goalie, Craig Gordon, whose safe after two minutes from the Anderlecht midfielder, Sven Kums, who really should have scored, unfunnily enough, kept up in the match. Scot Brown, who does what Scot Brown does. And James Forest, Neil Lennon’s love child, was Celtic’s man of the match. It’s a difficult one here. I think Paddy Roberts was the better player, but he’s injured and gone for the season, gone forever.  Forest has stepped up to wear the green-and-white jersey.

The biggest loser last night was Leigh Griffiths and he didn’t even get to kick a ball. Moussa Dembele, yeh, I have these arguments with my mates. He’s bigger, stronger and better that Griff, but Griff is great. We have the best two striker in Scottish football. But Moussa was shit last night and missed two reasonable chances. He only stayed on the park because Stuart Armstrong couldn’t manage to keep the ball and his first few passes went to Anderlecht players. Hooked at half time. Sinclair was also hooked at half time. This was the Scottish player of the year. A goal a game man. That was last year. The man Rodgers never took off was Dedryck Boyata. Remember the guy that bottled it in the Scottish Cup semi-final with Rangers. Here he was and is. When Boyata worked his way back into the heart of the Celtic defence he was there on merit. He won his headers and kept it simple. Now he’s an Effe surrogate.  I certainly wouldn’t be sad to see Boyata go. Joso Sumunovich scored an own-goal for the visitors, but he does keep it simple and is worth keeping. But when Rodgers brought on Odsonne Edouard for Dembele, Griffiths must be thinking not of his Celtic future, but his footballing future. Celtic have the best three strikers in Scottish football, but second choice is sitting on the bench and third choice is nowhere good.

Domestically, Celtic continues with their unbeaten sixty-seven match run. But with so many players out of sorts and out of form it seems time to freshen things up. I’m a big fan of Tom Rodgic, who came on for Sinclair. The debate goes on about whether Armstrong should play in front of Olivier Nitcham. No contest, last night Nitcham came on and did well. This is the first time Rodgers has come under any flak. It’s a good position to be. I remember Ajax coming to Parkhead and playing Celtic off the park and winning 1-0. But in the Martin O’Neil era with Henrik and Sutton and the like that was good enough. This game will be forgotten about, but there are some lessons for Brendan Rodgers to ponder. I love it we’ll have Europa League after Christmas and look forward to the draw. Bring on an English team.

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Rangers 0—2 Celtic.

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I usually write a blog about Celtic’s big games, but this was one of those matches where everything goes as planned. Celtic didn’t score five this time. But if you listen to Steven Thompson on telly then Celtic could easily have scored five or six, had eighteen shots on target and he doesn’t think the gap between Celtic and Rangers has declined. Thompson is, of course, a former Ranger’s centre-forward and hardly a neutral. From where I was sitting, drunk admittedly, Wes Fodernigham made the save of the match, after a minute from Tom Rogic’s strike. Armstrong slipped when he was about to shoot and Griffiths missed an absolute sitter, heading well over the bar from the back post. That was all inside ten minutes. Brown strolled the midfield and Ranger’s brave new signings, much like the old lot, were playing with concrete feet on. Yet, after the game, I was told Rangers bossed the first half.

Looking for evidence of this a ball did flash across the Celtic box at one point and Jozo Simunovic did pull out of a tackle on the Ranger’s centre-forward, Alfredo Morelos, which could have been classified as a penalty, but wasn’t. Other than that Celtic did look a bit pedestrian, but teams like St Johnstone have pushed them further for longer than Rangers managed for about five minutes.

When  the diddy teams don’t score first they are in trouble and so it proved. A trundler from Patrick Roberts from the edge of the box and Tom Rogic (I’d two quid on him as first-goalscorer at 9/1)  was first to pounce and Celtic were one up and coasting. And when Roberts drifted in behind the defence to play in Griffiths the game was over, the Copland Road stand emptied and most of the blue contingent went hame in case anything else happened.  Celtic brought on McGregor for Rogic. Forrest for Roberts and Dembele for Griffiths. Bitton, Hayes and Nicham didn’t get a sniff. I’ve been impressed by Eboue Koussai but he’s injured. Liam Henderson can’t get a hooped strip. Ryan Christie is out on loan and set up Aberdeen’s win at Motherwell with a marvellous piece of skill. Odsonne Edouard, the onloan striker from PSG, wasn’t stripped either, despite being one of the three best strikers in Scottish football. There’s no doubt a Celtic second eleven would have a real chance of beating the first-eleven. I’d certainly expect them to beat Rangers easily.

Back to the Champions League duty where Celtic are the minnows, but it’s minnow against minnow this week with a game against Anderlecht on Wednesday. Last time we were rotten and a young seventeen-year-old Vincent Kompany stood tall against Hartson, Sutton and Henrik. Inevitably, there was talk of signing him, but I wonder where that Kompany boy  is now?