CELTIC 3—0 JABLONEC (7—2 aggregate win).

James Forrest comes in for Liel Abada. Much the same team that thrashed Dundee at Parkhead on Sunday. We’ll take much the same score and performance. Kyogo Furuhashi is in on goal after less than thirty seconds. One-on-one with the Jablonec keeper on the edge of the box. But the keeper stands tall and sticks a foot out to make a save.

Kyogo had the ball in the net after 20 minutes. Forrest drifted across the box and played him in. The linesman called it offside, but the ball was already in the net and the almost 60 000 crowd in the air before it was called. Replays show it was close, very close. More onside than off.

Tom Rogic’s twinkle toes had been hard at work. He picked out Christie, who played in Kyogo. This time he was offside. Welsh also had a chance from a cross, but the defender nudged him and he headed over.

David Turnbull had a speculative shot from the edge of the box, which the keeper palmed out. A minute later, Greg Taylor pushed up to get a rebound and played in Turnbull. Our player of the season (last season) scored with the outside of his boot in the 26th minute. Turnbull, like McGregor and Rogic, looks back to his best.

Celtic a class above the Czech team, but they have a few chances from the edge of the box, without troubling the keeper.

There was still time for Rogic to play Kyogo in with a ball over the top, but the Czech keeper is quickly out and clears with his head. Kyogo ends the first-half with a booking, trying too hard. Never a bad thing.

Celtic dropped down the gears at the start of the second-half. Starfelt, five minutes in, almost gave the opposition a penalty. (I thought it was a penalty). He jumped into the tackle—minimal—but unnecessary contact. We’ve been lucky recently, and this is a good example. The German ref didn’t give it.

Ten minutes into the second half, Turnbull finished the tie. A strike from 25- yards into the corner of the net. A bumper of a goal. He won man of the match. It was a toss-up between him and McGregor. McGregor moves the ball so much quicker than Soro. The team look far slicker.

Ironically, McGregor set up the best chance of the night for the Jablonec attackers by playing a terrible back pass. The loudest cheer of the night came from Joe Hart’s save. A minute later he made an even better save. But the Celtic keeper did make a complete howler out of a pass back, getting caught on the ball, only to be helped out by his defence. We got lucky again there.

A number of changes for the last twenty-five minutes. Edouard, one of our subs, (let’s hope he leave soon and isn’t running down his contract as some of the tabloids suggest) missed a great chance. He tried to chip the keeper, but Forrest followed in with the rebound to score in seventy-two minutes. A good night’s work for the winger. He was given the captain’s armband when McGregor went off. But it’s a toss-up between him or Abada for the position on the wing. The young Israeli is averaging a goal a game.  

Montgomery got booked for a terrible tackle and Ajeti missed with a header in the final ten minutes. Celtic play Hearts on Sunday, I’m sure we’ll win in the league cup game. But I’ve not seen the Eredivisie outfit AZ Alkmaar. We play them on Wednesday.

McGregor, Rogic, Turnbull, outstanding. Kyogo, was very good. Christie pass marks, his performance not hitting the heights of recent matches. Our two full backs were good. Let’s hope the soft centre doesn’t return. It’s easy against teams like this we’re so much slicker and better than. Harder when there’s not much in it. Won three in a week. Rangers lost three. That’s always good news, even for an old cynic like me.   

Jablonec 2—4 Celtic

I was hoping Joe Hart would have a halo effect on our defence. We’ve been here before, of course, with Shane Duffy. The Irishman came in and scored a goal on his debut and we thought, great—we’re sorted. Hart conceded two goals and made a couple of bog-standard saves. John Hartson, on Sportscene,  got agitated at the goals we conceded here. ‘Sunday League defending,’ he called it.

In a game we dominated and scored four goals, which could have been quite easily six or eight—I should be happy. We seemed destined to play AZ Alkmaar in the play-off round of the Europa league. But if we fail to beat the Dutch we drop into the Conference league. I’m not sure what that is or means, but we’ll stick with what we know. I hope I don’t have to find out, but kinda thing I will.

Kyogo Furuhashi’s movement looks good. He looks to get in behind the defence. His link up play is excellent, best of all he looks a finisher. He scored the second of Celtic’s goals tonight after taking a pass from Bitton and dinking it over the keeper. Edouard did not start. That’s a bonus. The sooner the French man is away, the better.

I’ve been critical of Liel Abada’s  inability to dribble past players. But his goal to game and shoot on sight ratio is brilliant. He netted our first. Greg Taylor whipped a ball. The Israeli drifting in from the wing, and in behind Furuhashi. He hit it first time. The keeper palmed it up and back out to him and he scored on the second attempt.

Five minutes later, Furuhashi hits a second.

Two minutes later, it’s 2—1. Dreadful defending.  Looped ball over the top and Vaclav Pilar ran through a static central defence before firing past Joe Hart.

It remains 2—1 in the first-half. Turnbull had another shot, which he put wide.

 Jablonec had a ten minute spell in which they dominated possession, without creating much. Nir Bitton with slack passing lost the ball and Vojtech Kubista with a chance, hooked it well over the bar.

Abada, in a breakaway, carried the ball forward and cut in to the edge of the penalty box. His shot was saved, but James Forrest followed up to finish.

Less than twenty minutes to go, and Ange brought on fresh legs and made three substitutions. Tom Rogic, Ryan Christie and Odsonne Edouard. Furuhashi, Turnbull and, man-of-the-match Abada go off.

But with Celtic comfortable in possession and with a few minutes remaining they do that shoot themselves in the foot thing they’ve become so adept at. With any kind of ball into the box with this backline it’s going to be dangerous. Tomas Malinsky turns Carl Starfelt inside out with a dummy, before dinking a ball over Joe Hart and in off the post and into the net. Hart got a finger to it, should he have saved it? Emmmmmmm? Here we go again. Let’s be positive and say he made a save at the end of extra time.

Ryan Christie, just before the end of the match, put a sheen back on the score line. He ghosted in front of the defender and scored with a header from a Forrest cross. Christie, unlike Edouard, can rightly feel hard done to. He’s been one of our best players in every game he started. Ironically, it’s Abada—who is doing a Christie of two seasons ago—and scoring and creating chances that’s keeping him out of the team. But if Turnbull doesn’t turn up soon, it’s his place he’ll be taking. James McCarthy can take Soro’s shirt and place in the team. But to be fair to Soro, he was pretty good tonight. The whole team played slick, attractive football. The downside remains a defence that there is no defence for. Better teams will tear us to shred. With little evidence, I think Starfelt can get better. I’ve seen enough of Bitton to know he won’t. Let’s hope Hart brings out the best in our team.

Celtic 1—1 Midtyland.

Ex-Celtic keeper, Craig Gordon tells a story (perhaps apocryphal) about when he was number-1 keeper at Sunderland. He went into training, Roy Keane, the manager, took the gloves off him and went in goals. He told Gordon to shoot in at him, because he would have saved a shot Gordon had missed in the previous game. You know what I’m getting at here. £5 million signing Barkas is money wasted. He wins fanny of the night award, for Evander’s curled free kick. Roy Keane would have been pulling his hair out, and would have surely have pulled on the gloves.

Second prize goes to another diddy, Nir Bitton. Welsh, who was having no too bad a game, also gets pelters for giving away the free kick that led to the goal. A needless challenge is a stupid challenge (although he did get a touch on the ball). We watched the Hoops last year. No player in the Celtic back line was good enough for Celtic. We kept giving away goals from free kicks and corners. It was open season.  Ralston was best of a poor bunch here. And I’m exonerating substitute Dean Murray. Perhaps his chance has come, when Bitton goes, as he surely must.

Some familiar faces in the Celtic team. Bitton, Christie and the big one here, Edouard. Needs must. With little room for error, Nir Bitton pokes Dreyer in the face after the Dane had got in behind the Celtic defence and went down on the box, hoping for a penalty. He was booked, as was the Israeli, who had already been booked. Red card coming up for us before half time.

It was another Israeli, Liel Abada, who gave us the opening goal. He was first to react to a shot from Christie, parried by the keeper, Lossi.  Christie had already hit the post and looked back to his best. McGregor also showed for the ball, and played a real captain’s role. On the bright side, Barkas, in the first half, never had a save to make, which meant we never lost a goal. Good to see Dean Murray in the team. Pity it wasn’t earlier when Bitton was off injured for 10 minutes.  

Dreyer evened up the red-card count in the second half and for the next ten minutes we looked to add to our goal tally. Then that stupid tackle. And the non-save. There was an inkling of what was to come when Barkas dropped a simple cross ball and got a foul for it. Celtic has one mediocre keeper in Scott Bain. I’m not counting Connor, one for the future, because he isn’t (when on loan at Partick Thistle they sent him back). Man of the match went to McGregor, but I thought want-away Christie edged it. He’d the most shots on goal and an assist.

With away goals not counting in aggregate terms, Celtic’s mission is simply to win in Denmark. That’s certainly do-able. I suppose the merry-go-round of keepers will continue. I’d hope Bain would come in, until we get somebody better. I’d also prefer Montgomery for Taylor. Dean Murray should keep his place. It wasn’t a total disaster. Everything that could have went wrong last season—did. The hangover continues. We’ve got to shake it off. I know we’ve got better players than the Danes. Edouard had his usual miss, but his hold-up play was OKish. I’m sure he’ll play next Wednesday.  We’ve just got to show for the ball and shift it quicker. All the good things our new manager is trying to bring to the team. There are some things he can’t control and that was shown by two useless B’s. Both are fixable.     

Celtic 1—3 Copenhagen

When we are down, Rangers are up. Life’s that simple. On even pegging going into this tie, we blew it. Cluj done a similar job here at Parkhead earlier in the season. Copenhagen followed suit. We get back into games and then simply make school-boy errors. Jozo Simunovic was way back in the pecking order under Brendan Rodgers for the kind of mistake he made last night. He’d overall a poor game and his pass back was short.  Julien slid in and his ricochet made it even easier for sub Santos to score. Edouard’s penalty ten minutes from the end had us thinking of extra time and the possibility of penalties to decide the tie. Two minutes later. Game over. Tie over.

Biel arrows through the centre of Celtic’s defence as it wasn’t there (it wasn’t). Celtic would need to have scored two. As in the Cluj game, Copenhagen were the team to score with N’Doye milking—the culmination with his battle with Julien—with a third and final goal to put him and Celtic in their place, which was nowhere. In truth, it didn’t really matter at that stage.

We fall back onto it’s the league that matters argument. Nine-in-a-row. Then Ten. Rangers will have more ties to play and that’ll hurt them. Let’s just say that’s the kind of hurting I’d like, possible an English side and a couple of extra million in the bank. Cluj cost us tens of millions. Copenhagen cost us millions. Worse, it gives Rangers the bragging rights. Rangers, remember are a poor team that also beat us at fortress Parkhead and we won the League Final against them at Hampden only because of Fraser Forster’s heroics.

Rangers will not win the Uefa Cup, but they’re still in it. We’re on the outside looking in. Rangers have made £7 million from the Uefa Cup. That pays for Ryan Kent and boost their struggling finances. More money to come from their tie against Leverkusen. Lose-lose for us, whatever way we portray it.

Hopefully, we can go on and win the league. With performances like this that isn’t a given. The Scottish Cup would be a bonus. We’re back to the same old, same old. Pish.