Let’s not lose the plot, last night was not a disastrous result. It was a needless one, and we put in a strange second half performance after just over 40 minutes to total dominance, but next week Brendan Rodgers must make some changes for what is set to be a tense night in the Greek capital.
Some observations on last night’s frustrating game :
I rambled to myself on the timeline about Mikael Lustig, and no one challenged me on it. Maybe they’re shitebags, or maybe they silently agree, but there is no doubt he has been rushed back from Russia 2018 far too quickly and shoehorned into a side that was more than comfortable with Gamboa in that position. Lustig had a decent world cup, but he was safe with a Sweden side who had the pressure off them in the majority of their games, and sat in tight while hitting on the counter attack. It’s not the case at Celtic, and last night he was woefully off the pace throughout the game, especially lax at their equaliser, somehow refusing to stop that cross coming into the box. Lustig can still be an asset for Celtic, but in my opinion, throwing him into these games after a couple of weeks off is a stupid idea from the manager.
Kristoffer Ajer is a player who has been a club captain at sixteen, and at nineteen was a formidable presence for Kilmarnock, before becoming a mainstay at Celtic a year later, but surely despite still learning the game he has to learn to stop committing himself and sliding in constantly, because AEK looked to exploit him in the second half continually and he gave away stupid fouls when he didn’t need to. Indeed, he wasn’t the only underperforming defender last night, with Jack Hendry also extremely disappointing. Will they get a chance to put it right in the second leg, or will Jozo come in for one of them ?
Tom Rogic, who you all love, but I feel goes missing in these games, once again put in a masterclass at hidey, however before you all start greeting and moaning about laying into ‘oor Tam’ - I would not have taken him off last night. He should have been kept on, with a defender being withdrawn instead, but for some reason we persisted with playing within ourselves instead of being as offensive as possible. Thanks for that Brendan.
A positive was Olivier Ntcham however. What a display. His touches, his vision and composure under pressure was marvellous. He didn’t have his shooting boots on but who did last night apart from McGregor after seventeen minutes ? I felt Ntcham tired after 75 minutes, but he was still head and shoulders above everyone else on the pitch. Man of the match by far.
So now onto Saturday where we’ll preview that more tomorrow, but surely we will be looking to rest Ntcham, Edouard and McGregor at the very least at Tynecastle ?