Nearly three full days later I’m still reeling from that result.
Why, I don’t know?
It’s not as if we haven’t been there before. Tino and James, in their Final Whistle Podcast, rightly called our performance grim and embarrassing.
There’s a plethora of adjectives we could apply but let’s throw in amateurish and clueless and move on.
The magnitude of the defeat is primarily down to the ridiculous sending off of Daizen Maeda early in the game and then the loss of the second goal immediately before half time.
Blame referee Ivan Kruzliak for the former, but blame the Celtic defence for the latter.
Had it remained eleven v eleven it’s highly improbable we would have lost by such a large margin.
Going in at half time two down and reduced to ten men presented us with an almost impossible task of rescuing anything from the tie.
HIT FOR SIX
Yes Atletico have quality throughout, but looking at the goals we lost unfortunately there’s a catalogue of errors from us all over the park.
At the first goal Joe Hart should have clutched the ball instead of palming it away, but when it’s swung back in Callum McGregor meets it with a careless header and Griezmann, of all people, is standing totally unmarked on the edge of the penalty box and hammers it home with the aid of a deflection from Cameron Carter-Vickers.
The second goal, conceded at such a crucial time, comes from a cross ball by, who else, Griezmann.
It takes out our two centre halves, and Johnston fails to stop the Uruguayan right back Gimenez’s header back across goal for Morata to slide it into the net.
The third goal ,on the hour mark, comes from Kyogo losing possession and Atletico swinging in yet another cross ball to the far post which CCV and Johnston fail to clear, with Johnson heading it straight to Griezmann who with a fabulous finish planks it behind Hart.
At this stage it’s looking like a question of how many more are we going to concede and six minutes later we’re four down.
After a feeble effort by Turnbull to win possession another cross ball to the far post is headed away by Johnston but only to the edge of the penalty box where it is swept out to substitute Lino, who had only came on around sixty seconds previously. The Brazilian proceeded to sidestep Johnston and then scores with a fierce shot.
Ten minutes later we concede a fifth goal. CCV can’t prevent a Lino knockdown to Morata at the edge of the box and his powerful shot leaves Hart with no chance.
The final nail in the coffin comes four minutes from the end. A cross ball to the right hand side of our box finds substitute Azpilicueta unmarked and though his initial ball into the box looked to have been dealt with it eventually breaks to Saul Niguez who gets two attempts before poking it high into the net – much to the horror of a hesitant Scales and a despondent Hart.
THE MAN IN THE MIDDLE
Are there mitigating circumstances for the defeat? Certainly.
The referee’s ruling, changing the yellow given to Maeda to a red card, based on viewing “a still” version of the tackle on the VAR monitor was more than harsh.
It was ludicrous. And left us in an uneven contest with a mountain to climb.
The Slovakian official compounded this with another despotic decision shortly after by booking Palma for a reason he only knows. It looked a truly baffling decision.
Celtic have history with this Ivan Kruzliak as discussed in the post-match podcast and now this “top level” UEFA referee has deprived us the option of two players for our next tie against Lazio in Rome.
That Daizen Maeda is in fact now injured after his red card incident adds insult to, well, injury!
THE BIG DECISIONS
Could we have approached the game differently?
Should we have gone to Madrid with a different game plan?
A draw would have been an excellent result. A win perhaps an unrealistic expectation.
Did the manager feel we could win this tie and if so, was it based on a 45-minute performance at Celtic Park? Did he overlook the fact that in that 45 minutes Atletico underestimated us but made half-time tactical changes that showed their superiority?
Did we not recognise that the free role given to Griezmann could be our main obstacle to taking anything from the return tie and if we were cognisant of that what was the plan to combat it?
With the exception of the injured Hatate, most of the fans – and I imagine Rodgers himself- would say that we fielded our strongest team.
Holm is young and inexperienced; Turnbull lacks defensive qualities and is too slow for the Champions League. Therefore in a straight choice between Bernardo and Iwata the Portuguese was always likely to get the nod based on recent gametime.
But, would Iwata have been a more pragmatic choice than Bernardo in attempting to minimize Griezmann’s undoubted influence?
Rodgers in his first spell with us won every domestic honour available – no mean feat – and we currently sit undefeated in the league, eight points clear.
However, I’m sure that no one is more aware than Brendan himself that his track record in the Champions League is far from satisfactory.
If not the 7-1 defeat by Barcelona and 7-0 by PSG should be powerful reminders.
A QUESTION OF AMBITION
James has made the point in several podcasts that our failure to invest in at least three quality signings impacts heavily on our performances in Europe.
We only have one credible goalkeeper; we only have one registered left back for Europe and we only have one recognised striker in Kyogo (Oh has some way to go!)
This is totally irresponsible. Where does the responsibility for this situation lie?
Has the recruitment team failed to identify suitable signings or has the Celtic Board, for financial reasons, failed to endorse those choices.
The Board have astutely and successfully put Celtic in a strong financial position, of that there is no question.
And whilst acknowledging that there’s a level in the transfer market in which we can’t compete, surely the monies from the sales of players like Jota, Juranovic, Edouard, Ajer and others have left the club in a situation that should allow the manager to identify and sign his choices
Or is the Board being parsimonious when it comes to European ambitions?
The fans deserve to know why there is a lack of investment in the team and how and when this issue is going to be addressed.
As supporters we realise that there’s currently a lack of quality in depth in the squad and should remind the board that loyalty works two ways.
A REFLECTION OF THEIR MANAGER
Lastly a final word on Atletico Madrid.
Those of us unfortunate to have witnessed the game against them at Celtic Park in 1974 have forever imprinted in their minds the sheer unadulterated thuggery they exhibited that evening.
That then came to Celtic Park last month wearing a strip resembling the one worn on that occasion added further insult.
Prior to Tuesday’s game their manager said that Daizen Maeda’s pace worried them. How coincidental that Maeda then receives a red card early in the game. Problem solved.
Diego Simeone, reputed to be the highest paid manager in Club Football (23M Euro per annum) lambasted the referee into having Maeda sent off whilst Hermoso – the “injured” player – lies wriggling and writhing in apparent agonising pain, only to make a remarkable recovery as soon as Maeda departs the field.
In the first game at Celtic Park Simeone half-heartedly accepted a handshake from Brendan Rodgers.
In Madrid he hurriedly ran up the tunnel as soon as the final whistle sounded without the decency to shake Rodgers’ hand.
For sportsmanship and courtesy, read gamesmanship and ignorance.
Diego Simeone – a classless character, for a classless club.
Listen to our full post match analysis – recorded in Madrid – as Tino & James bring you The Final Whistle Show
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