The AP revolution continues! Last night saw Celtic give one of our best displays in Europe for some considerable time,beating a very good AZ Alkmaar side by two goals to nil. And although we rode our luck a bit on the way to the clean sheet,AZ definitely rode theirs in keeping our tally down to two.
For example,one episode near the end saw Eddie twice being denied from point blank range by the keeper,while Adam Montgomery saw his header cleared off the line by a defensive header. The third goal would have given us an even greater cushion,but it was not to be. So we had to settle for two on the night,with the players taking a well deserved ovation from the fans at the end of the game.
Will those two be enough to see us through? Time will tell,and we will know the answer next Thursday evening. But there’s a strength in this team,a mental fortitude that we haven’t seen for a few years now,and we travel abroad with a confidence in the ranks that has been missing for too long.
Both goals were the result of tremendous assists. The first saw Tom Rogic utterly bamboozle his opponents with a run towards the goal line before flicking over a cross. It looked to be slightly overhit,but our newest superstar stretched out his right leg to slam it home at the far post from close range. It was a fantastic piece of play from TR,who appears back to his best and more than willing to put in a shift. But it was a gargantuan effort too from Kyogo to be on the end of it. I swear he stretched his diminutive frame by about six inches just to get on the end of the cross!
Ten minutes and a goal to the good,and looking value for the lead too. We continued to probe the Dutch defence,looking for openings. Abada and Ralston taking it to them down the right with Jamesie and GT doing the spadework on the left,leaving TR,CalMac and Turnbull to keep the supply coming-and the opposition on the back foot. It wasn’t all one-way traffic though,and in fact AZ could have taken an early lead but for the excellent reflexes of Joe Hart. It was an early warning,and they broke through a couple of times in the first half.
It was nothing compared to how often they broke through in the second half though! This was where AR stepped up to the mark,as we have seen him do so often in our recent run of victories. It might be churlish to deny Kyogo his MOTM,given his return of a goal and an assist,but Ralston was absolutely everywhere as he put body and soul on the line to keep our opponents at bay. In fact,it was his run and cross into Eddie that almost gave us that cushion of the third goal. Everyone knows that we are looking for a right back,but there’s no way that AR is only keeping it warm for the new signing. The shirt is now his by right,and he deserves to keep it on the strength of his recent performances.
To the second goal,then. A quite wonderful pass from Kyogo found Jamesie around the penalty spot,and he calmly swivelled under pressure from two defenders and slid it into the corner of the net. Or so it looked at first glance-in fact,it was a deflection from one of the defenders which guided it there. So what,we weren’t caring-and they all count! This one was awarded as an og at the end,which will disappoint our most senior player,but I doubt he will be too bothered.
AP used his substitutes well on the night,recognising that the intensity of the display and the effort put in would need some fresh legs at the right time. He brought on Eddie just shy of the hour mark,taking off Abada. This rejigged the front three,with Jamesie swopping over to the right and Kyogo moving to the left. It paid off with the second goal almost immediately,and two substitutions fifteen minutes later-with James McCarthy and Adam Montgomery on for the outstanding duo of TR and Kyogo stiffened up the midfield. There is little doubt that JM needs game time to improve his match fitness,but he did everything that was asked of him last night,while AM continues to impress every time we see him. The late appearance of Ishmaela Soro for DT added further resolve as we looked to keep another clean sheet,our fourth in this run of five victories.
Speaking of five,where did the bliddy ref get the five minutes of added time from? Damn near gave us all a heart attack! AZ used those five minutes to batter at the defensive wall in front of them,but it stood firm. I know we’ve all seen better players in our colours playing across the defence-hell,we’ve seen better players than we currently have in every position in the team-but there’s no doubting their effort and their resolve. AZ had them under the cosh at times last night,particularly in the second half,but they did not fold,they held the line and they kept the opposition out.
Maybe we could look more composed at the back,I get that. But not for me,criticising a defence who kept the opposition out all night. AP will be looking to fine tune things with them in training-as he did last night by moving Stephen Welsh to the left of the two-and will look to get attackers closed down sooner,before they get into such dangerous areas. But overall,I think we can be very happy with the result and with the performance. Most of us would have been happy enough with a two goal cushion before a ball had been kicked,we take it to the continent next week with some considerable confidence.
Who would have imagined that after the first few days of the month?
Above article by BMCUWP