It Is Always Rewarding
Wee Fergus reminded us many moons ago that it is not always easy to be a Celtic supporter-but it is always rewarding. Well,last night proved that in spades! I swear I’ve never been so relieved to hear the final whistle on a defeat-on the night-or to qualify for such a competition.
Similar to nearly two decades ago when Bayern Munich celebrated a goalless draw against us in the Champions League as though they’d won the bliddy thing. For once,this isn’t a comment about how low our stock,reputation and expectations have fallen in the intervening years-it is a simple reminder of how much football means to us,how it can get to us like nothing else outside of friends and family.
Quite simply,there is nothing else in which we invest so much emotion,nothing else that makes or breaks our day or our week like Celtic. And after last night,I now know why so many of us have grey hair-or none at all!
We have said on here how good a team AZ are,and that was based on their performance in a very good league last season,and borne out by their performance against us last week. We should be proud of our own performance a week ago,and taking a two goal lead was certainly an achievement.
It meant that another goal in the away leg should make things very difficult indeed. And shades of Vicky Pollard ayebutnobutayebutnobut we did just that after only two minutes-then proceeded to give us all heart attacks for the rest of the game!
The goal was a peach. A pass up the line from AR to Abada,quick cross to Kyogo and we are three up. I was booking my tickets to Seville already! Five minutes later,AZ hit a hopeful punt up the park,it bounced off Welsh’s shoulder,but an easy clearance for Joe Hart-except that he froze on the edge of the area,tried to play football with a footballer and made an arse of it.
Frankly,we never regained the initiative after that. Back foot for almost all of the game,bar a flurry towards the end when AZ ran out of steam.
Because that skilful side of last week were virtually unrecognisable from the thugs we played last night. That’s not to make an excuse. But we were officiated by a ref who had clearly learned his trade in MMA and was happy to allow the game to turn into a free for all. If that’s football,you can f…..g keep it. Some of it was a throwback to the 60s and 70s,and reminded me of Derby v Leeds in The Damned United. Their players were considerably bigger and heavier than ours as a rule,and they used the leeway freely given by the ref to their advantage. There will be a few sore bodies over the next few days.
But we were still two goals ahead,even after the blunder from Joe Hart-who redeemed himself considerably as AZ used the initiative that his blunder had given them. He couldn’t have been looking forward much to half time,but bloody hell,worse was to come halfway through the first half.
A nothing ball into the box,Starfelt with no-one near him. Easy clearance. Swings at it with his left,airshot,ball bounces off his right leg and into the net. That isn’t even a schoolboy error,that is a shooting offence! We were up against it,and no mistake. The defence was all over the place,the midfield was missing,the ball wasn’t even getting to the forwards-and the clock seemed to be in slo-mo!
Would we make it to the 45 without another disaster?
Well,we did-but nothing changed. Welsh had to make three desperate clearances in the first five minutes of the second half. But then,suddenly,the players seemed to find some confidence,imposed themselves a bit more. Started kicking back-honestly,that ref should never be near a game again!
Hart was making the saves when needed,Starfelt was as good,solid,as I’ve ever seen him. Both players putting in a shift to redeem their earlier errors. 54,56,57 across the back-I assume we have “retired” the 55 shirt?-were outstanding again.
Eddie stretched their backline and brought Christie and Abada into it,and Kyogo just went searching for more punishment. CalMac was everywhere.
The final whistle when it came was greeted with as much relief as it was joy. That was a torrid ninety minutes,one where we gifted our opponents two goals and the initiative.
But it is Celtic who will be in the draw in the morning.
There should be no place in football for some of the thuggery last night. That it was a Dutch team dishing it out does their heritage a disservice.
I’m proud of our players and our manager,who have come a long way from a dark place less than a month ago. Fergus was right.
Above article by BMCUWP