League Tables And Brutal Reality
Another midweek,another pop at the Champions League. This time at Celtic Park against the currently-exiled Ukrainian champions,Shakhtar Donetsk.
Looking at the various group tables,it has been clear that there is a continuing and regular habit of teams there to “make up the numbers”,to give the appearance that smaller clubs from the smaller countries are welcome,always will be,at the top table. A cursory glance at those tables would include Celtic in those bare and brutal statistics.
The performances though,they tell a different story.
From the opening minutes of our opening game at home to the almost-perennial holders Real Madrid,we have taken this group by the scruff of the neck and showed everyone what we are capable of. Sadly though,our results have not reflected our performances and that is a real shame. I think that a proper reflection of our performances would have given cause for other clubs to show more ambition in how they approach matches against “superior” sides,and maybe open up against them and prove their right to be dining at the top table with the big boys and all the rest.
Our opener against Real could easily have seen us three up at half time,and certainly no-one from the visiting club would have been complaining had that been the case. We even started the second half on the front foot,clearly intending to continue as before and to improve on our first half superiority.
Luka Modric had other ideas,and put on a simply world class performance from there on in. That we couldn’t live with him-couldn’t get bloody near him,in truth-is to no-one’s shame from that night. He was the difference then,as he has been for so many years at club and international level.
They don’t tend much to hand out a Ballon D’Or for nothing,you know!
Since then,we drew our away match to Shakhtar,a game which must have been a treat for the neutral but was a torture for the Celtic players and supporters. Again,we pummelled the opposition and just couldn’t quite get the ball over the line often enough to get all of the points,even if we did come away with an away point.
Leipzig away was next,and while our style of play offered us plenty of reason to be confident of scoring enough to get more points on the board,the home team were simply more brutal and clinical up front,and the result was one that few of us could quibble about. The return leg at home was an even more brutal lesson about taking chances as you find them,a match which could have gone either way but which then swung against us when RBL scored late on.
Having to chase the game-rarely our forte!-we left ourselves wide open for the clinching second,which duly arrived. And so we find ourselves amongst the also-rans in the tournament,with a mere one point to show for our endeavours. And yet,as I think I have explained above,we have been far from also-rans,are clearly deserving of more than our scant return of that single point,and could perhaps even say that we have actually punched above our weight in our first foray at this level in five years.
But we can hardly argue that point with any real force when our detractors and the neutrals alike can simply point to the table. You might win admirers for putting in impressive displays,but you don’t win many prizes till you can keep it tighter at the back while registering more often on the scoresheet. Realistically,for us to even scrape into the Europa League after Christmas would take the minor miracle of full points from our remaining two matches. And since the last of these is away to Real,I’ve pretty much discounted the possibility. Even then,we need results elsewhere to fall our way.
Tonight and next Wednesday then is about keeping up the levels of performance that we have shown in Europe,just as we are beginning to do domestically after a brief difficult patch. But as I said earlier,getting the plaudits for our performances isn’t the same as getting the points that they deserve. We could easily be sitting with five points going into tonight’s match-and even at that,some would consider ourselves hard done to. We owe it to ourselves to finish the group on those five points,and even though they are two difficult fixtures,I see no reason why it shouldn’t be our minimum target.
Make a good start tonight,Celtic. As we tend to do in the competition to date. But this time,make it count.
Above article by BMCUWP