05 Aug Celtic: What a difference a year makes
Exactly one year ago, Celtic were hours away from losing 2-0 to Legia Warsaw at Murrayfield in new manager Ronny Deila’s fourth competitive game in charge.
Five of the team that were outplayed that night in Edinburgh started in Azerbaijan against Qarabag in the second leg of their Champions League qualifier on Wednesday night.
“It was every inch a European performance by Celtic, that only 12 months earlier would have delivered a catalogue of defensive mistakes and goals conceded.”
What a difference a year can make as the Celtic manager contemplates a two-leg play-off to reach the group stages of Europe’s biggest competition.
Deila has transformed the team and he’s done it the old fashioned way with a good spine and a sprinkling of pace and discipline.
The bargain of the last few seasons in Scotland, Craig Gordon produced a world class save to help Celtic to an impressive 0-0 against Qarabag, but there was more to the display than the goalkeeper’s stop.
The back four was solid, the holding two of Brown and Biton snapped away at anyone with a poor touch or lack of awareness and the rest of the supporting cast followed the manager’s instructions in keeping the opposition at bay.
It was every inch a European performance by Celtic, that only twelve months earlier would have delivered a catalogue of defensive mistakes and goals conceded.
In truth, you couldn’t have complained if Celtic had come away with a win from Wednesday night’s game, but only James Forrest knows why he decided to pass inside the box when one on one with the Qarabag goalie. However, that is nit-picking on an excellent display by the Scottish champions.
Nothing has been achieved, other than European football at some level over the winter months. But, if Celtic can get past the play-off double header, it will give the fans a huge lift and focus through August to December and give them more to think about than the one-horse race that is the Scottish Premiership.
The only thing Celtic need now is a wee bit of luck in Friday’s draw and maybe one or two quality additions before the transfer window closes in defence and in attack.
You can never have enough cover and options when the Champions League kicks in for real at the group stage.
Until then, well done to Ronny Deila’s men, the dream is still alive and the manager’s credibility goes up a notch until the next European test.