Brutal defending, midfield disarray; 3 things we learned from Celtic v Bayer Leverkusen

By Euan Davidson

September 30, 2021

It’s the hope that kills us, whenever Celtic are in Europe, and Bayer Leverkusen were the latest beneficiaries.

Perennial quick starters under Postecoglou, the Bhoys got an early lead against Betis, and could’ve been one or two up against Leverkusen, were it not for the excellence of Leverkusen stopper Lukas Hradecky.

As ever, though, clumsy, disorganised defending undid us against top-class opposition. At no point did Celtic really ever look out of their depth against one of the Bundesliga’s better teams.

Instead, it was a familiar, frustrating story: costly mistakes.

Here are three things we learned as Celtic took on Bayer Leverkusen.

Celtic continue to be architects of their own downfall with Bayer Leverkusen benefitting

Yet again, it’s basic defensive lapses that are costing Celtic.

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Firstly, David Turnbull was caught in two minds as Bakker took him on. Then, it was a combination of factors for 2-0, but Ralston being caught out of position created an overlap for Bayer Leverkusen to slice through Celtic’s defence.

It’s fine and well playing a high line and aspiring for inverted full-backs, if the base level defending is competent. Ange’s aims are no doubt admirable, and eventually, you feel as if Celtic will get it right.

But for now, it’s incredibly frustrating. Just as we were against Betis, we’ve been extremely vulnerable on counter-attacks. Starfelt and Carter-Vickers are struggling to co-ordinate and get into position quickly enough. The full-backs are being caught out, through naïveté more than incompetence.

Then when Carter-Vickers conceded a penalty, after a really decent phase of play for Celtic, it was game over.

Postecoglou has been unlucky. He hasn’t been able to play a settled defensive four yet. That counts.

But at some point, it becomes very basic stuff.

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Midfield needs a rest after difficult night against Leverkusen

Poor David Turnbull.

It’d be harsh to blame him entirely for Bayer Leverkusen’s first goal, set up by a reported Celtic target and scored by another Celtic target. But there are very clear demands on the players to defend and attack as a unit.

So far, barring a hat-trick against St Mirren [Sky Sports], Turnbull hasn’t looked able to adapt to Postecoglou’s fast-paced system. It was tiredness that undid him, as Bakker eased past the flailing midfielder.

That’s a problem for both manager and player. Turnbull has international aspirations. Meanwhile, Postecoglou has to get the best of last season’s Player of the Year.

The ex-Motherwell man just looks off the pace. With so many games coming in quick succession, Turnbull and Rogic have been relied upon to create a spark and perform the extensive midfield duties of Postecoglou’s system.

For Tom Rogic, barring some neat touches, it was another game when the Aussie was ineffectual. It just seems obvious by now that the duo don’t work well together.

Photo by Jan Kruger – UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images

Kyogo gamble nearly pays off early for Celtic against Bayer Leverkusen

There was shock and delight when Kyogo was named in Celtic’s starting XI, and it very nearly paid off quickly.

The Japanese international just offers something so different from his contemporaries. He seems to see spaces others don’t, and when he gets the ball, he always looks dangerous.

Teaming up with Abada and Jota for the first time, he nearly scored very early, after picking up the ball and beating Hradecky for pace. A world-class intervention from Jonathan Tah made the difference.

Then, the outstretched right foot of the Finnish ‘keeper stopped him. Yet, if Celtic had continued to pressure, you felt a goal was coming.

He attracts so much attention that it makes it easier for the wingers around him to cut inside and create opportunities. Kyogo’s able to bring defenders out of position with such consummate ease, that Abada, Jota, Forrest et al will surely achieve decent goal tallies this season.

It was a huge risk to play him. Thankfully, he came through unscathed, and now it’s about what he can do domestically.

Read more: The Green Brigade unveil stunning Celtic display ahead of Leverkusen kick-off