Elhamed scrutinised and signs of life; 3 things we learned from Celtic vs AC Milan
Well. What an odd game of football that was.
Celtic led for 15 minutes and looked comfortable on the ball, enterprising in possession and – whisper it – steady at the back.
Then, with a Calhanoglu free-kick, everything fell apart. Once again, we’ve conceded 4 goals in a Europa league game. For a club the size of Celtic, our European form is an absolute embarrassment.
Let’s assess the damage. It wasn’t entirely bad, after all.
Signs of life, especially out wide
Yes, Celtic lost this game. But for large spells, the commitment, effort and determination which the Bhoys have lacked in recent games was visible to all who watched.
Celtic came flying out at the San Siro, developing a 2-0 lead within 15 minutes. Rogic and Christie looked sharp, while Edouard is just such a natural and clinical finisher.
Interestingly, the Bhoys utilised their width to more clinical effect. Much of Celtic’s play was developed by Christie on the left and Frimpong in an advanced role on the other side. Lennon’s tactical tinkering in an attacking sense reaped rewards.
Lennon has a decision to make for the weekend. Frimpong’s frightening pace, unleashed further up the pitch, will devastate lesser teams. A.C. Milan happened to play a Champions League winner at left-back. St. Johnstone, our next opponents, will not.
With Elhamed behind him, Frimpong played with more freedom. His passing success was mediocre, with percentages in the 60s to low 70s, but he’s still very young. If he adds a better final ball to his game, he could be quite easily retrained as a right winger.
Ah, but about that right side…
That said, we lost two poor goals from Frimpong and Elhamed’s side of the pitch. I spoke before the match about the importance of Elhamed’s battle with Hauge, and it’s safe to say that he lost that contest.
It was a strange kind of game for the Israeli. Statistically, Elhamed’s tackling was superb. He completed 6 tackles, dispossessed Milan 3 times and cleared the ball twice. If you watched the game on WhoScored? rather than BT Sport, you’d be confused as to why this match finished 4-2.
Yet, finish 4-2 it did. Elhamed and Frimpong were dancing on each other’s feet for Hauge’s first, while Brahim Diaz nonchalantly glided past the right-back’s attempts at dispossession. By his own standards, this was a poor run-out.
Architects of our own demise
On the one hand, this was our game to lose. On the other, few would bet on A.C. Milan not responding to a 2 goal deficit.
Being as objective as is possible on a site like this, tonight’s match was extremely odd. Celtic were dominant, clinical and sharp at times here, but when it counted, the defence folded like wet paper.
Barkas could legitimately be blamed for two of the goals. Milan’s first, from a Calhanoglu free-kick, was well-hit. The Greek’s positioning was baffling, however. He took a sharp step to the right before watching the ball ping past him on his left.
Then, from Hauge’s first goal, Barkas made himself look small. He was poor tonight; his confidence looks absolutely shot and between him and Bain, we don’t currently have a competent goalkeeper.
I’ve defended Barkas on this website, and rightly so: I still don’t think he should’ve been dropped so readily. In fact, that may have been the biggest dent to his confidence. Snap team selection decisions can have long-term effects, and the case of our goalkeepers makes that abundantly clear.
Meanwhile, Ajer looked well off it tonight. He wandered off for Diaz’s goal, and was barely present for the second or third. Positioning like that gets punished in the Europa League, and so it proved tonight.
Bitton can come away with a small amount of credit, looking strong in the tackle, but then, his weak header allowed Milan to take advantage for their equalising goal.
This team continue to confound. It’s impossible to know what flavour of disappointment we’re going to get from them at the moment. What hurts more, being awful all game, or losing from a comfortable position?