Celtic’s Europa League failings have been well documented this season, but it’s disappointing that they overshadowed what was a real special occasion on Thursday night.
Yesterday, Lille overtook PSG at the top of Ligue 1 to continue their blistering start to the season. They’ve only suffered one defeat in 14 domestic games and another one in Europe this season.
Rennes, Marseille, Lyon, Nice, and AC Milan are just some of the clubs who have failed to beat the Ligue 1 pacesetters. And this incredible run of form in one of Europe’s top leagues proves that Celtic’s win last week was more special than it will ever receive credit for.
In the BBC’s post-match report of the game, they tried to state that Lille “were not at full strength”. They were missing Luiz Araujo and Renato Sanches. Yes, two fine players on their day, but they were as strong as they’ll likely be all season.
Jonathan Ikone, Jonathan David, Timo Weah, Jose Fonte, Jonathan Bamba, Boubakary Soumare, and Benjamin Andre were just some of the Lille regulars who faced Celtic on Thursday. Some of the players who have played strong parts in their unbeaten run this season.
A powerful Lille side couldn’t overcome Celtic Park
In fact, 13 of the Lille players who featured against Celtic also played a part in their 2-1 win vs Bordeaux at the weekend. So spare me this nonsense that they weren’t at their top gear or that they were under-strengthened.
This is a Lille side who will start to have genuine hope of winning Ligue 1, and the fact they qualified for the Europa League last-32 so comfortably shows how much quality they had. Remember, Ikone was reportedly being monitored by Chelsea and Leicester in the summer (The Sun), whilst David signed for Lille in a whopping £30million from Gent (The Guardian).
The talent they had on the pitch against us was incredible, and the fact Celtic were able to shut them down and bag three points was a special result given our circumstances.
And let’s not pretend Lille weren’t too fussed either. This was a side who would’ve been itching to bag top spot ahead of AC Milan after picking up four points against them. Christophe Galtier put on plenty of big-hitters to try and get the win at Parkhead, and you could tell by his emotions on the sidelines how much it meant to him.
So it’s important not to let anyone downplay what was, perhaps, the most impressive one-off result a Scottish side has achieved in Europe this season. Considering where Lille are as a football club, this would normally be a win that is shouted about from the rooftops at Parkhead.
Unfortunately, our dismal Europa campaign has diluted the result. But as a one-off it was certainly a special one – don’t let anyone tell you differently.