John Hartson left disappointed with Carl Starfelt after Celtic loss

By David Walton

August 29, 2021

John Hartson was left furious with the role Carl Starfelt played in today’s Glasgow derby winner as Rangers overcame Celtic.

The Swedish centre-back has had a troubling time of it in Glasgow since signing for £4m earlier this summer [The Herald]. A horrendous error against AZ Alkmaar led to massive pressure being on his shoulders this afternoon.

Generally, the former Rubin Kazan man put in a strong performance. Alfredo Morelos and Kemar Roofe both struggled to get any sort of joy out of him or Stephen Welsh. However, Filip Helander managed to tower over him to nod home the only goal of the game.

But despite the positive performance, Hartson wasn’t pleased with the centre-back’s role in the goal.

Speaking via Sky Sports Football today [29/08, 14:05], Hartson said: “I don’t think they’re marking. Celtic are zonal marking because if you’re man-marking, you can’t let Helander get a run from the edge of the box. The defender’s got to go close to him.

“If you look at Helander, he runs from really deep and he arrives. So how Celtic don’t see Helander on the edge of the box, nobody marking him, is beyond me. Someone’s got to block his run and be cleverer, and Starfelt, capped 26 times by Sweden, he’s come in, alright it’s early in his Celtic career, but it’s happened too many times. That’s about the fourth or fifth bad call that Starfelt has made.

“It’s in his zone, and when the ball comes into that zone you show responsibility and character and you go and head it. That’s the type of defenders I’ve always played with, both down south and at Celtic.”

John Hartson calls out Celtic man Starfelt for derby goal

It’s difficult to have a major pop at Starfelt for the goal in my view. He isn’t the one who’s supposed to be keeping a close eye on Helander. You can tell from the moment the free-kick was taken that his sole focus was on Connor Goldson.

Yes, he’s beaten in the air for the goal. However, considering Helander had a free run, he was always going to win that ball. It was a collective mistake given the set-up used, but the responsibility doesn’t drop solely on Starfelt’s shoulders.

In fact, the big Swede actually put in an impressive performance before and after the goal. He mopped up plenty at the back as Alfredo Morelos and Kemar Roofe failed to get into the game. He was the one who was being aggressive and winning possession back for Celtic in our defensive areas.

Photo by ANP Sport via Getty Images

Not to mention the fact that he was a lot more efficient with his distribution out of defence today.

It’s easy to pick on Starfelt at the moment. Hartson clearly wasn’t happy with his performance. But the truth is he was far from the worst on the field today, and he certainly didn’t cost Celtic the game.

He should try and take the positives from this one and go into the international break with some individual confidence.

In other news, Chris Sutton’s immediate reaction to Rangers vs Celtic