John Hartson's instant reaction to Celtic progression vs AZ

By Euan Davidson

August 26, 2021

Celtic hero John Hartson has picked out Starfelt and Welsh for their second half improvement against AZ Alkmaar.

The two Celtic centre-backs were extremely shaky in the first 45 minutes. An inexplicable own goal from Starfelt followed an absolute hospital pass from Welsh to Joe Hart. From a position of supremacy, Celtic found themselves down 2-1.

However, the Bhoys’ defence were dogged, determined and first to the ball in the second. Starfelt in particular upped his game, making clearance after clearance.

While Celtic certainly rode their luck to a degree, Hartson says, these were vastly improved performances. Speaking on Premier Sports alongside Chris Sutton, the Welshman was effusive in his praise.

Hartson said [Premier Sports]:

“There’s a lot of lessons to be learned in terms of doing the basics. Can we play out from the back when we’re under pressure? And they are really pressing Celtic really high?

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“Delighted to get through, but as I say, we rode our luck a little bit. In terms of defending, Welsh and Starfelt; night and day in the second half. The way they defended their box, got some really good, long strong headers out of their own box. Defending properly.

“Whereas in the first half it was poor, we were poor defensively.

“We rode it out, and we got through.”

Hartson is right: Celtic defenders Welsh and Starfelt were far better as game got tense against AZ

Who knows; a night tonight like tonight could be a real catalyst for Starfelt in particular. Criticised for a questionable start to life at Celtic, the Sweden international was dreadful in the first half.

After half-time though, and presumably with some choice words in his ear from Ange Postecoglou, he was a different player. He won 8 duels, made 5 clearances and continually recovered the ball in dangerous areas [FotMob].

Photo by ANP Sport via Getty Images

Sometimes, players need difficult games to really show the best of themselves. It’s worth remembering that Virgil van Dijk was a much better player after his horror showing for Celtic in Europe, early into his stint at the club.

Let’s not write anyone off yet, especially after such vast, immediate improvement. And goodness knows, we fairly needed it, with AZ relentlessly pressuring us.

We got through that one, with no small amount of relief. But Hartson is right to praise Welsh and Starfelt. They ended up playing a huge part.

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