Neil Lennon’s Celtic secured a fifth consecutive win against Aberdeen last night, and for the first time in a while, he can pat himself on the back.
No, the performance was hardly exceptional. For some, it still may not even have been acceptable either given the fact the Hoops were left holding on towards the end.
But is there truly a decision made by the manager last night that he deserves to be called out for? Not really. Fans were left in a great mood when the starting XI was announced. The diamond was back. The front-two partnership of Odsonne Edouard and Albian Ajeti was back. Stephen Welsh was back. And perhaps for many, most importantly of all, Ismaila Soro was back.
It was exactly the team many would’ve gone for, at least in terms of the outfield players. Even then it was a real slog for the most part as Celtic dropped in tempo after David Turnbull’s sensational opener on 14 minutes.
And despite the promising decisions made in the starting XI, it was an in-game tweak from the manager that helped secure the points.
Neil Lennon’s Celtic helped over the line after Scott Brown decision
Soro had been impressive for the most part if not a touch messy on the ball. He provided the kind of energy we needed for the first half-hour as we had Aberdeen penned in. He was also pushing forward and trying to create turnovers high up the pitch – the perfect tactic early on with the Dons struggling to settle.
However, as the pattern of the game changed, Ismaila just didn’t really adapt along with it. We needed him to stay a touch deeper when the game opened up and the Dons pushed bodies forward. Especially with Lewis Ferguson looking to break forward.
One of the only negative traits of Ismaila’s game is that he can, on occasion, be dragged out of position too easily. That removes the protection needed for the back-line when the opposition break midfield lines.
Bringing on Scott Brown allowed the defence to have that bit of extra protection. It halted any real influence the likes of Ferguson or Florian Kamberi were starting to have on the game. Stat-tracking WhoScored clocked Brown as having made two interceptions, two clearances, and one successful tackle all the whilst committing no fouls in the final 19 minutes. His composed, defensive-minded head was key.
Aberdeen had to resort to launching balls into the Celtic penalty area in the final 15 minutes. This was food and drink for the centre-back pairing of Kris Ajer and Stephen Welsh. It was no surprise that Bain ended up having no real saves of note to make either.
Lennon has taken some real stick this season, from myself included. However, he was spot on to make such a crucial sub at a key stage last night. Credit where credit’s due.