Ralston renaissance continues, major flaw fixed: 3 things we learned as Celtic beat AZ Alkmaar

By Euan Davidson

August 18, 2021

Celtic v AZ Alkmaar had all the ingredients for a classic. In the end though, we at least got an entertaining 90 minutes of football, that were more assured than even we might’ve expected.

Having laughed off claims that the Bhoys were “underdogs”, Ange Postecoglou sounded determined to continue the high-tempo, aggressive attacking play of weeks prior.

To say “mission accomplished” wouldn’t be putting too fine a point on it. Nobody would’ve expected the kind of shellacking handed out to Dundee or Jablonec, but this was prime Angeball.

Admittedly, there were some difficult moments. We expected that, and if anything, probably even more from our Dutch opposition.

What did we learn as Celtic took a 2 goal lead to Holland?

Celtic midfielder Tom Rogic continues his resurgence under Ange Postecoglou

You would’ve found plenty of people who’d written off Tom Rogic at Celtic. The sad reality was that he just wasn’t getting into the team. When he was, he wasn’t his usual, clinical self.

“Ange has Celtic playing the Dutch way” | AZ Alkmaar fan Anthony

“Ange has Celtic playing the Dutch way” | AZ Alkmaar fan Anthony

On song, everything can revolve around the Aussie midfielder. The first half, in the particular, was an example of that. Rogic was at the heart of so much good Celtic did against AZ, buzzing around with the energy we haven’t seen from him in some time.

Statistically, it wasn’t anything groundbreaking, display-wise [FotMob]. However, he passed the eye test. Everything he was doing was positive, forward-facing and – to the AZ defence – dangerous.

Admittedly, in a tighter second half, the Socceroo found touches harder to come by. But on current form, he’s turned from a possible after-thought to one of the first names Celtic supporters will look for ahead of kick-off.

Photo by ANP Sport via Getty Images

Major Celtic defensive flaw looked fixed against AZ Alkmaar

Whenever Celtic concede a corner, you probably get more anxious than fans of other football clubs. Don’t you?

For those of us with low blood pressure, it might be a healthy exercise watching Celtic. Who knows; but in any case, Celtic have looked frail from set pieces for years.

Yet, AZ had 5 decent deliveries all dealt with handily by the hour mark. The Eredivisie side tried different things, including a “follow the leader” style move, which fans of a certain vintage might remember Aberdeen using in an ill-fated 2001 away game.

Instead of panicking and forgetting where they’re meant to be, the Celtic defence actually look capable of handling corners. That might sound like the smallest victory possible, but when you work out a weakness that visible, there’s no room for complaints.

Photo by ANP Sport via Getty Images

Anthony ‘Ralstondinho’ Ralston gives Postecoglou pause for thought with AZ Alkmaar performance

With Celtic looking to bring in Josip Juranovic, a Croatian international no less, Anthony Ralston probably realises he won’t be first choice forever.

A player who had shown some promise, but never broke into the first team, he seems almost cursed. Either way, he’s desperately unlucky; Celtic do need to upgrade the right-back slot, but it’s not because Ralston has been poor.

This was another good performance. Around the 65th minute, his lung-busting run out of position culminated in a last-ditch sliding tackle par excellence, which absolutely summed up his efforts in the Hoops tonight.

Ralston was winning his duels, making positive passes and zipping up and down the touchline [FotMob]. Oddly, he was given a booking for taking too long to throw the ball in, something that belies the discipline and maturity in his performance.

The fans love his effort, and it’s not hard to see why. He may not be first-choice for long, but provided this season goes the way we all hope it does, his early contributions will be remembered.

Read more: Valiant Celtic display, but heartbreak in Trondheim