Ugh. How did that happen, Celtic fans?
To have come to Ibrox, dominate the game and still lose will be a massive psychological blow to Neil Lennon and his team. Allan McGregor’s fingertips and Nir Bitton’s wild rugby tackle on Morelos made the difference in the end.
It’s a result that leaves us 19 points behind Rangers at the top of the Scottish Premiership (BBC).
So, then: what happens now for the Bhoys?
Dubai calls for downbeat squad
Honestly, if I’m Neil Lennon, I don’t know what I’d say to my players right now.
The Bhoys were in total control of the match until Morelos was brought down by Nir Bitton. As discussed, Nir Bitton isn’t a centre back anyway.
In the dominant spell Celtic had, McGregor in the Rangers goal made the difference. His fingertip saves denied Celtic real opportunities. From the first whistle, he was under pressure, and dealt with Celtic’s constant pressure with aplomb.
That’s what makes the result even more frustrating: Barkas barely had a thing to do, yet he was the one plucking the ball out of his net.
Edouard and Griffiths will be unhappy with their display today, but it’s not like they were abject. Both had reasonably good chances during the first half, and their movement bothered Goldson and Balogun throughout.
Now, then, Neil Lennon has to take his demoralised squad to the United Arab Emirates. That won’t be a fun flight for anyone concerned.
The gaffer’s first job will be to find a way to lift his players’ morale after a crushing defeat. How he does that is anyone’s guess.
Ring the changes; Celtic must be active in window
Celtic’s transfer window activity is absolutely vital now. Despite the generally excellent performances until Bitton’s sending off and the subsequent goal, it’s clear that the current squad aren’t able to do the job.
At centre-back, the Bhoys are threadbare. Duffy came on and was absolutely woeful. I’m hesitant to make anyone a scapegoat after such a disappointing result, but it’s clear that the Irishman isn’t the answer.
The difference between us and Rangers on the day was defensive composure. Yes, we battled relentlessly, but Goldson and Balogun never looked like doing anything daft under pressure. They were hardly impressive but considering the onslaught of chances that Celtic made, they’ll be enormously grateful to have kept a clean sheet.
So, a centre-back is an absolute, concrete, 100% must. We shouldn’t be in a position where a central midfielder is our best centre back, outside of Jullien and Ajer. It’s an absolute farce, and something that should’ve been dealt with a while ago.
What next for Lennon?
Questions will be asked about Neil Lennon, but in truth, he didn’t get much wrong today.
It wasn’t his fault that Bitton carelessly brought down Morelos, when he could’ve just corralled the Colombian into the corner. That was the moment that defined the game, and there’s not much our manager could do about that.
But from a cold, objective perspective, two derby losses by the end of January isn’t good enough for a Celtic manager. The board have been under all kinds of pressure from the fans to make structural changes, and they might well sacrifice Lenny to appease the supporters.
I’m not being hypocritical here; I never thought Lennon was the answer. Many of us in the Celtic support didn’t think he was the answer.
For his own part, Lennon might look at a day like this and think “what more can I do?”. He placated the support by picking the exact team they wanted. I’m sure in all of your group chats today, there was at least one person celebrating the first XI before kick-off.
Yet, here we are, after another disappointment. Perhaps Lennon’s time is up. That’s a question for the board, who will sit down with him in Dubai, and for Lenny himself. If there’s one thing he doesn’t want, it’s to be known as the Celtic manager to have lost the club 10IAR.
It would be an awful shame for Lennon if Rangers sewed the league up. It’s hard to think of anyone who has given more for the club on a physical or emotional level. He came in when we needed him, and when fans are back, he should be warmly welcomed at Celtic Park regardless of his job status.
Still, it’s a big moment for him and for the Club moving forward.