Defeat for Celtic cannot make determined Ange Postecoglou lose sight of vision
Ange Postecoglou nearly did something unthinkable for Celtic tonight; win on away soil against one of the Europa League’s stand-out teams.
Bayer Leverkusen had essentially sown up the group tonight. Now, their lead is unassailable [UEFA]. With the quality they have across the pitch, from top-class Finland international Lukas Hradecky, to potential €100m man Florian Wirtz, they were always going to be a tough test.
That was made even more obvious when they walloped us 4-0 at Celtic Park. At that stage, the Ange project was still in its infancy. We’d had a few good results at home, but the tactics Postecoglou was trying to instil weren’t quite there yet.
It’s an ongoing challenge, but what Ange has done with this team in such a short time between the Bayer Leverkusen games was utterly remarkable. 9 games, 8 wins. We came into a tie against a team who’d beaten us soundly with real optimism.
And it was optimism that was well-founded. When Josip Juranovic’s outrageous Panenka penalty beat Hradecky, we dared to dream. Even more so when a genuinely dominant Celtic side took the lead through Jota, with an excellently-worked move started by Hart.
Both goals were Postecoglou incarnate. The first came from Kyogo pressuring the goalkeeper and winning a foul. As a second, what looked like a winner, it was fast, precise movements and pressing that allowed Jota to find himself in space to score.
How it all unfurled will be especially disappointing. For a moment, that felt like an eon, it looked as if Celtic were going to win famously, and very much in Postecoglou’s patented style.
Ange Postecoglou should be more determined than ever to implement his methods to the fullest at Celtic
Celtic boss Ange Postecoglou can only do so much. His preferred first-team served him absolutely brilliantly.
Callum McGregor was particularly, emphatically tuned into Postecoglou’s demands. If you look at his heat map [WhoScored?], as if proof were needed, you can see he was absolutely everywhere.
That’s true of every player that was out there tonight. It would’ve been effort and organisation that would’ve won tonight. Celtic have good players yes, but not of the quality that Bayer Leverkusen can boast.
To that end, Postecoglou needs backed to the hilt. In January, the board need to give him exactly what he needs. What would’ve turned a bitter loss into a famous win.
We were so close. Why were we so close? Because tactically and mentally, we have a manager who’s finely attuned to getting the absolute best out of a squad of players.
He cannot change course now. If anything, the team have to use the disappointment of tonight as a template. You nearly tasted what was possible by following the instructions. Use that and get better.
We will win important European away games playing like this. Ange Postecoglou won’t have any new critics tonight. This team played with courage and unbelievable fight. To lose was particularly cruel.