This lunchtimes League Cup semi-final was certainly an entertaining game of football.
The first half saw a dominant Celtic control the tempo of the match and establish a two-goal lead, without creating many clear openings, thanks to Mikael Lustig’s double.
After the break the baffling decision to award Hibs a second half penalty caused an end to end final half an hour of the game, with Moussa Dembele coming off the bench to secure the victory.
Leigh Griffiths has been in exceptional form for club & country, but having a fit & firing Dembele adds another dimension to our attack. Keeping both strikers happy will be a challenge for Brendan Rodgers, but a headache which he will relish in comparison to the dilemma of the Celtic defence.
We have three senior central defenders at the club: Dedryck Boyata, Jozo Simunovic, Erik Sviatchenko, over the past year Jozo & Dedryck have deservedly cemented themselves as the first choice pairing. Our trouble is that all three are injury prone, and as such, susceptible to missing key matches. In January I would expect at least one new centre half brought into the club, however more than just the personnel, we have one major weakness when it comes to our defensive unit.
Disregarding our tendency in recent games against Europe’s elite to be overawed and intimidated by our opponents, especially in the opening 20 minutes, our fatal flaw is our inability to defend through balls from an inside forward position, and to track the deep runner attacking the ball.
On Wednesday night it was Kimmich & Thiago Alcantara’s turn to split our defence.
Müller may have opened the scoring but the goal came down to our inability to read and react to one of these type of passes from Kimmich.
Our defence lines up too square on the edge of the box, with Gordon hesitant inside his six yard box, making us redundant to the dinked through ball over the heads of our centre halves. The space Robert Lewandowski was awarded all night was shocking, particularly for the first goal as nobody tracked his run.
Over the years we have seen Lionel Messi carve teams open at will with such passes. Against the best sometimes there is nothing you can do, however, we are seeing this far too frequently in Celtic matches, today’s second goal for Hibs came from Whittaker’s slipped through ball & Shaw’s unmarked deep run.
I don’t know the answer to defending these occasions, if I did I’d be in a dugout right now rather than sitting behind a keyboard, whatever the solution, we must find a way to heal our Achilles before we can begin to resist Europe’s elite.