The finish for Scott McDonald’s goal was perfect, slotting in to the right place at the right time to get away from the defence, and applying just the right amount of pressure to allow the ball to rise over Ben Foster’s head, before dipping under the crossbar. It was a goal worthy of collecting a point, you might argue. But Celtic’s performance in this supposed ‘Battle of Britain’ isn’t anything to write home about.
After scoring, Celtic defended with their lives. Away from home, United had 74% possession of the ball, which is a statistic even more impressive when you imagine the crammed space United had to work in. The Hoops packed in to their own half, trying to close down any space they could, at the cost of retaining and keeping possession themselves, or going on the attack.
Celtic had a passing completion rate of just 57% and committed more than double the amount of fouls United did. It was truly dire. Whilst they should be applauded for only conceding one goal, and it’s job done as far as they are concerned, collecting a point, it is alarming to see a side play that way on their homeground. United often go away from home and control the tempo of the game, but it has been some time since I’ve seen us dominated the play to the degree we did last night.
It was good practice for us though, this much can be said, with United having to work incredibly hard to break them down. This practice probably won’t come in to play at the weekend, with Arsenal more likely to come at us and allow us more room to attack, but there will be plenty of other occasions this season where we will face entirely defensive-minded teams.
Ryan Giggs saved us with a few minutes to go though, after I’d been slagging him off all match and incredulously reacted to every substitution that didn’t involve him, much to our relief.
“With so little time to go I suppose we’ll settle for draw but with the way we played and our tempo in the second half, we probably deserved to win,” Giggs said. “It was a disappointing first half for us but the performance in the second half was much better. We came out and worked really hard and kept them pinned down. We knew chances would come. We knew we just had to keep the crosses and the one-twos going, keep the tempo up and it would come. It’s always worth following up a shot like that with the ball moving all over the place. I just gambled and it fell right onto my head.”
Gordan Strachan, Celtic manager, concedes that despite a late goal, his team were lucky to pick up a point against a side that steam-rolled them for close to 90 minutes.
“We were a bit fortunate,” he said. “We tried our best and in the end it was too much. We needed something to hang on to and keep us going. We can be hard to beat and we’re not the greatest but we’re incredibly strong.”
What did you think of the result and the performance?