On their Champions League travels over the years Celtic have struggled massively; avoiding defeat only twice in 25 efforts, with one win to their name over that period. However, last night in West Germany the Scottish champions could, and should have left with all three points.
All the build up to this match placed Gladbach as massive favourites following their dominant and professional dispatching of Celtic in Glasgow 2 weeks previous. Additionally, with only 2 teams having prevailed at the Borussia Park this calendar year (Dortmund and Barcelona) things looked ominous for Celtic.
The hoops made the trip to Dusseldorf on Monday with a depleted squad. Missing striker Griffiths through illness, the centre half pair of Toure and Simunovic due to lack of fitness, as well as long term absentee Kieran Tierney who suffered an ankle injury in training last week. Brendan Rodgers played down the effect of the ‘injury crisis’, complementing his squad whilst highlighting his trust in all the players who would have to step up.
It was a sloppy game. The opening periods of both halves were dominated by Gladbach who started quickly, creating chances and putting the Celtic backline under distress. However, Celtic were for most part, the dominant side. They took the game to the opposition, and without so many slack passes in the final third, could have threatened their German foes whose defence looked suspect throughout.
The Germans were a shadow of the outfit that came to Celtic Park and executed their game plan perfectly. Sloppy in possession, and without the intensity with which they played the game in Glasgow. Celtic certainly capitalised on this, however, credit to the Scottish side in that their performance was much improved from the disappointing home display.
Scott Sinclair’s effort which rattled the inside of the post midway through the first half would have been a major juncture in the game. For Celtic, though, their luck didn’t seem to be in. And for all of Gladbach’s poor ball retention and movement, they still constructed a good goal on the back of this. Izaguirre, who for the majority had a solid game, was caught out, as a ball played in behind the Honduran found the pacey Hazard and his cross was volleyed home by the Gladbach captain Stindl.
Heading into half time a goal down was harsh on Celtic who had been the better side. However, they had to whether a German storm after the break, and that they did. Hahn had the best chance to seal the game during that period, hitting the post after a flowing Gladbach move. Celtic, and specifically Dembele, was a threat all night and battled continuously against the Borussia backline. And it was his desire which got Celtic their way back into the game. Gliding past Korb to latch onto a Sinclair pass, the Frenchman was hauled down whilst pulling the trigger. The result, a penalty which Dembele coolly dispatched, and a red card for the German right back.
With an extra man, and a real incentive to now grab the three points, Celtic had to take advantage of this opportunity. Disappointingly, however, Brendan Rodgers’ style of play didn’t call for a more direct approach to be up taken by the hoops. For too long during the final ten minutes the ball was passed along the Celtic backline. This provided no threat to Borussia, and to all watching it would have seemed that Celtic were playing for a draw. Calum McGregor’s chance in the dying embers of the game was guilt edged, no doubt, but more should have been done to create further opportunities whilst a man up.
Brendan Rodgers has been a revelation at Celtic, and last night’s draw was no mean feat. However, surely when the opportunity presents itself, such was the case last night, the manager has to change the style of play and go for the jugular. With Dembele up top and playing the way he has been, direct balls to the striker could have bared fruit late in the game yesterday, and it certainly would have given the opposition defence something to think about.
A great point for Celtic but it could have been more!