Today, I just so happened to watch another high-scoring game! It was the round of 32 Europa League first-leg match between Celtic FC and Internazionale at Celtic Park (aka. Paradise). It was a cold, rainy night in Glasgow, but the atmosphere was still electrifying!
Celtic: 4-2-3-1 Internazionale: 4-3-1-2
Matthews Denayer van Dijk Izaguire Campagnaro Juan Ranocchia Santon
Brown Bitton Guarin Medel Kuzmanovic
MacKay-Steven Johansen Armstrong Shaqiri
To begin the game, the first minute or two was all Celtic. They came out of the gates flying. However, in the fourth minute they were absolutely stunned with an Inter goal. It was a clever ball in behind the near center back, right over the top of him, into Shaqiri who was untracked. Shiqiri’s shot was going wide but Gordon pushed it right back into his path for an easy tap in. How this goal was worked would become an apparent offensive plan for Inter throughout the game. Often Inter would look for that 30 yard delicate ball in behind the CB and onto a diagonal running forward. After this goal, the tempo, possession, and chances were all dominated by Inter. Their 2nd goal in the ’14 minute could be labeled as a defensive blunder by Emilio who cleared the ball right into van Dijk and allowed for Palacio to slot it in. Again, Shaqiri looked to play a lofted ball back in over the defenders but was helped out by Izaguire.
I felt that after the first Inter goal, Celtic really feel to calm the game down and rebound by establishing control and possession. They were obviously rattled. As a coach, whenever you let up a very early goal, the focus should not necessarily be about how quickly you can score. The game is 90 minutes, so instead focus on regaining ‘control’ (aka. tempo, possession, composure) of the game. Make the opposition work defensively and make them keep their shape for the next ten minutes instead of cramming the ball down their neck, rushing to score. Celtic however grew into the game and scored two successive, well-deserved goals mid-way through the half. For me, Matthews was their best attacking option in the first half. He pushed on extremely well and forced Santon to hold back a lot, so that he wouldn’t get exposed. It was noticeable that as Celtic got more comfortable, their pressing on Inter’s back four also intensified. I would have liked to see this approach from the start instead of waiting for 25 minutes.
On the other side, not only in the first half but the whole game long, I thought Shaqiri was the best player for Inter. In fact, I was surprised to see neither Brown nor Britton man mark him to start the second half. Yes, Inter looked over the top often, but they also found Shaqiri running free far too often. He was a great linchin-pin for the two frontrunners and because he wasn’t tracked often enough he was able to cause Celtic problems constantly. I would’ve said at half-time, “Look he is influencing the game far too much. If we can cut him out, their offense will be dramatically stifled. When we don’t have the ball Brown, you pick him up and Britton you look to collect it off of Brown’s tackles.”
For me the obvious difference in the game was Inter’s ability to be clinical in the final third. They sealed the opportunities that can be labeled as ‘great chances’. They scored and didn’t ask questions. Yes, Celtic might say “well if we had a better Gordon then the chances wouldn’t have been so great.” This is true but you are only as strong as your weakest link. Plus, Celtic should look at themselves and not just their GK because MacKay-Stevens had a wonderful chance in the ’60 minute and Griffiths too in the ’65. Both wasted. It was a great sub to replace Griffiths with Guidetti because Griffiths wasn’t dangerous enough for me. If it wasn’t for Guidetti’s composure and killer instinct (that Griffiths failed to exemplify) then Celtic would be essentially out of the tournament.
All in all, fair result and both earned no more than a tie. For Inter to deserve a win, you got to be a locked door in stoppage time. And for Celtic to win, you have to be a bit more ruthless when opportunities present themselves and have 0 mistakes from your goalkeeper.