After an outstanding first-half, Celtic seemed to devolve into their normal form as of late in the side’s 2-2 Europa League draw vs Lille.
Celtic started off strong in the first half with two goals from Mo Elyounoussi (28′, 32′) assisted by Ajeti and Frimpong respectively, and seemingly had the match in hand going into the second half.
Unfortunately, their first-half form did not sustain itself, as Shane Duffy continued his recent string of poor performances, maybe earning some of his recent criticism by fans and pundits alike. LOSC Lille’s Celik and Ikone each scored to bring their side level, at the 67th and 75th minute marks respectively.
With each side’s recent form taken into consideration, many Hoops fans would likely have taken a draw before the game, but after going into the half up 2-0, it felt more like a defeat. Lille had been on a tear in recent play but Celtic should have got the job done on the day.
Of course, a large part of the blame has to lie with Neil Lennon once again. With a 2-0 lead, the Hoops went into the second half hoping to defend their way into a victory and showed no desire to even attack the French side’s goal despite creating problems in the first half. The timing of the substitutions also has to be questioned once again.
Here are some big lessons learned from an unfortunate, almost-disastrous trip to France:
Shane Duffy fails to prove the doubters wrong
After a hot start to his season with the Hoops, Duffy seems to have fallen apart and is looking like a mistake waiting to happen at the back. Over recent weeks he has continually come under fire from fans and pundits alike and done nothing to prove them wrong for their criticisms.
He seemed nervous throughout the match today, making quite a few clumsy tackles including one resulting in a penalty at the 40′ mark for Jonathon David that was fortunately stopped by Scott Bain. He then was part of a further unfortunate deflection in Ikone’s goal at the 75′ mark.
His poor play seemed to flow over into other members of the defense as well and was not helped by Ajer being forced to be taken off early in the second half.
There is still hope for the big man to turn it around but thus far he has done nothing to help himself.
A healthy Mo Elyounoussi can have a massive impact
Hoops fans knew very well last year how good the Norwegian international can be, as he scored 7 goals in his 20 appearances before being limited by injuries. With 7 goals through 15 appearances this season after today’s brace, Elyounoussi looks to be a big part of Celtic’s quest for ten-in-a-row.
Barring any injury setbacks, Elyounoussi could be set for a stellar season for the Hoops, and with Odsonne Edouard due for a return soon after being substituted into the match in the second half, the Bhoys should be able to return to last season’s form when it comes to scoring goals.
The Bhoys can still compete within the group
While a draw after a 2-0 lead at half-time was not what any fan would have expected or hoped for, it is absolutely not the end of the world for Celtic’s Europa League journey. Just two matches into group play the club has faced arguably the toughest two teams and should be able to rebound with a match against Sparta Prague next Thursday, although you can never be too sure.
Sparta currently sits last in the group with no wins through two matches and a -6 goal differential after losing 4-1 to Lille and 3-0 to AC Milan.
If the Hoops can rebound with back-to-back wins in their next two group matches (both to Sparta Prague), they could easily still contend for a spot within the group, having shown they can put up a fight against Lille.
Extra: Scott Bain deserves praise
While he may not be the first choice keeper, Scott Bain had a decent showing for the Bhoys against Lille. Having a superb save against Soumare, denying Yusuf Yazici, and rejecting the Jonathon David’s penalty kick. He did make a mistake with an unfortunate fumble and probably should have saved the first goal as well but all in all, the blame for the draw does not lie on his shoulders.