5 talking points following Celtic’s narrow win over Malmo
Following Celtic’s narrow 3-2 victory in their Champions League playoff first-leg it’s time to take a look at some of the key talking points raised.
It was a night of mixed emotions at Celtic Park with a nervy return fixture in Sweden scheduled for next week.
Here’s what’s up for discussion…
Beware the returning player
Jo Inge Berget spent a fairly unremarkable and instantly forgettable loan spell at Celtic Park last season.
The home support probably barley recognised the winger, as he sported a brand new Viking style beard on his return with Malmo.
But his facial hair wasn’t the only unrecognisable thing about his showing as he played a starring role for the Swedish side.
The Norwegian had something to prove on his return and he put in a performance that home faithful will remember for all the wrong reasons.
He scored both Malmo goals, including the crucial late second, which incredibly doubled his tally at Celtic Park. Ronny Delia worked with the player at Molde, and he may be wishing he gave him more of a chance to shine in Scotland after this performance.
Griffiths the real deal
Leigh Griffiths has quietly established himself as the main man in the Celtic attack and showed his class with a well taken brace to give Celtic the advantage.
He has scored a number of goals on the domestic scene but this was a breakout performance at the European level.
He showed fantastic composure in front of goal and the former Wolves man is one of the most natural finishers in the British game.
Should Celtic make the group stages it will give him the platform he has lacked to be tasted at the very highest level.
Despite his diminutive size, he proved that he is more than capable of leading the line on his own and is a player that lives up to the cliché of always giving you 110% every game.
Scotland manager Gordon Strachan is sure to be impressed with this performance and it can only enhance his chances of adding to his handful of Scotland caps.
Celtic brittle at the back
There must be a real worry amongst the Celtic support if star defender Virgil van Dijk were to leave.
He has been heavily linked with a big money move to the Premier League but the Scottish Champions seem ill-equipped to deal with his departure.
The imperious centre-half was at his composed best against Malmo, but his fellow back-line looked far from secure.
The two full backs Mikael Lustig and Emilio Izaguirre looked off the pace, neither ventured forward enough to help in attack and both were far from convincing defending, lacking composure and being caught out of position too often.
Lustig also suffered a nasty looking injury late on, and they appear to lack cover in this area of the pitch. Van Dijk’s partner in the centre, Dedryck Boyata, looks unreliable and prone to careless mistakes.
His distribution and positional sense leave a lot to be desired and you would worry about him playing with the equally erratic Efe Ambrose.
It’s a real thrill seeing a winger attacking and taking on players, and James Forrest gave a master class on how to play the position.
Ronny Delia made the decision to leave out Gary Mackay-Steven to make room for the homegrown hero, and the gamble paid off big style.
This was an all-action display from the pacy wide man. He constantly pressured the Swedish defence with his direct style and this was a bright and energetic performance.
Visiting left back Yoshimar Yotun will doubtless be having nightmares for days to come, as he was ripped apart time and time again.
At 24 years of age and 34 European mates to his name, Forrest can no longer be described as a bright eyed promising youngster. He now needs to be producing displays like this on a much more regular basis to cement his place in the starting eleven at both domestic and international level.
The last minute strike from Malmo has left the tie on a knife edge.
The Swedish outfit will fancy their chances of turning round the 3-2 deficit, especially considering their impressive home record.
The defending Allsvenskan champions have won their last four matches at their intimidating Swedbank Stadion home.
One of those wins came in the previous round of the Champions League, where they dispatched Red Bull Salzburg 3-0 in impressive manner.
Another thing in their favour will be the return of their talismanic leader Markus Rosenberg. The player, nicknamed ‘The Herring’, missed the first-leg through suspension but will be desperate to fire his hometown team to the group stages.
With 33 international caps to his name and a career that has taken him to Ajax, Werder Bremen and West Brom, he will bring some much needed nous to the inexperienced outfit.
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