Celtic are just a week away from Champions League football and if they play in Belfast the way they played in Bavaria’s Trolli Arena last night, even lowly minnows Cliftonville would have a chance against the Scottish champions.
Greuther Furth - Djurdjic (11, 44 pen) Kraus (34) Drexler (74) Fall (84, 88 pen)
Celtic - Samaras (3), Lustig (42)
Nothing should be read into pre-season games, of course, but Celtic were dreadful against a second tier German side. Neil Lennon’s men were woefully short of match sharpness and their defence in particular was sieve-like. It all needs a lot of sorting before the final friendly that opens Union Berlin’s new stadium in the German capital on Friday. Furth were Teutonically well-organised, while Celtic were a shambles.
Celtic were seeking the first win of their pre-season continental tour after losses to Sevastopol and Cluj, but manager Neil Lennon had said he would use the tour to experiment and he did so again.
From the start it was clear that Celtic were going to abandon their 4-4-2 formation of the first two pre-season matches and play 3-5-2 with Mikael Lustig and Emilio Izaguirre up on the flanks of a midfield that was still missing transfer target Victor Wanyama, but did feature Charlie Mulgrew.
After just three minutes it looked as if Celtic were on their way to achieving that elusive victory. Good work by Anthony Stokes sent Mulgrew away and his deep cross was knocked back by Lustig to Giorgios Samaras lurking in the box. The captain for the day made no mistake for a fine, well-worked goal.
It was illusory, as the lead lasted just seven minutes. Even early on, Celtic had trouble dealing with the speedy breaks of the German side, and when Zoltan Stieber broke, the Celtic back three were caught napping, Nikola Djurdjic cleverly side-footing the ball home.
Celtic’s passing was not up to their usual standard, and while the Scottish champions had the majority of the play, the German side who have just been relegated from the top division of the Bundesliga looked more dangerous, especially as they began to push forward more.
Celtic were unlucky. After Wolfgang Hesl in the Furth goal stopped a Lustig shot, the rebound cannoned off Steven Muoyokolo and trundled wide.
Forster, meanwhile, was keeping Celtic in the game, pulling off a spectacular save from Robert Zilner’s mishit shot. At the resultant corner, however, the entire Celtic defence was asleep and defender Kevin Kraus nipped in to score.
There was a glimmer of hope for the Celts when superb interplay by Stokes and Samaras set up Lustig for an equaliser after 41 minutes, only for a very dubious penalty – a free-kick hit an arm in the defensive wall – to give Djudjic his second and Furth’s third.
Lukasz Zaluska, Liam Henderson and Kris Commons replaced Forster, van Dijk and Mulgrew at half-time as Celtic switched to a 4-4-2 formation, with Furth also making changes to mirror their visitors’ new set-up. The home side would go on to change their entire line-up without apparently missing a beat, while Celtic also made a raft of changes but frankly were all over the place.
Despite Celtic continuing to have enough possession, it was no surprise when a quick move brought a fourth goal for Furth. Stephan Furstner’s cross from the right caught substitute Dylan McGeouch expecting offside, but Dominick Drexler played to the whistle and thumped the ball home.
Substitute Calum Waters then showed his inexperience in conceding a soft penalty to the gently falling Furstner, Baye Djiby Fall converting the spot kick, before the same player headed a humiliating sixth goal past Zaluska with two minutes left to play.
On this evidence, much work needs to be undertaken by Celtic before next Wednesday. Lennon will ensure it is done – he wants that Champions League place above all.