Ange Postecoglou left shaking his head as Celtic fail to impress in Sydney Super Cup opener

There was a moment about half an hour in to Celtic’s first Sydney Super Cup encounter when the camera panned to a close up of Ange Postecoglou.

The frame came straight after Sydney FC had fashioned yet another opportunity against an all-at-sea Celtic backline. It said it all that Postecoglou could then be seen shaking his head furiously with a look of disgust normally reserved for finding something unpleasant on your shoe. Even if the scoreline was 1-1 at that point, a Kyogo Furuhashi 23rd minute opener quickly cancelled out by Robert Mak, it betrayed that the Greek-Australian’s homecoming wasn’t exactly going to plan.

The 57-year-old, a title winner with South Melbourne and Brisbane Roar and Asian Cup winner at the helm of the national side, had wanted to show Celtic’s best face on his return to his adopted country. He had wanted his men to produce a performance of the sort that has allowed the Scottish champions to blitz domestic opponents in establishing an unassailable-looking nine point lead in the cinch Premiership. Instead, across a first period in which Sydney twice hit the bar as well before their equaliser, Celtic served up a display reminiscent of the ghastly showing that condemned them to their one league loss of the campaign away to St Mirren in September, as they slumped to a 2-1 loss.

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It was no mere co-incidence that Celtic manager sought to pull his team together following the break by throwing Jota, Matt O’Riley, Reo Hatate, Sead Haksabanovic and Greg Taylor into the action. And in the process hauling off Liel Abada, Oliver Abildgaard, Yosuke Ideguchi and Alexandro Bernabei. From that point Celtic were in complete control and created a raft of opportunities…except for when their defensive frailties reared up again on the hour mark as Max Burgess was able to cut inside from the left and unleash an unstoppable shot that fizzed into the top corner.

Robert Mak of Sydney celebrates scoring in the 2-1 win over Celtic at the Allianz Stadium. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)

The diminution in quality when a handful of key performers are removed from the Celtic side will surely be the main takeaway from a surprise loss to a currently mid-table A-League side. As Ideguchi - in his first sighting in a senior setting since May - and Abildgaard proved completely unable to impose themselves, Bernabei gave a master class in how not to offer protection as a forward-thinking full-back. Everything came down his side in the first half, and he never seemed in the vicinity to do anything about it. It was frightening how often Celtic were opened up down his flank. The Argentinian did have one positive contribution. His hit-and-hope edge of the box shot was the genesis of an ill-deserved opener, Kyogo Furuhashi cleverly stepping in front of it as it appeared heading wide to chest it beyond the helpless Tom Heward-Belle. This lead lasted a mere three minutes with Mak exploiting Celtic’s high line to fasten on to a through ball and outpace Stephen Welsh - who was later forced off with a head injury - before cutting across goal and sidefooting a crisp effort beyond Benjamin Siegrist.

It seemed inevitable that as an extensively rejigged Celtic pinned Sydney in across the opening quarter of the second period, a goal would follow. It did, but at the other end as Postecoglou’s side were found wanting from a counter. Thereafter the game was played in Sydney’s final third but Celtic were short on real invention when it came producing clear-cut opportunities, even as youngsters Rocco Vata and Scott Robertson made a more positive impact than some of the senior team-mates. Everton are up next on Sunday but it now looks like Postecoglou won’t be adding a trophy to an extensive haul from his previous coaching days in Australia.

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