Celtic 2 West Ham 6: Big decisions, barracking for Griffiths, and beaten up defensive confidence as Londoners lash Ange Postecolglou's men on grim afternoon
Assessments over what befell Celtic in their 6-2 thumping by West Ham will require to be reserved until their fate against Midjylland in the Champions League on Wednesday is known.
There was understandable logic from Ange Postecolgou in selecting his strongest possible XI - and the one he will likely field in the Danish return when Celtic will attempt to use their home 1-1 draw as a platform for European progress. It is a side that haven’t had any real game-time together; especially green centre-back pairing Stephen Wesh and Dane Murray, In his thinking, too, no doubt would have been the desire to avoid a sore one that wouldn’t exactly build confidence.
There was failure on the latter front, and, frankly, Welsh and 18-year-old midweek debutant Murray were given the runaround by Mikel Antonio. They were simply overwhelmed by his physicality and his sharpness - even if David Moyes’ men are three weeks behind in their pre-season preparation. Despite some promising attacking play from Celtic - a brilliant curling finish eight minutes in from Callum McGregor to open the scoring, and Ryan Christie showing bravery and desire to force a head in after fine work on the flank from Liel Abada to reduce the arrears to 3-2 just after the restart- vulnerabilities at the back were sobering.
It also proved an afternoon to have Leigh Griffiths looking inward with the striker relentlessly booed after he appeared as one of the wholesale changes made by Postecoglou 55 minutes in. The jeers became so pronounced with his each touch, which told of the fans’ judgement on the allegations he sent inappropriate messages online - which police found no criminality in - they resulted in counter rounds of support-applause. It was a sorry situation but the entire afternoon provided little edifying for the near 18,000 allowed back in Celtic Park as pandemic restrictions ease.
A couple of fine early saves from Vasilis Barkas seemed redemptive following the blame heaped on him for a poor moment for Midtjylland’s goal in midweek. They were then offset by him leaving a gap for Antonio - who had waltzed round three home players to net a 24th minute equaliser - to bag his second just after half an hour. It came from Celtic losing the ball in the Londoners’ penalty area. An Ismaila Soro barge on Antonio accounted for the penalty converted by Mark Noble to make it 3-1. Following Christie’s counter, Saïd Benrahma was just too clever for Welsh and Murray in restoring the two-goal advantage. A deft flick in 74 minutes with which Jarrod Bowen beat Scott Bain for 5-2 heaped on the misery. That was completed when Armstrong Okoflex, who only departed Parkhead in the summer and was a late sub, netted with an angled drive in the closing minutes. More boos ensued, with a few also detectable at the final whistle.
Celtic: Barkas (Bain 46); Ralston (Urhoghide 55), Welsh (Bitton 55), Murray (Hjelde 55), Taylor (Montgomery 55); Soro (Shaw 55), McGregor (Robertson 55); Abada (Forrest 55), Turnbull (Rogic 55), Christie (Henderson 55); Edouard (Griffiths 55). Subs: Doohan, Ajeti, Bolingoli, Urhoghide, Connell.
West Ham: Fabianski (Randolph 46); Fredericks, Dawson (Alves 78), Ogbonna, Cresswell; Benrahma (Okoflex 78), Fornals, Noble (Forson 87), Bowen (Holland 87); Antonio (Johnson 71), Lanzini (Coventry 66).
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