A Craig Gordon double-save in the 90th minute may have proved the pivotal moment on an afternoon when Celtic’s eight-game run of clean sheets was ended. However, for more than an hour the eventual 2-1 victory at McDiarmid Park was characterised by the free-flowing style Deila has determined will be his team’s identity. And even though they face a huge step up in quality when ranged against Roberto Mancini’s side in the first leg of their Europa League last-32 this week, the Celtic manager maintained they will stick to their principles.
“We always attack, so nothing will change,” he said of the approach to the Inter game. “Why shouldn’t we do that when we are at home. We are attacking, but hadn’t conceded a goal in a long time either so that’s a good way to protect yourself as well. We will be ourselves but we will look at their strengths and weaknesses and play for that as well. They are very strong in the set plays as well.”
Deila will know privately that his team were too open in Perth for the challenge they will face in midweek, a point he hinted at in analysing an afternoon where his team were almost pegged back from going two goals up after 52 minutes. Meanwhile, the end of a period of 13 hours and 36 minutes was not a source of annoyance for the Norwegian, who refused to answer the “leading question” about whether another goal from Leigh Griffiths had enhanced his chance of selection against the Italians.
“We played well for 60 minutes, aggressive and intensive and creating chances – we’re much more direct now,” he said. “But we lose the ball too much, so we have to work on that. The pitch in Celtic Park will also be better which will be important. I think the players got a little bit tired after playing three days ago as well, but it’s a winning team that can stand the pressure. The clean- sheet record means nothing for me. I’m counting points, that’s the most important thing. We’re defending well, they didn’t have many chances. Apart from the goal, we had control of them.”
Deila played down the wondrous nature of Gordon’s end-of-encounter acrobatics, but Stefan Johansen, the scorer of Celtic’s second goal, did not. “I am very happy for Craig who made that save at the end. We need matchwinners at both ends and we had that today,” he said. “I have seen some saves like that on a FIFA [computer game] but never in real life. It was so important for us. We keep clean sheets for I don’t know how long, then Craigy follows up with that one, it was just world class.” The Norwegian midfielder, pictured, didn’t agree that Gordon would need to pull off similar outstanding feats for Celtic to have a chance of building a platform for the second leg of their Europa League tie at the San Siro.
“I think Craig has shown in Europe already that he is ready for the big games. I don’t want to put all the pressure on him. We need to score goals as well but it is important to have that quality in the team.”
Gordon also expressed pleasure at his part in the win. “It was an important save because it gave us the result. A lot of people have said I haven’t been involved too much in recent games but I am delighted to play my part in the result. It is a totally different mindset for Inter and the preparation starts now.”