Celtic took a massive step towards reaching the Europa League knockout stage. Joel Sked analyses the victory in Norway.
One more step
With only their third ever away win in the group stages of European competition, Celtic are on the verge of qualifying for the knockout stages of the Europa League. They were handed a tough draw and at one point in the campaign qualification looked a tall order, especially as the team lacked a fluency and verve to their play. But they are beginning to find that pizzazz which has made them so easy to watch under Brendan Rodgers and their squad looks more fearsome than at any point this term. In addition, Scott Brown and Leigh Griffiths are back from injury.
Forrest on another level
It was the James Forrest of old. Getting the ball out on the right, one v one with the full-back, he faked to speed past his opponent, shifting his balance before speeding past and clipping a wonderful cross to the back post for Scott Sinclair to open the scoring. Old fashioned wing play. The 27-year-old was a constant threat with his positioning, drifting in from the right flank. Forrest has evolved in recent seasons to become an incredibly difficult player to defend against. It has taken time but James Forrest is now Celtic’s key and best attacking threat.
At times you could have been forgiven for thinking you were watching a pre-season friendly. Rosenborg displayed little ambition for large parts of a game they had to win to give themselves any chance of qualifying. It suited Celtic. They were able to dominate possession and territory without expending too much energy. The midfield three of Callum McGregor, Ryan Christie and Tom Rogic were able to knock the ball around with little pressure pressure. It was the perfect professional away European performance while leaving plenty in the tank for Sunday’s Betfred Cup semi-final.
• READ MORE: Rosenborg 0 - 1 Celtic: How the Celtic players rated
With James Forrest given more freedom from the right hand side to forage in field, much of Celtic’s width is provided by Kieran Tierney down the left. For many, Tierney is behind Andrew Robertson for the national team left-back spot when in fact it could certainly be argued Tierney is the better option, especially if he plays in the same manner as he did against Rosenborg. He was positive from the first minute to last, working both ways. His acceleration is a quality which is understated, capable of breezing past opponents before delivering a dangerous cross.
Benkovic and Boyata
Earlier in the week former Celtic forward Frank McAvennie backed Filip Benkovic to follow in the footsteps of former Parkhead star Virgil van Dijk and reach the very top. He’s not wrong. The Croatian is a class act. Both he and Dedryck Boyata had little to do against Rosenborg but he did provide one crucial intervention. In the 11 games in which Benkovic has played this season, Celtic have only conceded three goals. Him and Boyata have quickly developed a great understanding. Both players are strong, powerful and confident on the ball. They’ve made a huge difference.