The 8 biggest problems with Celtic’s performance against Valencia

Analysis from Celtic Park as Brendan Rodgers’ side were comfortably beaten 2-0 by their Spanish guests.

The Celtic players look dejected at full-time. Picture: SNS
The Celtic players look dejected at full-time. Picture: SNS

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Celtic 0 - 2 Valencia: Rodgers’ men have mountain to climb

The inability to build on the fast start

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It seems like weeks ago now, but there was a point early in this game where famous European night at Parkhead was possible. With confidence coursing through their veins thanks to a seven-game winning streak in domestic competition, they started with tempo, urgency and looked to ask questions of Valencia. Then the rest of the match happened.

Scott Brown’s first-half passing

The cracks began to show after the captain was uncharacteristically sloppy in his distribution. He’s never been the most inventive of passers, but Brown has managed to coach himself to the point where he’s typically dependable with the ball at his feet. Put simply, he can find a man in green and white and not put his side in trouble. During the first half he was doing exactly the opposite of that. The feeling of unease which greeted these errors quickly spread throughout the stadium and Celtic failed to rediscover their momentum.

Oliver Burke’s first touch

Brown was far from the only home player to have a poor game. The downside of having Oli Burke leading the attack was evident fairly early on. Brendan Rodgers’ praised the player’s work rate in attack, stating that his pressing really sets the tempo. This is true. Burke’s willingness to tear after defenders with his raw speed and bulky frame, combined with his off-ball movement, make him a real asset to the team in the Ladbrokes Premiership, but he wasn’t in this match. He still has much to learn with his back to goal, both in terms of link-up play and holding the ball up, and he struggled mightily with both. It meant Celtic were unable to get a foothold in the opposition half when Valencia attacked and play just kept coming back.

The offside trap

The opening goal wasn’t the first time, or the last, that the back-line was a fractured mesh across the width of the pitch, it was just the most egregious example. Jozo Simunovic’s decision to step forward when he had little idea of what was happening behind him was baffling, as was Izaguirre’s decision to follow his lead and then hover about with his hand in the air despite surely knowing he was playing everyone a good two yards onside.

The ease of the second goal

Celtic had to be fired up at half-time. They had to refocus and prove to everyone that they were better that what everyone had witnessed in the final 25 minutes before the break. And then this happened. It wasn’t so much the conceding of the goal itself, it was the manner in which it was meekly surrendered. No Celtic player laid a finger on an opponent as Valencia calmly worked the ball from the centre, down the left and then crossed in for an easy finish.

The insistence on building it out from the back

Scott Bain was poor all night with his choice of passing. His technique was better than that of Craig Gordon because, simply, he’s a better natural footballer with the ball at his feet. However, too often he would pass it to a defender who’d have an opponent on them in a flash. It wasn’t working particularly well, but Celtic kept doing it - even when they were 2-0 down and had just chucked on an extra pair of attackers. The ball needed to be going forward quickly.

The inability to break down Valencia - at all

Valencia pretty much sat back after the second goal and dared their hosts to cut through them; Celtic didn’t even come close. In the end the Parkhead side finished with 63 per cent possession and yet didn’t have a second-half shot on target to show for it. Odsonne Edouard made a little noise after coming off the bench and positioning himself on the left of the front three, but overall it was an insipid approach. They had little in the way of ideas and, even if they did, there was no great urgency to carry them out.

Emilio Izaguirre’s... everything

The Honduran was the weakest player in green and white, which is saying something. He was partially at fault for both goals, but putting those errors to one side he did not enjoy a productive evening. This was always going to be the problem with re-signing the long-time club servant. Would he do a reasonable job against Scottish football attackers? Absolutely. Could he cut it if asked to fill in for Kieran Tierney on the left-side of Celtic’s defence in European competition? Well, if there was any doubt, on Thursday night we got our answer.