Craig Fowler reflects on a frustrating night for Ronny Deila and the Ladbrokes Premiership leaders.
Celtic’s defence lacks organisation
There was already a warning regarding the communication, or lack thereof, of Celtic’s relatively new defensive pairing prior to Dedryck Boyata’s red card. Other than Leigh Griffiths’ penalty, the best chance in the first half came the way of Ali Crawford when he received a pass from Carlton Morris inside the area. In the build-up, both Boyata and Erik Sviatchenko had their focus solely on Morris. Only after it was too late did Boyata realise the situation and instruct Sviatchenko to ignore Morris and follow Crawford’s run. They got away with it when Crawford missed a great chance.
At the sending off, when Sviatchenko stepped out with the ball, Boyata should have drifted inside sooner to protect the centre of the pitch. Failing that, Stefan Johansen should have stayed deep until after Sviatchenko’s pass was attempted, instead of moving forward to give the centre back another option. Even then, Scott Brown could have been quicker in reading the danger and dropping back to cover. What it left was a great big hole for Morris to run into.
Dedryck Boyata makes his own bad luck
The BT Sport pundits couldn’t agree on the red card and neither could Celtic. The players thought it was the wrong decision, at least on the park they did, but Deila reckons his defender didn’t get enough of the ball. Regardless, it’s a situation that Boyata didn’t have to get himself into. He’s got a decent amount of pace, certainly enough to keep stride with Morris. The striker was not at the centre of the penalty area. He was charging in on the right. All Boyata has to do is stay with him, side-by-side and challenge his opponent to arrow the ball either into the roof of the net at the near post or drill it with pin-point accuracy into the far corner. Having netted only four goals all season, it was unlikely Morris was going to do either. It may be a lot for a defender to process in such a short space of time, but that’s what separates the best from the rest.
Scott Brown is severely lacking in match sharpness
We’ve yet to see even a glimpse of peak Brown since the Celtic captain returned to the starting XI after his lengthy injury. Some may be wondering - in fact, some definitely are wondering - whether he’s got enough left in the tank to be a talisman for Celtic over the next few seasons, or if the injuries have taken their toll. However, while that is a question that will need to be answered at some stage, his issues against Hamilton were more mental than physical. He just lacked concentration throughout the match: miscontrolling simple balls, making wayward passes and being off in his positioning. That’s unusual for Brown, very unusual, and it may just be a case of him struggling to adapt mid-season after such a sustained period on the sidelines.
There’s more than enough talent in Carlton Morris
The next step for the Hamilton Accies striker is to get some consistency to his game, which he’s been doing recently with a few strong showings. Then after that he needs to turn himself into a regular goal threat. Because in terms of ability and physique, he has the tools to succeed. Maybe not at parent club Norwich City, where he’ll be going against some of the best defenders in the world, but certainly at the SPFL level. Against Celtic he used his broad frame and technique on the football to continually hold up the ball up, enabling his team-mates to get up the park and give their much fancied visitors as good as they got.
Getting destroyed 8-1 was oddly good for Hamilton
Sometimes complete annihilation indicates that a manager is out of his depth and heralds the beginning of the end. Onlookers couldn’t believe it when Aberdeen gave Mark McGhee two more matches to turn things around after his side were similarly hammered 9-0 at Celtic Park. They saw it as conclusive proof he wasn’t the right man for the job. They were right in some respects (McGhee wasn’t the right man) but football is a very strange game, and Hamilton’s case is a perfect example of an act of sheer embarrassment being a very odd blessing in disguise. Since 8-1, they’ve played five matches, conceding only three goals and losing once. There’s now an organisation and togetherness in defence that hasn’t been there since the opening months of the campaign. Even when it was 11v11 they limited Celtic, with no clear cut opportunities from open play being created by the champions in the first half.