Craig Fowler gives his take as Celtic suffer defeat in Austria.
Salzburg weren’t afraid of their visitors
The opening goal came about, in part, due to Salzburg’s adventurous tactics. The hosts started with a 4-4-2 diamond – or 4-3-3 false 9, depending on your interpretation of Hannes Wolf’s roving role – with their full-backs pushed up high. The centre-backs were left to deal with Odsonne Edouard and Leigh Griffiths one-on-one. Therefore, when Edouard outmuscled André Ramalho on two minutes there was a lack of cover to stop the striker collecting himself, advancing on the goalkeeper and slotting away. This exact weakness was exposed again shortly before the break, where the hosts were bailed out by the linesman’s flag.
Celtic’s defensive tactics worked – until they didn’t
The visitors looked to keep themselves narrow and defend the penalty box by closing off the gaps. On the left, Callum McGregor tucked in to make it harder for Salzburg to pass their way through, though this created space for right-back Stefan Lainer. Despite being given acres on the flank, the Austrian’s deliveries failed to sufficiently trouble the Celtic goal. That was until the 55th minute when Celtic ran out of luck. Lainer’s cross was inadvertently knocked on by Takumi Minamino. With the defence slow to react, Wolf cut back for Munas Dabbur to equalise.
Celtic’s resolve broke almost instantly
The away side collapsed after Salzburg’s first. Highlighting this was the fact that one of their defensive strengths soon became a major weakness. James Forrest on the right had done an admirable job tracking captain Andreas Ulmer. Then twice in the space of 11 minutes he allowed the full-back to get the better of him, and after that spell there was no way the visitors were coming back. First Ulmer was granted space to cross for Minamino to put Salzburg in front, then he won an individual battle with Forrest for the ball, which led to the winger clumsily falling into his opponent, thus conceding a penalty and red card. When Dabbur netted it was all over.
The front two didn’t do enough
It may seem like a strange thing to say considering Edouard scored a good individual goal and almost got another, but the front two were continuously found wanting for the rest of the match. Some have called for Rodgers to pair Edouard and Griffiths together, though there wasn’t much to show that’s a viable plan, especially in games where Celtic might be under pressure. Neither could consistently hold the ball up, nor make the kind of runs to allow simple out balls which could have asked questions of the home side. Instead, a shaky defence was put under constant pressure.
There was one positive
Youssouf Mulumbu was undoubtedly Celtic’s man of the match. The former Killie man, still getting up to speed after missing pre-season, showed his worth with a combative display in the middle of the park. He made timely tackles and interceptions, and even got himself up in support on the rare occasions when the chance presented itself.