Celtic’s hopes of reaching the Group Stage of the UEFA Champions League for the first time since 2017 were ruined with a 2-1 loss at Parkhead against Hungarian champions Ferencvaros.
Neil Lennon opted to play without a striker after Odsonne Edouard was ruled out with an injury. In Eoduard’s place as the forward was a traditional central midfielder Olivier Ntcham.
The visitors grabbed their first goal in the seventh minute after David Siger fired past the keeper as he had too much time to pick out his spot. Despite conceding the early goal, Celtic were still very much the dominant side at half-time.
The Hoops found an equalizer when Ryan Christie’s deflected effort found its way into the net to draw level 1-1 after 53 minutes. However, a 75th-minute Ferencvaros clearance found forward Tokmac Chol Nguen, who did well to hold off Hatem Elhamed before knocking the ball past Barkas to score his third goal in two matches and restore the Hungarian champions’ one-goal advantage and that strike proved to be the match-winner.
Celtic’s Champions League elimination still keeps their European dreams alive, however, they will now be fighting through the Europa League play-offs from here on out.
Here are ‘Four Findings’ from Celtic’s 2-1 defeat to Ferencvaros…
If you take away Celtic’s 6-0 win over Reykjavic, the Hoops have scored just two goals in their last three matches. Even with Odsonne Edouard playing, Celtic have struggled to convert their chances.
With Edouard injured, manager Neil Lennon opted to put Ntcham – a midfielder with no previous success in the forward position – up top rather than a fully fit Patryk Klimala. That has to raise some eyebrows. Lennon brought in Klimala last January to offer more competition up top. Not giving Klimala a chance in that situation makes you question why he was brought in if he doesn’t get a chance, especially when he appeared to be the best choice without Edouard.
With the lack of professionalism of Leigh Griffiths coming into the season, this could have been Klimala’s big chance. Instead, Lennon must be questioning himself for either buying Klimala or not starting him on Wednesday.
Aside from the topic of the forwards, the other problem has been a general lack of quality in the final third. From their opening four matches this season, Celtic have been able to keep upwards of 65% of possession in each game.
Yet again, Celtic’s opponents packed numbers behind the ball and made things difficult for the Hoops. By now, Celtic should have figured out a way to break down such opposition, but no, they still try the same thing time and time again.
Ryan Christie and Mohamed Elyounoussi have each had some bright moments, but other than that, Celtic have been very stale and predictable in promising situations this season.
What Went Wrong?
From all the missed chances to the catastrophic defending, Celtic looked brutally bad on Wednesday night.
On the defensive side, Celtic have certainly seen better days. For the first goal, Celtic simply got caught chasing space. By giving way too much time to Siger, allowing him to look up and take a touch before smashing the ball past Barkas, Celtic’s poor reaction gave the visitors a gift of a first goal. For the second goal, it was a very simple ball in behind Elhamed that should have been easily dealt with by the Celtic defender.
When you take 28 shots, you should be expecting more than one goal. Celtic’s terrible attacking woes continued throughout Wednesday night, but this must be the worst one yet. So much possession, yet such little hope!
Celtic, still looking for their first complete performance of the season, will return to action in the SPFL on Sunday when they host Motherwell.
This is the worst looking Celtic side that we’ve seen in a while. Its been a mixture of performances that seem to vary from game to game. Some games it is Christopher Julien and Scott Brown and other times it is Greg Taylor and James Forrest.
Things must improve quickly if Lennon wants to calm things down with crucial Europa League qualifiers looming and a historic ’10 in a row’ run on the line.
Along with all this, you couldn’t blame players like Edouard and Julien if they already feel that it is time to move on from Celtic and with the club taking a hit in terms of finances by not making the Champions League, then the worry is that the board might cash in one of of the club’s better players.