Celtic still have it all to play for next Tuesday crucial Champions League qualifier as they won 3-2 at home to Malmo tonight. Two quick goals inside ten minutes from Leigh Griffiths and Nir Bitton gave the Bhoys a dream start before ex-Celt Jo Inge Berget grabbed a goal just after the break. But Griffith’s headed in again to give his team which looked almost certain to be a two goal advantage for the second leg, only for Berget to haunt his former side with a last minute goal. Here’s five things we learned from Celtic’s 3-2 win:
Five Lessons Learned from Celtic’s 3-2 win
Don’t Sell Virgil Van Dijk Before Tuesday
The Dutch centre back has been linked with a move to the Premier League for- Celtic fans at least- which seems to be an eternity. And as Scottish papers have suggested that Southampton are close to signing the 24 year old, he would be a huge miss for the all crucial second tie next Tuesday. Again tonight saw van Dijk deal with attacking threats in a comfortable and eased manner and it’s something Celtic would suffer greatly without. Given his reliability and consistently good performances, without his presence in the second tie it could be a long night in Sweden. However, if van Dijk does get his move to the Premier League before then, Ronny Deila will need to make sure he has his replacement sorted out. Let’s hope he stays for at least another week.
Ambrose Cannot Replace Lustig
Mikael Lustig’s hamstring injury left the right back almost in tears towards the end of the game. Having to be stretched off, Efe Ambrose came on to replace him for the remainder of the match and within a few minutes he was making bad passes. Without wanting to point the blame to anyone, his failure to deal with an attack ultimately lead to the corner from which Malmo got another away goal from. It seems very unlikely that Lustig will make the second leg which leaves Deila with another headache for who to start at right back for the away tie. Saidy Janko was bought in as a right back in the summer and has already made his first competitive appearance for Celtic in the league, meaning he could start next Tuesday.
Start Griffiths in Sweden
Questions were raised before the match for whether or not Celtic should opt for Griffiths or Ciftci for the home tie. Prior to tonight, Ciftci had started every European qualification match since joining the club last month, yet to open his goal scoring account for the club. Deila opted for Griffiths tonight and the decision truly paid off. Within 3 minutes the Scottish striker, who turns 25 tomorrow, put Celtic 1-0 up and later looked like he’d assured a two goal lead over Malmo as he made it 3-1 in the second half. He worked his socks off tonight, got a standing ovation from the crowd when he was substituted and his natural goal scoring instincts is going to be absolutely vital for Celtic to get an away goal, which looks likely to be needed come Tuesday night.
More questions were raised for whether Deila should go for two strikers tonight rather than his normal 4-5-1, but he stuck to his guns and it paid off again. The midfield two of Scott Brown and Nir Bitton with Stuart Armstrong, Stefan Johansen and James Forrest in front were formidable at times tonight; and if it wasn’t for that last second goal it would have been a job very well done. The injury to Biton picked up towards the end of the game doesn’t look worrying which means that the midfield could line up the same.
Malmo Are Beatable
Let’s not forget that Celtic got the win tonight. The two goals conceded, whether it was deserved or not, are obviously a huge blow. But for the most of the night Celtic were comfortable and should have had at least a three goal lead to take to Sweden. At 2-0 the tie looked as if it was wrapped up from a first leg perspective, however play seemed to slack towards the end of the night which has left Celtic in a knife edge position. Tonight has shown that Malmo are beatable and without doubt the Celts will get chances and should score away from home.
Without doubt, Malmo will be tough to get the result needed next week. And if Celtic are to progress it will be up there with the top European night’s in the Club’s recent history. A 3-2 win is not all that bad and maybe something fans would have taken prior to the match. The last strike goal, made even more painful coming from an ex-Celtic player, will have no doubt heartbroken the team tonight. But make no mistake about it, another performance like this tonight and Celtic fans shouldn’t be too stressed for the second leg.