Celtic were taught a footballing lesson against Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday night. There is no hiding from the truth that a side worth over half a billion pound schooled the Scottish champions, writes Andy Muirhead.
Ahead of the match realists would have been surprised if Celtic had not been spanked royally by the French aristocrats, while dreamers would look back on games against the likes of Barcelona, Manchester United, Manchester City, Juventus and their like saying that anything is possible.
But with a strike force worth nearly £400 million, currently playing under a cloud of allegations of breaching UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules, there was no hope for the patchwork Celtic defence withstanding the French onslaught.
Former Celtic striker Chris Sutton fired a volley of criticism at Celtic, labelling the heavy defeat as ‘embarrassing’.
He said: “They’ve been given an absolute footballing lesson. You can’t get away from the fact that was embarrassing from Celtic tonight.
“Brendan Rodgers spoke about being positive and getting close to them but they just didn’t in the first half. In every department, PSG were much better.
“You can say you’d expect that but I think Celtic could have done much better with the ball and without the ball. They were scared, they were fearful and they were on the back foot. That wasn’t good enough. They gave PSG too much respect for me.
“Ralston stuck to his task but Celtic should have bought a centre half in the window and they didn’t do that and that’s why they were exposed.”
Sutton is correct in his analysis that Celtic could have done better with the ball and when PSG were in possession, but after their own humiliation at the hands of Barcelona last season in the Nou Camp, Unai Emery’s side were not going to give the Scottish champions any hint of belief.
PSG outgunned and outfought Celtic. As one pundit labelled last night it Celtic were made to look like enfants against the superior French side.
Celtic were better in the second half, but by then it looked like the Ligue One side had taken their foot off the gas and two late goals – an own goal from Mikael Lustig and a superb header from Edinson Cavani – added further gloss to what was a dominant display.
One bone of contention I do have with Sutton’s criticism was his insistence that they were exposed because they didn’t sign a centre half during the transfer window. The only defender that was close to signing for Celtic was a 20-year-old kid from Ajax Cape Town who would have added nothing to the team last night – even if he didn’t have a dodgy foot that was shown up in a medical.
Signing players for signing sake isn’t Brendan Rodgers’ style and Celtic are unable to afford or attract a Champions League-level player to the club that could have held back the onslaught of Neymar, Cavani or Mbappe.
That is the level Celtic are at now whether the likes of Sutton or the ordinary fan wants to believe.
Even Sutton’s former team mates Bobo Balde, Joos Valgaeren and Johan Mjallby would not have been able to handle the onslaught from the PSG holy trinity – Balde would have probably been sent off at any rate for snapping Neymar in two, which would have been warmly received by the home support after his undignified antics last night with young Ralston.
Domestic dominance a hindrance?
There is no point highlighting the lack of competition in Scottish football for Celtic’s failings on the continent and it would be ludicrous to suggest that an Aberdeen or a Rangers pushing Celtic close domestically would have changed the outcome of last night’s mauling.
The real hindrance to the likes of Celtic and other champions of nations outwith the big five leagues is spending power. PSG has been bankrolled by Oryx Qatar Sports Investments (QSi) since 2011 and have signed the likes of Thiago Silva, Zlatan Ibrahimović, Edinson Cavani and David Luiz over the years, in their ultimate goal to win the Champions League – not Ligue One.
Ligue One is of little interest to the likes of QSi chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi as the holy grail for the Qataris is the Champions League and why they are the highest spending club in France, why they currently have the sixth-highest revenue in the footballing world with an annual revenue of around £470 million [pre-Neymar & Mbappe] and are the world’s thirteenth most valuable football club, worth around £614 million.
One could argue that failure to reach the final of the Champions League this season for PSG would be seen as a disaster given the money they have spent this season and the team assembled. Failure for Celtic in the Champions League this season would be not securing third spot in the group – that is the level that the two sides are at.
All the wealth in the world does not matter if you don’t have the players to do the job at hand – as English Premier League sides have shown in Europe in recent years – but PSG have a side that has quality in abundance outwith their attacking trinity and a manager that is experienced in knowing how to win European trophies with former side Sevilla.
Belief only gets you so far as reality sets in for Rodgers
Watching his side be demolished by PSG, Brendan Rodgers talked about belief after the game to the assembled press but admitted that they were beaten by a far superior outfit.
Rodgers said: “The thing I said to the players is that at this level you need to have the belief. Similar to last year, it may just take us a game or so to get into the competition again.
“This is a level where you have to look after the ball. You have to make the ball work for you and in the first half we didn’t do that. We were playing like Under-12s at times.
“But it’s about confidence and belief and we’re missing some decisive players who can help us at this level.
“It’s always going to be very tough. That’s the reality of it. It’s a harsh lesson. This is a level which is all about learning for us. I don’t want to be too harsh on the players because we were playing the potential champions.
“Where we’re at, with all due respect, and where these guys are at isn’t just one or two levels, it’s three or four.
“But what we always have to do is be competitive and we weren’t for that first period of the game. In the second half, we were much better and showed the fans that.
“You can lose to that scoreline to that team and you have to give credit to PSG. This is a team that’s a really special team that’s been put together. They’re going to be close to winning it.”
As I mentioned earlier, Celtic’s Champions League campaign would be seen as a failure if they did not secure third spot above Anderlecht. As Rodgers alluded to last night, their main aim is European football after Christmas and that is more realistic through the Europa League than it is the last 16 of the Champions League by trumping PSG or Bayern Munich to one of the two qualification spots.
The media can highlight the fact that Celtic’s defeat last night was their heaviest ever European loss at home but all that matters and should matter is that Celtic secure progression in Europe.
Rodgers added: “I’m not worried about records. We were playing world-class opponents. It’s a phenomenal squad that Paris have but I was proud of the players in the second half.
“If we get better we can achieve the main aim which is European football after Christmas.”
Many Celtic fans had already written off the games against Bayern and PSG when the draw was made – although that didn’t stop them dreaming about another famous result – the real test for this Celtic side will be the games against Anderlecht.
Celtic will face a tough test in Belgium at the end of this month, but it should be a game where the gulf in class and the result will be a lot closer. And if they have any hope of qualifying then Celtic must take all three point against René Weiler side in Brussels. With a view to winning the home tie at the start of December in what will be the final group game.
Celtic to face the wrath of UEFA again!
Last night’s game on the field was disastrous for Celtic, but off it the atmosphere and the sell-out crowd was electric. It is that sort of atmosphere that the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Gianluigi Buffon, Steven Gerrard and Rio Ferdinand have praised over the years.
Champions League nights at Celtic Park are special, the fans singing pre-match, the roar as the players form a huddle, the songs throughout the game and the Champions League theme before the fans let out another almighty roar seconds before kick-off. It has buckled opposition players, it has inspired and fascinated many more, but over the past few years off the field issues have caused Celtic to face the wrath of UEFA and last night was no different.
With Celtic 3-0 down in the first half, a Celtic fan ran onto the pitch and tried to kick out at PSG youngster Kylian Mbappe for some unknown reason.
That mindless idiot has caused Celtic to face their 13th charge in less than six years over fan-behaviour issues ranging from pro-IRA chants to pyrotechnics, crowd disturbances and illicit banners.
The sell-out crowd at Celtic Park made their feelings known to the fan as he met with a volley of abuse and boos while being led away by stewards and Police, with a lifetime ban from the club almost certainly heading his way for his disgraceful actions.
The case will be dealt with by UEFA on the 19th October with Celtic facing potential sanctions from a warning or financial penalty, to a potential stand closure or travel ban for supporters.
With recent sanctions still fresh in UEFA’s memory from the Linfield game earlier this season, Celtic could face a much tougher sanction this time round from European football’s governing body.
There is nothing Celtic, nor the fans, can do but take it on the chin when it comes.
Next up for Celtic is a home game against Ross County where they will need to bounce back in style to cement their place at the top of the Premiership table.