CHRIS SUTTON has questioned his former Celtic team-mate Neil Lennon’s decision to leave Ryan Christie on the subs’ bench at the start of the Europa League Group H game against AC Milan at Parkhead.
The Hoops were trailing 2-0 by the time the Scotland international midfielder made his appearance immediately after the interval.
Christie, who was forced to sit out the 2-0 loss to Rangers five days earlier while in self-isolation due to coronavirus issues, was introduced against the Italians along with Mohamed Elyounoussi while Leigh Griffiths and Stephen Welsh were removed from the action.
Their presence gave the team a boost and the Norwegian pulled one back with a slick header from a left-wing corner-kick by the Scot in the 77th minute.
The champions’ quest for an equaliser exposed them at the back and they conceded a third sloppy goal in stoppage-time, but there can be no argument the introduction of Christie and Elyounoussi gave an ailing team some impetus.
Now Sutton has some questions for his old Parkhead pal. The former Hoops striker, speaking to the Daily Record, said: “Ryan Christie has great energy. Celtic play with added tempo when he’s in the role. However, sometimes he frustrates you as it can be rushed.
“Credit to him for trying to make it happen, but he pushes it.
“There are occasions when it just needs some finesse. For someone to relax in a deadly area and Tom Rogic does just that.
“To be fair to Christie, he made a real difference to the team when he returned from self-isolation, yet his appearance from the bench for the second period gave me more questions than answers.
“I can’t understand why he didn’t start the game. The changing of the shape at the interval with the introduction of him and Mohamed Elyounoussi made a huge difference and it looked like an admission from the manager that he got it wrong at the beginning by sticking with the 3-5-2 formation which was so dismal against Rangers.
“Neil said the medical team told him Christie couldn’t start. I’m not going to argue with that. I’m not privy to those conversations.
“But if he could play the second 45 minutes, surely he could have played the first? Surely it’s better to go as strong as possible to start and maybe be 1-0 up at half-time as opposed to 2-0 down?
“It’s gone now, but he provided a threat which was again lacking.”
Lennon is now preparing his troops for the trip to Pittodrie to face Aberdeen in tomorrow’s High Noon showdown and it’s a game where three points is a must after last week’s reversal against the Govan outfit.
Sutton added: “Neil desperately needs a striker to step up to the plate. Leigh Griffiths and Albian Ajeti got the nod to start against AC MIlan and, unlike some observers around me, I wasn’t that impressed with either of them.
“They were too far apart. Ajeti held it up at times and Griffiths will always show to his midfield, but they were never in contact. They didn’t link once.
“Just as three at the back isn’t working, neither is two up top at the moment with Odsonne Edouard not healthy and not in form, anyway, before his positive Covid test.
“It’s horses for courses, but after that second-half show against Milan, he’ll surely go with one up in Aberdeen and it’s a flip of the coin who gets it. Ajeti has a good goal to minute ratio this term, but it’s 50-50.
“But it’s not 50-50 what happens defensively. They have to shift to the back four.
“Diego Laxalt, who looked tenacious and tidy against his old club, and Jeremie Frimpong had an easier time as full-backs and there was more solidity with the four.
“Shane Duffy and Kristoffer Ajer need to stop losing poor goals and this might help. Presumably, it can also give Celtic an additional attacking player at Pittodrie and they might need it because there has not been anywhere near enough creativity in the past week.
“They needed a performance against Milan even if they didn’t get a result and, second-half, they got one. It now needs to go hand-in-hand with a result in the Granite City.
“It’s not an argument that Neil has lost players in unfortunate circumstances. Injuries to James Forrest and Christopher Jullien haven’t helped in terms of setting the team shape up, but he’s still got plenty if they produce.
“Ajeti, Griffiths, Christie and Elyounoussi are all good enough to defeat Aberdeen. And so is Rogic.
“The Aussie has previous against the Dons and I genuinely feel this is an opportunity for him to go back into the firing line and recover his reputation as one of Celtic’s main men.”