FORMER Celtic striker John Hartson ripped into his old club’s “Sunday League” defending in their 4-2 win over Jablonec in the Czech Republic last night.
The Hoops made life difficult for themselves in the Europa League qualifier, despite netting goals from Liel Abada, Kyogo Furuhashi, James Forrest and Ryan Christie to set up the return leg at a 60,000 capacity crowd at Parkhead on Thursday with Dutch side AZ Alkmaar waiting for the winners in the play-off.
Ange Postecoglou watched his team win for the first time at the fourth attempt, but Hartson was clearly unconvinced about a ropey rearguard that gifted the home side two goals.
With the Scots leading 2-0, a simple long ball took Carl Starfelt and Nir Bitton out of the game as Vaclav Pilar knocked a close-range shot beyond the exposed Joe Hart.
The visitors appeared to be coasting at 3-1 when another alarming defensive lapse allowed Jublonec to claim a second. Thomas Milinksy raced onto a long through ball, skipped far too easily inside Starfelt, Anthony Ralston was too late with a last-ditch challenge to block the shot and the Czech’s effort sailed over the debutant keeper, clipped the inside of the post and Bitton only succeeded in thumping the ball into his own net.
HE WENT THATAWAY…Carl Starfelt is easily beaten as Thomas Malinksy cuts inside.
TOO LATE,,,Anthony Ralston throws himself forward in at an attempt to block the shot.
ON ITS WAY…Joe Hart is helpless as the ball floats past his left hand.
IN THE NET…Nir Bitton makes sure by belting the ball over the line.
Hartson, speaking on BBC Sportscene, didn’t hold back as he said: “Celtic won’t win anything defending like that.
“Celtic had a chance to go away and win 4-0, 5-0. All they had to do was defend properly and it’s Sunday League stuff the goals they’re giving away.
“I know Carl Starfelt is early at the club, but I’ve got to call it as I see it and you can’t just dive in in the last minute and let Malinsky cut back inside and lob Joe Hart.\“Should Joe Hart be that far off his line? I’m not usually over critical, but I can’t accept that kind of defending – it’s going to cost Celtic.
“It’s a good away win, but Celtic could have been out of sight. They should have taken the pressure off everyone next week.”
Postecoglou, speaking to the Scottish Sun, said: “The result is a positive one. I think it’s important, particularly for the players who have been working hard. It’s a reward for them. Hopefully, it gives them some confidence and belief moving forward.
HAPPY AND CONCERNED…Ange Postecoglou after his first win.
“The performance was okay. We started really well. The first-half hour was excellent. I just felt we lost our way a little bit after that and lost control of the game, especially second-half.
“We scored four goals, but we had some unbelievable opportunities to score more.
“I felt we just didn’t control the game as well as we could have after 35 minutes of the game.
“Defensively we were really open. We still had chances, but it’s NOT the way I want us to play.
“We had Kyogo’s first start, Joe Hart’s first start, Carl’s second start. There’s a whole range of reasons why the cohesion isn’t quite there yet.
“This group has been together for maybe 10 days. So, I don’t want to be too hard on the players.
“But, at the same time, I want to make sure we are really honest with our analysis of our games.”