Are Postecoglou's Celtic On The Right Track To Challenge Rangers For The Title?

Celtic's late missed penalty cost them two points this weekend
12:40, 01 Nov 2021

Celtic Park was silent for 30 minutes this weekend. The fans protested the potential hiring of police chief Bernard Higgins at the club with a show of unity that meant that the majority of their first half against Livingston, the crowd was flat. 

Unfortunately for the loyal fans, who deserve a huge amount of credit for their united protest this weekend, the players on the pitch also put in a performance that lacked life and intensity. Livingston were able to sit in and frustrate Ange Postecoglou’s side, having already beaten them at the Tony Macaroni Arena in September, and David Martindale’s men were able to keep another clean sheet, even if they had to rely on a wonderful penalty save from Max Stryjek in injury time. 

"Our supporters were understanding,” a disappointed Postecoglou said at full-time. “They were just as frustrated as us, I wouldn't expect them to be euphoric about it.

Celtic’s 0-0 draw at home put a halt to their improved run of form that had moved them up to second in the league and got their first win in their Europa League group. After a dodgy start to the season which saw the Hoops dumped out of the Champions League and lose to Hearts on the opening day, Postecoglou has bounced back in recent weeks - but this comes after two damaging Europa League losses and a gargantuan Old Firm defeat at Ibrox.

Dropping two more points this weekend, and missing that late penalty, proved even more critical as rivals Rangers moved four points clear at the top with an emphatic 6-1 win over Motherwell. Steven Gerrard’s team went a goal down at Fir Park and were made to as they turned the scoreline around just before the break before an emphatic second half secured the points. 

Rangers had a ridiculous 30 shots as they peppered Motherwell’s goal over the 90 minutes with their 12 shots on target yielding six goals - which is a big contrast compared to the two shots on target Celtic managed. This was a show of utter dominance from a team that has also dropped points in recent weeks, but sit at the top of the league. They came back from 2-0 at home to Aberdeen to secure a point in midweek and although they have not been the all-conquering force we saw last season, they are still 4/9 favourites to win the Scottish Premiership with Betfred.

Despite the gap increasing to four points, it is important to not take this result out of context. Celtic had won four on the bounce in the league ahead of this game and one of the major positives for Postecoglou has been the signing of England goalkeeper Joe Hart, who kept another clean sheet and has been a major figure in the dressing room according to his boss. 

“When I signed Joe, it wasn’t just because he’s an outstanding goalkeeper,” the Greek Australian manager explained. “I felt, the way it was with so many new players, that I had to bring some experience into the dressing-room. 

“I needed someone to help Cal [Callum McGregor], who is a new skipper himself. And Joe has been a great influence from day one. He came in with the right attitude, wanting to be successful and wanting to learn. I think he’s enjoying his football, which is really important at this stage of Joe’s career.”

Celtic face a big week in Europe, where they really need to beat Ferencvaros away to have any chance of progression, but on the domestic front, the very minimum requirement for Postecoglou is a title challenge. Four wins out of five is impressive, but key moments, such as this 90th-minute penalty miss, could be crucial come the end of the season. 

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