It would be preposterous to portray a straightforward victory over a woeful Ferencvaros side as evidence that Celtic are once again on the cusp of greatness. As will not prevent many from trying, of course. Nonetheless, there are autumnal green shoots for Ange Postecoglou.
Long overdue, back-to-back domestic away victories for Celtic have now been followed up by success over the very team which emphasised their demise with a Champions League qualifying win in Glasgow at the start of last season. It has been Postecoglou’s hardly insignificant task to pick up the pieces; he now has a collection of meaningful results as a crucial backdrop to soundbites. Celtic needed to beat Ferencvaros to place themselves in pole position for European football of some form post-Christmas and duly did so. With ease, at that.
Postecoglou puts Celtic’s recent renaissance down to a “more settled” team. Yet this is also side which is clearly short of requisite talent in umpteen areas. For the Australian manager to oversee a winning run and the claiming of momentum while marking time until the next transfer window is an achievement. From the moment Kyogo Furuhashi opened the scoring against the Hungarian champions, three points looked secure. “It was a good performance,” said Postecoglou. “We had a feeling they would tire in the second half because they were working so hard and things just opened up for us.”
Indeed they did, by virtue of a wonderful Jota pass. The move, started in Celtic’s left back area, saw the Benfica loanee play a one-two with Adam Montgomery before floating the ball 50 yards to the feet of Furuhashi. With his first touch, the Japanese forward controlled the ball with ease. With his second, he rolled it beyond the helpless Denes Dibusz. “It was a world class move from talented players,” Postecoglou added. “We play football that suits those guys but they have to work hard for the team in a defensive sense as well. They did that today.”
David Turnbull thought he had claimed Celtic’s second, only for Uefa to belatedly credit Balint Vecsei with an own goal. Turnbull had swiped and missed at a Jota cross, with Dibusz whacking the ball against Vecsei’s ankle as he attempted to clear the danger. Turnbull was in close proximity but not, it transpired, close enough. Callum McGregor watched his penalty batted away by Dibusz, 17 minutes into the second period.
Celtic passed up more chances to further endorse their clear superiority. The most menacing Ferencvaros appeared was inside three minutes, as Ryan Mmaee somehow flicked wide from three yards, and immediately after the opener as Anthony Ralston expertly blocked the same player. “I don’t pop champagne corks for clean sheets because you can do that with a goalkeeper making 20 great saves,” Postecoglou said. “We defended really well as a team today and that’s why I’m pleased.”