Celtic’s 1-1 draw in their first competitive fixture under Ange Postecoglou was a reasonable result.

It gives the Hoops a chance of qualifying for the Champions League and it was even a match where Ryan Christie thrived.

However, there are reasons to be concerned, particularly because problems which plagued Neil Lennon’s tenure were still there.

From a defensive point of view, Celtic looked shaky as Nir Bitton was sent off in the first half and then Vasilis Barkas made a poor attempt at saving a Midtjylland free-kick that found the net.

To make matters worse, they’ve now also lost Kristoffer Ajer to pastures new, and he was somebody who held the backline together last season.

Fear not, though, because the Hoops have signed Carl Starfelt and have a number of impressive young defenders in their ranks.

When Bitton was given his marching orders, goal scorer Liel Abada had to be withdrawn but it wasn’t Liam Shaw afforded a role at centre-back or Leo Hjelde. Instead, it was teenager Dane Murray.

Hjelde is the pride and joy of the Celtic reserve team at the moment, being compared to Virgil van Dijk during a loan spell with Ross County. However, Murray may have just leapfrogged him in the pecking order for now.

The 18-year-old had never been seen in the first team before Tuesday night but he was thrown in at the deep end and thrived.

Previously a defensive midfielder, just as Ajer was when he joined the club, Postecoglou has already made moves to turn him into a centre-back. That was the role in which he featured during the second half of their European draw, standing out among the management team and his teammates.

Postecoglou said: “You know how young he is and he is not just coming on the pitch he is facing a formidable opponent and with ten men. But you know what, my gut instinct told me he wouldn’t be fazed by it.”

The boss continued: “I watched him in training and he is a young kid, not just with football potential but personality and character that belies his age. I was quite happy to trust him out there and it was an important stage, we were down to ten men and we had to work very hard.”

Like Ajer did when he was breaking onto the scene, Murray looked wise beyond his years, mopping up play nicely alongside Stephen Welsh.

He was composed in possession – a key trait of their former Norwegian powerhouse – completing 87% of his passes. He also won 100% of his aerial duels and prevailed in 50% of his ground duels.

It was an eye-catching performance that caught the eye of his defensive partner too.

“Dane was fantastic, both on the ball and defensively… he made me feel old!” said Welsh afterwards.

“It was just another game for me. When Nir went off I had confidence in Dane coming in because he’s trained with us since last season. I felt comfortable with him because he’s so good, for such a young player. He’s got a bright future and he’ll be a big player for us,” he concluded.

Postecoglou has already made it clear that he wants to give younger players an opportunity at Paradise and, at the first time of asking, he lived up to his promise.

Murray is one to watch and could well be Celtic’s readymade Ajer replacement.

AND in other news, Celtic could sign 30-goal gem once tipped to become “world-class”, he’s a big upgrade…


Source link