Not the best of weeks for Scottish teams in Europe. Then again, these days there aren’t that many good weeks. Shall I get started reviewing this before the Scottish UEFA coefficient falls even further, yes?
Braga 3-0 Celtic
Celtic don’t generally well away from home in Europe, in Portugal especially. In recent seasons, Celtic have lost heavily to Porto and Benfica so in many respects this result was not really a surprise. Combined with a team that hasn’t really played together before (new signings Efrain Juarez and Gary Hooper had barely been to Glasgow before they were on the flight with the rest of the team).
Because the match wasn’t shown on television – an unusual occurrence for one of the Old Firm matches in Europe – many fans had to make mend and do with internet streams of differing quality. What they all would’ve shown is Celtic’s downfall was due to set-plays; a controversial penalty conceded by Ki, a corner and a free kick. Qualification for the Champions League is unlikely now, but at least they will be entering the Europa League qualifiers as a seeded.
Maribor 3-0 Hibernian
The same probably cannot be said for Hibernian who by manager John Hughes own estimations were outclassed by Slovenian outfit Maribor in their Europa League qualifier. On a night where the rain lashed on to a slick surface, Hibs struggled to maintain possession and were, for want of a better cliche, chasing shadows for much of the time.
Once again, we pundits and critics should probably have seen a result like this coming, since Slovenian football is at a better standard than we take for granted; if it wasn’t for Jermain Defoe’s strike against Slovenia in the World Cup they would have qualified for the second round instead of England. The last time Scotland even qualified for a major tournament I was only just in primary school. Maybe a re-evaluation is needed of the Scottish game at this rate.
Aalesunds 1-1 Motherwell
Thank goodness then for Craig Brown’s Motherwell who are teaching the rest of Scotland how to play to our strengths. See, Scottish teams generally aren’t graced with an abundance of skill, and those who are are plying their trade in England if they are good enough. So this means being disciplined and organised, successful for Walter Smith in Rangers’ 2008 UEFA Cup run and Scotland.
Brown, an experienced manager and popular within the Scottish game, is executing this perfectly at Motherwell and was only sixty seconds away from a victory in Norway following James Murphy’s strike. Murphy’s goal made him Motherwell’s all-time leading scorer in Europe with six goals and breathes a bit of optimsim in the Scotland. By all means, we need it with the way results are going.