Back trouble limits Mowbray ambitions

Celtic 1 Falkirk 1
Click to follow
The Independent Football

A familiar regret continues to undermine so much of Tony Mowbray's work at Celtic. Even in re-imaging his side, in its shape and its personnel, he still saw so much of the hope it might contain diminished by a recurring imperfection.

It is a liability in defence that has come to haunt Celtic this season, so that even when Mowbray sent out a side with Aiden McGeady playing behind the two strikers rather than on the wing, and Ki Sung Yeung, the South Korean who signed for £2 million at the start of the transfer window, making his debut, the team remained deeply flawed.

Mowbray preferred to highlight deficiencies at the other end of the pitch. "We move the ball about and get it into fantastic areas, but we need to work on improving that final ball in the box," he said.

Pele, the Falkirk defender, saw a header cleared off the line by Andreas Hinkel in the fifth minute and Celtic seemed uncertain of themselves. When a long clearance upfield by Robert Olejnik, the Falkirk goalkeeper, travelled all the way to the feet of Darren O'Dea, the Celtic centre-back, he should have dealt with it decisively. Instead, he was robbed of possession by an eager Carl Finnigan, who then drove a shot past Artur Boruc and into the net.

The goal confirmed the fragility of Celtic's defence. It was a moment of ingenuity by Georgios Samaras that restored the home side's self-esteem. The Greek striker raced quite gracefully beyond the solemn figure of Pele, before curtly shooting across Olejnik and into the far side of the goal.

Having equalised just before the interval, Celtic perhaps felt entitled to restore the best of themselves in the second half. But a lack of decisiveness limited their play. McGeady's quick feet made enough space to shoot from just inside the area, but Olejnik blocked his effort. From Zeng Zhi's cross, Samaras also failed to make strong enough contact with a header.

Even a penalty claim, when Marc-Antoine Fortuné fell, a little too eagerly, under pressure from Brian McLean, did not fall in Celtic's favour. It was that kind of afternoon for Mowbray and his players.