UCL Qualification: MFF v Celtic First Leg Recap
One thing I didn’t take into account in my preview article is how much bigger Celtic Park is than anything in which Malmö typically plays. The MFF players seemed shell-shocked. Last year the players played in Madrid and Torino, but as I mentioned in the preview, that team has been largely dismantled. While there is a little more overlap on the bench, there is just one player that played both in last year’s match that sent them to the group stage and in yesterday’s match. One. Tinnerholm.
As for the stadium size thing, you might think AIK’s stadium holds 50k, but AIK never get that many. In 2014 and 2012 they never cracked 31k, and neither of those was against MFF. The guy that scored the two goals for MFF is a former Celtic player, so he wasn’t intimidated by Celtic Park.
Of course, Wiland spent time in the Champions League with Copenhagen, but the goals were not his fault. Sana had his chances in the UCL with Ajax, but he didn’t come on until the 81st. Sana took the corner that lead to the second MFF goal, and if it were hockey, he’d be credited with a second assist.
I know I am belaboring the point, but it is the only way to drive home how terrible was in the first 15 minutes of the game. I really thought we were going to be looking at a US v Japan WWC type match (though with Celtic even more dominate because there was always another 90 minutes).
However, MFF did finally pull it together. At 3-2, this is far from over (though we could still end up with a US v Japan aggregate score). In fact, despite my natural instinct to be pessimistic, I’d give MFF ever so slight the edge going into the next round (assuming no injuries this weekend). MFF’s home form versus their away form (particularly in Europe) is just too compelling to overlook. MFF was down 2-0 to Salzburg in the last round. Those two away goals this time puts them in a way better position. I’ll preview the injury, form, and suspension situation after the weekend domestic games.
As for the game itself, marking on the first Celtic goal was absolutely atrocious. Once Griffiths got the ball, it was 1 on 1. It wasn’t a particularly brilliant run or anything. He was maybe 8 yards from goal. Ridiculous.
The second goal was from a corner. These things happen, though you don’t want to make a habit of it.
Just before the 18 minute mark, MFF started to string together some nice possession, and you could see they were getting into the game. Around 22:30 MFF had it’s first serious shot on goal and received a corner. Last year, MFF was a serious threat on set pieces, but many of their threats have been sold.
MFF scored its first goal game in the 52nd minute. Malmö almost tied it up in the 56th minute. The momentum meter on UEFA’s site is pretty accurate all the way through.
The third Celtic goal was another defensive error from MFF. Also, it showed the risk of playing short, quick, wide defenders. Tinnerholm is great going forward, but he is never going to out jump someone. He was also at fault on the initial blown clearance that lead to the third goal.
Overall, 3-2 seems a decent reflection of the game. After the shell-shocked first 15 minutes or so, MFF was the better team. However, you can’t spot very many teams 2 goals and expect to win, particularly not in a UCL playoff match. We’ll find out next week whether those first 10 minutes cost MFF a lucrative spot in the UCL group stage.