Celtic’s Matt O’Riley opens up on why partnership with Tom Rogic shouldn’t be an issue and Hibs’ loanee Sylvester Jasper

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND – FEBRUARY 17: Celtic’s Matt O’Riley and Tom Rogic can’t prevent Bodo/Glimt’s Runar Espejord moving forward with the ball in the 3-1 home first leg defeat for Ange Postecoglou’s side to the Norwegians, but the Londoner maintains it is wrong to read into the European exit that the playmaking duo are too attack-minded to be paired. (Photo by Rob Casey/SNS Group)

So is facing the brickbats that come with failure, plenty flying around as a result of the 5-1 aggregate Conference League play-off exit against Bodo/Glimt. A grizzly outcome that resulted from the 2-0 loss for Ange Postecoglou’s side in Norway. Until the first leg 3-1 home loss to Kjetil Knutsen’s team, the 21-year-old had earned only commendations since his £1.5million move from MK Dons in January. However the ease with which Bodo/Glimt were able to play through Celtic has raised concerns the attacking nature of Tom Rogic and O’Riley leaves them too open if the pair are deployed as playmakers in a central three. The Londoner isn’t having that.

“Good players can play with good players and the defensive side of things comes down to more than just two players,” O’Riley said. “We’ve only started two games together and it’s been against, arguably, the best team we’ve faced this season. So it’s never going to be easy. If we started with a different midfield, it could have been worse – or better. It comes down to more than that. As a team, we just weren’t good enough, on or off the ball. We got picked off at times. And even though we lost, I still felt we showed enough to get more.

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“There were numerous factors to it. In the league, we’re used to teams who sit deep against us – they all play a similar way. Bodo were different because they were more expansive. When they were able to beat our press, they looked dangerous on the counter attack. That was a new challenge for us to deal with and it’s where they really punished us. They were clinically going forward. We didn’t play our best at Celtic Park but I still don’t think it was a 3-1 game. It felt like every shot they had gone in. We just weren’t good enough in the final third. It came down to both boxes and they were better in ours than we were in theirs. [But] the mood is still good in the camp. We’re disappointed but it gives us more chance to focus on the league. A lot of people outside, like the fans, won’t feel this is the end of the world because we can concentrate on the title and Scottish Cup.”

That focus switches to Leith and an encounter that pits O’Riley against Hibs loanee Sylvester Jasper, a player he knows from their time together at the Fulham academy. “He’s a good player, very positive and a guy who likes to drive at defenders,” said the Celtic midfielder. “I’m sure he’ll be one of their guys to watch out for but I’m sure they’ve got quality elsewhere. Hibs are a good side from what I’ve heard. They have loads of good players but Sylv is a guy who can make stuff happen. I’m not sure what his situation is at Fulham but he’s still really young at 20. He’s got plenty of time. But the main thing at that age is to play regular football so hopefully he can do that here and he can further his career at Fulham or somewhere else.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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