The term ‘schoolboy defending’ is thrown around a lot but it certainly seems like Celtic’s backline have a great deal still to learn if they’re going to pass much tougher tests than Hearts this season.

John Souttar’s late header landed a sickening sucker-punch on Ange Postecoglou in his league debut and served to further highlight how vulnerable Celtic are at set-pieces, something that pre-dates the Australian’s arrival.

Here, The Celtic Way dissects Souttar’s Tynecastle winner using WyScout.

The defenders

Let's dive right into the thick of it here and pick up the action as the defenders are lining up along the edge of the 18-yard box as Michael Smith signals he is about to take the free-kick.

Celtic Way:

It's difficult to even say if Celtic are utilising zonal marking here or not. Some players seem to be while others are picking up opponents man-to-man. Nir Bitton is on John Souttar, Carl Starfelt has Peter Haring and Ryan Christie is with Craig Halkett.

Away from the main action, Callum McGregor nominally has Liam Boyce covered and Ismaila Soro has his eye on Andy Halliday. Anthony Ralston is at the back of the main line not exactly marking Armand Gnanduillet, but certainly in the striker's general vicinity. 

Stephen Kingsley is left unmarked and remains so for the entirety of the play, with Christie's cursory leap towards him at the very end of the action quite irrelevant.

Celtic Way:

From the reverse angle, it's anyone's guess what roles Greg Taylor and Odsonne Edouard are playing in this. There's a chance Edouard could be situated where he is in case the delivery is poor so he can clear it early but Taylor - who in this freezeframe is directing James Forrest to watch Beni Baningime, lurking outside the area - takes up a position on the edge of the box behind Edouard that seems to serve no real purpose.

Celtic Way:

Also from this angle is Souttar's nudge on Bitton just before Smith takes the free-kick. This proves to be crucial in allowing Souttar the space to win the header without any real contest (the closest person to him when he makes contact is Kingsley). 

It's streetwise play from Souttar but what isn't so streetwise is Bitton's positioning (he isn't goal-side) or response to the nudge (he does not even try to resume position). It's not Bitton's fault that, even if Souttar mistimed his jump, Kingsley very well might have knocked it home anyway but it is on Bitton that Souttar was allowed to create that space for himself in the first place.

Celtic Way:

The goalkeeper

Many of you will have looked at the above freezeframe and immediately said "come on, look at the keeper there!" or words to that effect. And you'd be correct. 

Scott Bain's positioning is inherently questionable in this sequence. One of the vital traits required to be an effective goalkeeper is decisiveness. The four pictures below seem to show the opposite in Bain.

Celtic Way:

First, Bain appears to opt for coming out to claim or punch the cross away. He is out further than his six-yard box before he decides not to. The ball is already in the air and just about in the area at this point, remember. I've highlighted it as sometimes it's hard to notice in a freezeframe.

Celtic Way:

In picture two, Bain has changed his mind and decided coming for it is not for him. He is on the back foot now as he tries to get back closer to his goal. Problem is, everything and everyone is already coming right on top of him. Fast. He has very little time to check his positioning or set himself for the header that, by now, he no doubt realises is about to come his way.

Celtic Way:

From another angle this time. As Souttar heads it, Bain has pretty much stopped dead. That's not a good thing. He's too far to the right (as you're looking at the goal frame) and still about five yards off his line. Nevertheless, with even slightly better footwork in that situation, he probably gets a hand to it. 

Celtic Way:

As it is, all he can do now is leap towards it from his standing position. It doesn't work. The header - a decent one no doubt but hardly on par with Cristiano Ronaldo - loops over Bain's outstretched fingers and into the net just left of the centre of the goal.

It has the effect of simultaneously making the goal look massive and the Celtic keeper seem a lot smaller than his 6ft frame. Picture four (above) gives you an idea of how much of the goal is still exposed and how low Bain is in relation to the goal frame despite his attempts to save it.


Celtic's goalkeeper situation has long been a point of discussion and, if reports are true, the club is looking to recruit a new number one so Bain's capacity to repeat the same mistakes could be rendered a moot point in the near future.

And the upshot of the defensive errors at set-plays is that they can surely be rectified with the right coaching. The question is will they be?

Celtic have had problems defending set-pieces for longer than Postecoglou has been here. Last season they conceded 12 goals from set-plays, the same as Livingston and good for the joint fourth-worst total in the league behind 10th-placed Ross County (18), relegated Kilmarnock (14) and newly-promoted Dundee United (13). 

This season, Souttar's goal was the second time in four days Celtic had conceded from a free-kick (the first being Midtjylland's second goal in the qualifier, when the Celtic defence failed to stay switched on for the second phase of a blocked free-kick).

So if set-piece work wasn't a priority for Postecoglou beforehand it will certainly be moving up his to-do list now.