No two ways about it, Tuesday night’s European excursion was a rough one for Brendan Rodgers and his Celtic side, in many ways.

Just two weeks prior, they had held their top-quality opponents to a 2-2 draw at Celtic Park in the Champions League, prompting plaudits from around the world for their fearless approach to taking on Diego Simeone’s well-oiled Atletico Madrid machine.

However, in a complete 180-degree turnaround, Celtic went from holding their own at home to not laying a glove on their back-to-back opponents in their backyard, with Madrid inflicting a heavy 6-0 defeat on the Scottish champions. Not helped by the sending-off of Daizen Maeda and the concession of an early goal, Celtic were up against it, with a hungry Simeone side looking to exact revenge on the side they dropped points to away from home.

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As you will be well aware by now, revenge is exactly what they inflicted – and then some – as they put another five goals past Joe Hart in the Celtic goals, in what was a night to forget for everyone associated with the club.

However, we must take the rough with the smooth, and four of Atletico’s six strikes were at least partly preventable in truth. With that being said, here is a closer look into those three strikes, and what Celtic’s players could and should have done to stop Simeone’s superstars from extending their lead on the night...

Antoine Griezmann's first goal (6’)

‘Keep it tight in the opening exchanges’. A message that a plethora of football managers and head coaches will have given to their defenders all across the globe. In Celtic’s case, they did not need to give Atletico any further encouragement, given the way the last game transpired and the fact they were at home for this one.

Before we go into specifics regarding this concession, it is important to highlight the mistake that led to the throw-in. A cross came into the box, which looked like a routine catch for Hart in goals. Instead of claiming the cross uncontested with both of his gloves, the former England international elected to punch the ball, barely connecting with it as it went waywardly out of play for a throw.

Highlighted in the yellow circles are the players that contributed to this goal, in both a positive and negative sense. Rodrigo Riquelme took the throw-in, its target was Mario Hermoso. The Atletico defender was virtually unmarked, and Maeda noticed that, leaving his position as Riquelme’s marker. This decision had an adverse effect on proceedings, as is shown in the next still. Captain Callum McGregor is pointing this fact out, as shown in the photo.

Hermoso receives the ball, and elects to play it quickly back to Riquelme, who has space ahead of his Maeda, who has backtracked to try and cover the shot. With plenty of time to choose his next move, Atletico’s number 25 decides to play a crossed ball into the box, which is headed for Celtic’s captain…

The ball finds McGregor, who is quick to react to the ball’s presence. Perhaps too quickly, as despite getting a clean contact on the cross, he headers the ball directly into the path of Griezmann, Atletico’s talisman. An intelligent footballer, the France international is always looking for pockets of space in and around the forward areas for both club and country. For all of McGregor’s experience, he makes an amateur mistake in a matter of seconds, which was to set the tone for the rest of the night.

Griezmann picked up the ball, drove forward, and struck from distance. Despite the best efforts of both McGregor who made the mistake and Cameron Carter-Vickers in defence, the shot goes through them both – aided by a deflection – and beats Hart at his left-hand post. Miniscule mistakes get punished at the highest level of continental football, and the usually reliable McGregor was made to pay for his split-second error early on in proceedings.

Alvaro Morata's first goal (45+2’)

A truly dreadful time to concede, Celtic could not hang on to their one-goal deficit going into half-time. A man down at this point thanks to Maeda’s VAR review, the game was over as a contest thanks to this goal from Morata.

For all of the cardinal errors that Celtic committed in defence during this Champions League fixture, sometimes you have to equally dish out praise to a player at the peak of his powers. Griezmann stamped his footprint all over this game, with the visitors having no answers in response to the forward’s greatness.

Still, we must analyse the mistakes made here, of which there is only really one of note. From the picture above, you can see that Griezmann was in plenty of space to deliver a cross-field ball to Jose Gimenez, the Uruguay stalwart arguably Atletico’s best defender, especially from headers. As shown above, his hand was up for the delivery, and Griezmann was only too happy to present his request to him with precision and accuracy. Alistair Johnston was ball-watching just in front of Gimenez, with the space between the attacker and defender small but pivotal in the make-up of this chance and goal.

Look at the space between the pair now, compared to just seconds before. Gimenez in turn had the freedom of Madrid to pick out Morata in the middle of the box, with another attacker waiting to pounce if the Spain striker inexplicably missed this simple chance. Much like the first goal, small mistakes or missteps can be the difference between a well-defended action and the concession of a goal at this level. Johnston will learn from this, in what he called an “unacceptable” night for the club.

Griezmann's second goal (60’)

Remember that greatness that was mentioned earlier? It reared its annoyingly brilliant head again to make the score 3-0 on the night. Griezmann was at it again, though he was partially assisted by Celtic’s defenders once again in proceedings.

Atletico’s star man last time out in Europe Marcos Llorente was back to cause Celtic more problems, this time in Madrid. In what was becoming a regular theme, the home side again tried to whip a floating ball into the visitor’s box, the target again being Morata in the middle. Johnston is trying to stick close to his man, but the right-back will struggle again in what was a long night for the Canada international.

As the play progressed following the ball making its way into the box, again Carter-Vickers tried to assist his man by going for the header, though his intervention only complicated things for Johnston. Much like his captain, the full-back tried to head the ball away, only for it to fall into the path of a certain Frenchman yet again…

From this point on in the play, there can be no complaints from anyone regarding defensive work, as Griezmann pulled out an overhead kick from straight out of the top drawer. Sometimes, you have to simply just applaud brilliance, though Johnston will be ruing the fact that the build-up was so easy for the home side. A preventable goal up to a point, but no keeper or defender was stopping Griezmann once he connected with the ball.

Such is the quality of the strike from Griezmann, his initial 0.12 score xG rose to 0.70 for PSxG, highlighting the forward's supreme talent in front of goal. An annoyingly special goal from a special player.

Saul Niguez goal (84’)

Saul’s goal has been shared thousands of times online on X, and not for a good reason. We’ll get to why in a bit, but first, we must get to why this chance was allowed to be converted by the former Chelsea loanee.

Liam Scales has no doubt deserved all of the praise that has come his way since stepping into Celtic’s back line. However, this goal transpired partly due to his positioning in that very place, perhaps due to his fatigued legs late on in the contest. Brazil winger Samuel Lino – fresh off of scoring Atletico Madrid’s fourth – directed a ball goalward – perhaps a shot – through Celtic’s tired defence. Who knows if it was a shot or a pass, though it worked out as the latter, as the ball fell straight to Saul just a couple of yards from the goal. Either way, Scales was playing Saul onside, which led to the goal happening in the first place.

Judging by the stills above, Scales was all over the place at the back for this Atletico attack. By moving away from the goal to track the ball, he got caught in no-man’s-land by trying to cover both defensive actions.  Now stuck in the middle, the Irishman has presented Saul with a tap-in, though he would make a mess of the original shot, scuffing it into the air.

As the chance continues to play out, this is the point of the attack where the internet got its viral clip, at the expense of Celtic’s goalkeeper. Take a look at Hart’s position, as he is actually beyond the goal line trying to make a save. Scales has got close to Saul, but the midfielder has lifted his second-chance opportunity to the roof of Hart’s net. This is a forgiving angle – admittedly, there are worse images of Hart’s position –  though the point still stands that this was incredibly shoddy goalkeeping from a professional who should know his surroundings a lot better.

A rare mistake from the impressive Scales, though again a Celtic player was punished in an instant following their misstep. These are the elevated levels that the club are up against, so the players cannot afford to give the opposition gifts, especially with the firepower they possess.


Celtic have been mercilessly punished at this level yet again by a top-level European outfit. Thankfully, they do not have to play a team of this level again for likely another year, though they must use this game as a learning experience going forward in the competition, especially due to its expansion next season.

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Not helped by playing with 10 men for a large chunk of proceedings, some of the goals were largely preventable in truth, as they were down to individual errors and lapses in concentration. Quite simply, if you present an inch to the likes of Atletico Madrid, then they’ll take a mile.

Lessons must be learned at this level in European competition.