Kieran Tierney in for long haul at Celtic, to scouts' chagrin
Last night was certainly no different at a vibrant Celtic Park – a throng of German journalists meant there were as many elbow infringements in the press box as on the pitch. But it’s unusual for the same overflow arrangement to be applied to the area reserved for scouts.
As many as 17, enough to form their own oompah band, were reported to have been drawn to Parkhead last night, the majority lured by the twin package of Kieran Tierney and Moussa Dembele.
In the case of Tierney, these suitors were not to be put off by news, broken on the eve of the game, confirming the left-back had signed a new contract until 2023. Dystopian sci fi flick Blade Runner 2049 is set not much longer in the future. Tierney will still be playing in the hoops on red arid pitches lit by a toxic post-nuclear glow.
Like a spurned lover, these scouts were not to be dissuaded by his apparent unavailability. Indeed, it serves only to make Tierney more desirable. After all, he must be something special if Celtic are prepared to invest so much in him, for so long. Tierney’s performance here only helped fan these flames of desire. It wasn’t so much what he did as what Arjen Robben didn’t do.
Still, the 33-year-old Dutch winger received generous applause from many Celtic fans when he was substituted in time added on.
Not quite the attacking force he normally is when on domestic duty, Tierney quickly soothed those fearing Robben running amok on a night when his tricks and treats were especially appropriate. The winger had the door slammed in his face by a determined Tierney. Never mind scouts from elsewhere, Jupp Heynckes was surely impressed by Tierney, who performed in front of the veteran German manager’s nose in the second half.
After Neymar v Anthony Ralston, Tierney against Robben was confidently expected to be much less of a mismatch. That’s not to discredit Ralston, a willing, talented teenager who could only benefit from such a test earlier in the campaign against Paris-Saint-Germain. Tierney, while just a couple of years older, is a young man with the world at his feet.
That he’s decided to plant these feet at Celtic Park for a further six years meant he found himself feted to an even greater degree. Describing him as simply one of Celtic’s own struggles to do justice to how he is viewed.
Harry Kane, Spurs to his core, is a feckless charlatan next to Tierney, whose passion for the club in whose colours he plays would grant him cult status whether he was any good or not.
Happily for Celtic and those fans who adore him, he is very good – and with the potential to get even better. Even as long as 15 minutes before kick-off the Green Brigade were chorusing his name.
Football is a goalscorers’ world, left-backs normally only live in it. But Tierney is not any other left-back, which is just as well given the brief he was handed last night: “When you’ve finished keeping Robben quiet, be sure to snuff out James Rodriguez’s threat”. The two Bayern danger men often switched positions with each other, 155 caps of talent between them. Tierney did more than just cope.
He found time to set up a sweeping Celtic attack early on, dispossessing Arturo Vidal with a crunching tackle and sending James Forrest on his way. Stuart Armstrong should have done better than scuff the ball past the far post from the winger’s cross.
Another Halloween encounter against a Scottish club for Bayern – they lost the first goal to Raith Rovers on the same night 22 years ago before recovering to win 2-1 at their old Olympic stadium – got off to a similarly slow start. Celtic were competing well and Dembele dragged a shot wide. However, defensive slackness allowed Bayern to establish a foothold in the game through Kingsley Coman, whose well taken 22nd minute goal remained the difference between the sides until a patient, brilliantly-worked move saw Forrest slip in Callum McGregor for Celtic’s equaliser.
But the home side’s defensive fragility remained – down their right side, notably – to allow Javi Martinez to head home David Alaba’s cross. Tierney looked on, as aghast as any Celtic supporter in the ground, before, socks rolled down to ankles, he and his team-mates deservedly took the applause of his own folk.