Celtic 1-2 Molde: Groundhog Day for Ronny Deila in Europe
If you were to cast Ronny Deila in a movie, he'd have to be Bill Murray's character in Groundhog Day, a man who lives his life in a loop, waking every morning to the realisation that everything that happened yesterday was about to happen all over again today.
That was Hollywood and a piece of fantasy. This was Glasgow and too much reality.
We're in the 36th minute of Celtic's Europa League contest with Molde and it's 1-1. Etzaz Hussain chips a cross to the home team's far post and suddenly it's 6am and we're listening to Sonny & Cher's "I Got You Babe".
Same lack of concentration in the Celtic defence as before on these nights, the same inability to make a tackle count, the same blind spot to the runners, the same endgame, when Daniel Hestad shows more hunger than the last witless Celtic defender, Tyler Blackett, and almost karate-kicks the ball into Craig Gordon's net.
As a goal, it was an abomination. Another one. Under Deila, there is a catalogue of such moments in Europe.
Wind the play backwards, slow it down and freeze it at the moment when Hussain delivers the ball and you're reminded of all those mishaps against Legia and Maribor, Salzburg and Zagreb, Malmo and Molde the first time round.
There are eight Celtic men in the penalty area and four Molde attackers. When Mohamed Elyounoussi gets the better of Tom Rogic, there are four Celtic men in the six-yard box and one Molde attacker.
When Elyounoussi dinks in his cross to the back post, Blackett is goal-side of Hestad and seemingly in a good position to deal with it. With the ball heading into their airspace, Hestad becomes active and Blackett becomes passive.
There's only one winner and it's the guy with the heart to get there. The guy in blue. The guy who wants it more.
As the ball hits the net, there are eight Celtic men in camera shot and three from Molde. Out-numbered more than two-to-one and still they score.
Deila always calls it as he sees it. Sometimes the way he sees it is completely wrong.
In the aftermath of another sobering failure in the Europa League, the Celtic manager bemoaned the performance of his team.
He said that Celtic "didn't reach the level we are normally at." Quite clearly, he was mistaken.
They absolutely did reach their level. And this is it. Losing head-wreckingly cheap goals in Europe is their norm now. Failing to win against this type of opposition is the way of things.
Nights like Thursday are not the exception at Celtic any more, they're the rule.
They've had three shots at the Champions League under Deila and they've flunked all three. Now they have no wins from four in their Europa League group.
In their last half-dozen matches in Europe, they have conceded 13 goals. More than two a game. They're going out there with a psychology of having to score three to win a match.
|Celtic managers' results in Europe - first 24 games|
At what point does Deila stop kidding himself into thinking that his team are better than they are and accept that this is what they've become?
He plaintively suggested that Celtic's qualification hopes are still alive, that they are capable of victories over Ajax in Glasgow and Fenerbahce in Istanbul in the last two rounds in the group. Deila is seeing things that most others can't see.
His team have won just two games out of 12 in the Europa League on his watch. They have yet to win away from home in this competition in his time.
In their last seven games, they have taken three points from a possible 21, so the notion of six from six in the coming weeks is one he'll find hard to sell.
There was something else that Deila said in the wake of the defeat by the sixth-best team in Norway. "All the time we analyse what we are doing." It was a straightforward statement and one you wouldn't normally highlight, if it wasn't for what Deila had said the day before.
He said he didn't analyse the previous match with Molde, a 3-1 horror show a few weeks back. He took the DVD, crushed it up and threw it in the garbage. "That was not Celtic," he remarked on Wednesday.
The point he was making was that it was worthless watching that error-strewn performance and trying to learn from it because it was so out of character. It was a one-off, a bad day that wouldn't be repeated. Hence, no point wasting time looking at it.
"Some managers would go through it all again, but they are not the best ones, I can assure you," he said.
The counter argument would be that the "best ones" would study the DVD from sun-down to sun-up to figure out what went wrong so that they could put the fixes in place.
The "best ones" are obsessed about detail and excellent at imparting knowledge to their players in a way that is easy to understand. The "best ones" somehow manage to simplify complicated game-plans and make them work.
Now that his team have made the same kind of cataclysmic errors as they did in Molde and Malmo, what does Deila do? Declare it another one-off and toss the DVD in the rubbish again?
Celtic are not learning and it's painful to watch. They're like a prize-fighter who lands some clean blows but who continually leaves his guard down and then wonders why the hell he's getting knocked out all the time. They do good things in matches, but the wretched things make their lives impossible.
Every team that plays this Celtic side knows about its soft underbelly and its propensity to lose the plot.
Light can turn to shade very quickly for them. One minute, they're bombing forward and creating things and the next the gaps they've left in pursuit of a goal are plugged by the opposition. And then they're reeling. It's not quite Keystone Cops, but it's not far off.
Molde's first goal was a lovely strike by Elyounoussi, but he was given the ball by Blackett and the space by Blackett's team-mates. Their second - and the winner - was about defensive indecisiveness and then defensive absent-mindedness.
This keeps happening. In Europe, Celtic are going backwards.
The club's hierarchy have things to ponder. Deila is trying to rebuild the side.
Some of the Celtic decision-makers will be minded to give him time to get on with it and others will want to see more reason to give him that time. It's there domestically, but not internationally.
It was a dank night in the east end of Glasgow. A night that posed many questions.
There was one bright shaft and it was Kieran Tierney, a full-back who's backing up performances week on week.
He can defend, attack, play a pass and hit a cross. He's got pace and hunger.
Sure, he's a raw work-in-progress, but that's OK. He's 18-years-old and still he was Celtic's best player against Molde.
Deila singled him out afterwards. KT, he called him. "A positive thing on a dark day." The only positive.
Celtic Park used to be a European fortress where even Cristiano Ronaldo's Manchester United, Lionel Messi's Barcelona and Kaka's AC Milan could not avoid defeat. The memories remain vivid, but, really, those days, and that relevance in Europe, are an eternity ago.
It was once a hub of excitement, but Celtic Park has become a faded fairground, a tired version of its former self.
Those great 'European nights' we talked about? That kind of glamour has gone from the place.