Celtic had waited five long years to get themselves back into the promised land that is the Champions League, although just four games into life back in Europe’s premier competition and the Hoops’ hopes of progression are already at an end, with back-to-back defeats to Bundesliga side RB Leipzig proving costly.
The most recent loss to the German outfit at Parkhead will seemingly have been most frustrating for manager Ange Postecoglou, with the Old Firm giants squandering chance after chance to put themselves ahead, having enjoyed a stunning spell of pressure in the first half.
At the highest level, that lack of a clinical nature in front of goal is more than likely to be punished, with Marco Rose’s men subsequently showing their undoubted class to brutally clinch the points late on through Timo Werner and Emil Forsberg.
For all that wastefulness in the final third – which has left the Glasgow side scrambling to even secure a Europa League knockout stage berth with just a point in the current campaign thus far – in a defensive sense the hosts could have seemingly done little more, with stand-in skipper Cameron Carter-Vickers once again showing his quality at the heart of the backline.
The former Tottenham Hotspur man – who arrived in Scotland on an initial loan deal last summer before signing permanently in the recent window – has been a colossal presence for the club over the past year or so, having been “immense” during last season’s title triumph, in the words of pundit Chris Sutton.
That form has continued into the new campaign with the 24-year-old picking up five clean sheets from the opening seven league games thus far, while his injury absence was keenly felt in the shock defeat to St Mirren and in Saxony a week ago.
Back in the side for Tuesday’s crunch encounter, the £6.3m-rated titan looked imperious for much of the evening up against a fluid forward line of Andre Silva, Christopher Nkunku and the aforementioned Werner, notably winning 100% of his aerial duels and recording nine clearances on the night.
Not just a monstrous force defensively, the United States international also showcased his composure in possession as he recorded an impressive 90% pass accuracy rate from his 66 touches, having been a real ‘leader’ for Postecoglou’s side, in the words of Glasgow Live’s Ben Banks.
While the ten-cap gem’s match rating of 6.8, as per SofaScore, was far from eye-catching, the centre-back has enjoyed notable plaudits from across the game for his display, with Northern Ireland international Ryan McLaughlin dubbing him the “best centre half I’ve seen at Celtic since Van Dijk.”
That glowing assessment is a marker of just what an impact the defender has made during his relatively brief time with the Bhoys, with that man Virgil van Dijk no doubt some figure to be compared to, having sparkled for the club prior to his £13m exit for Southampton in 2015.
The towering Dutchman had been snapped up by former boss Neil Lennon for a measly £2.6m in 2013, although would go on to become a commanding figure in Scottish football, with ex-Hoops scout David Moss once remarking that “He is like a grown man playing in a children’s playground – he stands out like a sore thumb.”
The Liverpool “machine” – as dubbed by journalist Charlotte Coates – has proven a tough ask to try and emulate, although Carter-Vickers could be well way on his way to doing just that, having recently been dubbed the “best player in Scotland last season” by BT Sport’s Sutton (05/10/2022, 19:41).
On a largely disappointing night, the Southend-born sensation – who has been “excellent” at Celtic Park since his arrival, in the words of journalist Mark Hendry – was one of those who did more than enough to try and secure victory.