Celtic’s superb run of form continued on Wednesday night as Ange Postecoglou’s side beat AZ Alkmaar 2-0 in the first leg of their Europa League qualifier.
Kyogo Furuhashi and James Forrest scored the goals for Celtic either side of half time, with David Turnbull setting up the first and Furuhashi turning provider for the second goal.
The Japan international caught the eye with a goal and an assist to bring his name to the fore, but another player was an unsung hero for Postecogliu’s side. Stephen Welsh put in a sensational performance at centre-back and may not get the same applause as Furuhashi due to defending not being as glamorous and scoring and creating goals.
As per FotMob, Furuhashi was the man of the match for Celtic with his performance up front – landing a score of 8.0 against the Dutch side. Welsh, meanwhile, scored an impressive 7.7 for his display, which was the next-highest score in the XI.
Whilst the attacker takes the acclaim and the MOTM award, Welsh should be commended for his commanding showing at the back. Without his important defensive work it could have been a different game for Celtic and we could be sat here speaking about a 2-2 draw or a 3-2 loss instead of a win.
He won four of his five defensive duels and made nine ball recoveries (game-high) during the game, whilst also making six clearances (game-high) from his own box. This shows that he was active defensively throughout the night and was able to stop Joe Hart’s goal from being put under siege by the Eredivisie side. His defending then allowed the likes of Furuhashi, Forrest and Rogic to go about their work in the final third, which means that Welsh provided the solid foundation that the win was built on.
Welsh also had an eye-catching 63 touches of the ball and completed 87% of his passes. Both of these stats were game-leaders for Celtic, showing that he was also able to add ball-playing skills to his defensive expertise – helping the Hoops to progress up and the pitch and retain possession.
Therefore, the £1.2m-rated colossus was Celtic’s unsung hero against Alkmaar. Hopefully, he will be able to turn in a similar performance in the second leg to help the Scottish giants see of their Dutch counterparts.