Morton League Cup defeat highlights Celtic’s striker headache

Celtic Parkhead

The Bhoys are struggling for goals both domestically and in the Champions League

Neil Lennon admitted to being stunned by Celtic’s 1-0 defeat at home to Morton this Tuesday, but in truth this was a loss borne out of too many missed opportunities for the hosts, highlighting the ongoing problems in the final third for the Parkhead club.

In just over two hours of football against the Championship strugglers, the Hoops mustered 25 shots on goal, with just ten of those efforts coming on target, as first Teemu Pukki and then substitute Anthony Stokes failed to find the net.

The result could not have come at a more timely point either, with Ruud Gullit this week criticising the club’s lack of quality going forward, following their 2-0 defeat to AC Milan in the Champions league - a game in which the Scottish giants had 12 shots on goal yet failed to get off the mark.

"Celtic had unbelievable opportunities to score goals, but they didn't do it, because of quality," he told the BBC.

The Morton defeat was made all the more galling by the fact that south of the border Celtic’s one-time top scorer Gary Hooper appeared to be finding his feet at new club Norwich, with two goals in their 3-2 League Cup comeback win over Watford.

Lennon spent much of the summer searching for an adequate replacement to the Englishman and after failing with various targets the jury is still out on whether those recruited can fill the boots of the 25-year-old.

Amido Balde represents a signing of real potential, having previously impressed in Portugal with Vitória Guimarães, but a return of nine goals in 27 games last term does not suggest he will hit the same goal-scoring heights as Hooper.

In truth though, Lennon has only himself to blame in this respect, with the 6ft 4in Balde fitting the same brute-strength mould currently and more than adequately filled by Georgios Samaras.

The Greek forward may lack a prolific scoring touch himself, but he remains a strong aerial threat for Celtic and someone capable of scoring in crucial games - given the right supply line.

What Celtic need now though is an out-and-out goalscorer and with young star Tony Watt out of favour and out on loan, the club are pinning much of their hopes on Finnish arrival Pukki.

Signed from Schalke for a cool €2.5 million, the 23-year-old’s speed and versatility make him a valuable addition to the squad, but anyone thinking that the Scandinavian could one day emulate club icon Henrik Larsson are sorely mistaken.

Pukki notched up just eight goals in Germany, while a previous short spell with Sevilla gave further indication that he may not be the man to end Celtic’s goalscoring woes.

Instead the one faint ray of hope at the club is Anthony Stokes, who has scored 12 and 14 goals in his two full seasons with the team and was one of the stand-out stars in qualification for the Champions League group stage this year.

But with Stokes proving notoriously difficult to manage, Lennon would be risking a lot to bank on the forward to lead the line consistently for the club this season.

Next up is a trip to Barcelona where Celtic and Lennon could be handed a lesson in finishing.

image: © celticphotos

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