Real Betis’ dramatic, four-goal fightback against Celtic last night certainly caught John Hartson, shifting uncomfortably in the BT Sports commentary booth, by surprise.
And the Hoops legend had a point.
Until the influential Juan Miranda cut Celtic’s 2-0 lead in half on 32 minutes, Ange Postecoglou’s visitors had been the dominant force in front of a stunned Estadio Benito Villamarin crowd, a Claudio Bravo save away from extending the lead given to them by an Albian Ajeti tap-in and a brilliant Josip Juranovic penalty.
But while Celtic did outplay and out-think the sixth-best team in Spain during a free-flowing first half hour, it’s not as though Betis failed to create chances.
Is Europa League hero Joe Hart Celtic’s best goalkeeper in years?
Joe Hart, Postecoglou’s veteran goalkeeper, rolled back the years during a performance that wouldn’t have looked out of place in his Manchester City heyday.
Before denying World Cup winner Nabil Fekir at his near post, Hart sprung to his right to tip away a close-range Victor Ruiz header that had flown like a bullet through a crowd of bodies in front of the former England number one.
Hart, Andalusian publication El Desmarque said in its post-match debrief, was in “inspired” form.
And it isn’t the first time in his short-lived Celtic career the 34-year-old – an obvious upgrade on some of the shot-stoppers that have come before him at Parkhead – has bailed out a defence that looks about as secure as a wooden picket fence in front of Area 51.
Carl Starfelt and Cameron Carter-Vickers were all at sea as Real Betis scored four goals in 18 minutes either side of half-time. Anthony Ralston, meanwhile, despite all his heart and endeavour, struggled to cope with the superb Miranda, hardly helped by Felipe Jota failing to stick to his defensive duties.
At least with a goalkeeper of Hart’s quality and experience between the sticks, a shot on target doesn’t guarantee a goal these days.