Carl Starfelt: Recognising Celtic’s unassuming defensive rock

Cameron Carter-Vickers may have won the man-of-the-match award and the received the plaudits in the aftermath of another stellar defensive display against Rangers. However, the performance of his centre-back partner Carl Starfelt should not go unrewarded.

The Swede has come in for some criticism during his time at Celtic following a nervous first couple of games in the Hoops at the beginning of last season.  Since then, he has gone on to form a formidable partnership with Carter-Vickers over the past two seasons; one that has not lost a game when both have started together this season.

Yesterday, at Hampden Park, the 5 times Swedish international silenced his remaining critics with a strong and commanding performance.  It was one that earned Starfelt a personal redemption after his late own goal in last season’s Cup semi-final at the same venue, against the same opponents.

With Celtic sitting back and soaking up the pressure in the second half yesterday, Starfelt and Carter-Vickers were amongst the most heavily involved players in the action.

Defensive domination

Both CCV and Starfelt were dominant in the air as Rangers regressed to type and threw cross after cross into the Celtic penalty area.  CCV won 7 of his 8 aerial duals while Starfelt won 10 out of 12, including all four against Alfredo Morelos.  The Swede also led the way with 9 successful interceptions, 13 recoveries, and had a pass completion of 92%.

On pure defensive output, Starfelt once again showed he is a more than capable defender.  And, not for the first time in recent weeks, stepped up to the plate when it mattered most in a big game.

Often maligned for having an error in his game, Starfelt did concede possession on 11 occasions yesterday – only Taylor and Maeda lost the ball more.  However, not one of those turnovers occurred in an area that would put Celtic under pressure.

As Carter-Vickers has struggled with injury over the past month or so, Starfelt has upped his game and reduced his own individual errors leading to him out-performing the American in the last league Glasgow Derby.

Time to shine

With CCV now out for the rest of the season, the onus will be on Starfelt to continue his rise and take on increased responsibility as he nurtures Yuki Kobayashi into the team.  This will also necessitate a move to his more natural right-centre-back position, one where he can fully concentrate on doing the defensive duties he performs so well.

In the absence of CCV, this is Starfelt’s time to shine.  On the basis of yesterday, he is more than ready to do just that.


Kevin McCluskie

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