Upon facing the Celtics in the Champions League group match, the Nottingham Forest players expressed that there was no problem in winning on home ground. Twain took a list of the names of people who either expressed similar sentiments to the media or were overconfident in their usual training from Dunn. On the starting roster of this starting group match, none of those people were on it. Overconfidence was the most serious problem in the middle and back court. Shahin, Bostock, Bentley, Kompany, and Rafinha were on that list.
The Celtics saw another version of Nottingham Forest on the road: goalkeeper Akinfeev, central defenders Pepe and Woodgate, left back Joe Mattock, and right back Nkoulou. For the midfield position, eternal captain St. George continued to start. He was untouchable. The person who partnered with him was Tiago. The right avant-garde was Lennon, and the left avant-garde was Cohen. The forward line comprised partners van Nistelrooy and Agbonlahor. Not letting Ibišević start was a tactic to protect him and relieve him of pressure.
The Celtics were absolutely afraid to say that they could easily win over such a version of Nottingham Forest. In fact, because Twain had always liked frequently rotating, each lineup did not vary much in terms of strength. Anyone could be said to be the main lineup. Sometimes under his ingenious words, the lineup that was not an optimal one would bring immense energy to the field.
This was deeply felt in 07-08. During the Portsmouth season, they thought that the Nottingham Forest, which had a major rotation of the main lineup, could be easily bullied. He had planned to beat the incomparable team and the incomparable head coach at home. They almost succeeded. In the end, the outraged Nottingham Forest dominated with seven goals. After that, no one dared to look down on the second lineup of Nottingham Forest.
The Celtics used a lineup that prioritized defensive counterattacks on the road, striving for a steal by securing a point. Twain expected that the opponent would do that, but the Nottingham Forest of today was no longer a team that only defended counterattacks. Although his lineup lacked a midfield organizer like Shahin, George Wood's progress in offense was enough to make Twain feel relieved.
There was also a benefit to this midfield configuration. The midfielder had two defensive midfielders who cut off the route the opponent intended to use in his counterattack. In the formation of the two, the two people stood side by side, and the two side avant-garde positions were very forward. They were almost to the position of the winger and seemed to be far away. This was not the case during the actual competition. Wood and Tiago always took turns to intercept. The two frontiers would also retreat, so there was no danger that the distance would be too far to be cut off.
Twain had always asked players to be flexible, so his lineup did not represent actual results. On defense, he required everyone to strictly abide by tactical discipline. Things that should not be done were not done. On offense, he gave the players the greatest freedom to play freely under a big tactical frame. As long as one could score, he did not care how they did it.
The Celtics laid many men in the middle and backcourt, just like a web weaved by a spider, waiting for the stupid bird, which was Nottingham Forest, to slam into the net so a counterattack could be used to kill them.
Twain was no fool. He asked the team to press properly, but the defense line would not move. One of the benefits of getting Joe Mattock and Nkoulou to start was that they were more obedient than those old sticks in the mud. Bale had evolved into an old fritter, so he knew how to be sly and play tricks.
Twain did not ask for the fullback to assist the offense, but he asked for the midfielder to plug in. Originally, there were two midfielders, but they continued to take turns in the game to inset, causing the Celtics' defensive line to be cautious, especially toward Wood. His speed and body made him extremely threatening when he was plugging in, moreover his through pass was getting more clean and accurate. After playing for 30 minutes, Wood had two direct passes to penetrate the Celtics' heavy defense. Unfortunately, neither van Nistelrooy nor Agbonlahor could receive his ball.
The Celtics were also smart and immediately adjusted their defenses. The back line shrunk back further, not giving Wood any space for a straight pass.
After seeing it on the sidelines, Twain got up from the coaching seat and made his first adjustment in the game. He let van Nistelrooy get to the top and Agbonlahor to the side, emptied the middle, and strengthened the long shot. George Wood, Tiago, Lennon, Cohen, Agbonlahor, and van Nistelrooy could try to shoot long shots whenever they had the chance.
Although the long-range scoring rate might be the lowest of all scoring methods, the Celtics created such a good opportunity for Twain that he did not have to be too violent. After the Celtics' backline contracted, there was a big gap in the forefront of the penalty area. There were several times when Wood was there to take the position, but none of the Celtics players would give up the defensive, giving the Nottingham Forest players too many adjustment opportunities.
The Celtics were also unlucky. Wood, who usually had a poor aim, made two long-range shots that hit the door frame. Although there was no goal, stands of the city stadium cheered loudly. The Celtics reacted too slowly, hence they still did not rush forward to control Wood's long shots. On the third shot long shot, Wood scored.
"Hey, George Wood! Beautiful long-range shot! Fast, powerful, angled! His shot is getting better! Nottingham Forest leads at 1:0 at home!"
After the goal, George Wood was surrounded by teammates and rushed to the side of the field to enjoy the cheers.
"This is the best gift he gave to the club after he renewed his contract! He's always played a stable state and constantly made his opponents feel despair. Such a person renewing his contract in the team for another five years, Tony Twain must be the happiest person in the world!"
Twain stood up and applauded Wood's goal. He smiled from the side and said to Dunn, "Your efforts paid off. His long shot today and from when I first time I met him are worlds apart."
Dunn also applauded him. "It's his efforts. I didn't do anything. Demi was right. Wood's a genius even in this regard."
Speaking of Demi, Twain was a little lost. If Albertini was among the people around him, the Italian would probably be elated.
After scoring the goal, playing the match felt more manageable for Twain and his team. The core of his tactics was to let himself lead and then launch counterattacks against the opponent. This tactic was very cumbersome, but it worked best.
Now, he had to look at the opponent's mentality. If the Celtics felt that it was nothing to lose a goal on the road, they would continue to wait for the opportunity to counterattack. Maybe they could tie the score at the final moment of the game, which would be ideal. This was more uncomfortable for Twain. 1:0 was the world's most unsafe score, so he had to keep the team vigilant for the rest of the time, cautiously and constantly besieging the Celtics. At the same time, they had to beware of their counterattacks. This type of contest would be too tiring for the players. If he had the choice, he did not want to play like that for the remainder of the game.
Another possibility was that the Celtics were not willing to lose on the road. They would want at least a draw. So, they would try to attack the rest of the game.
This was Twain's favorite coping style. He could come and go with the opponent on the court. Of course, it was not a counterattack. Only a fool would launch attacks on a team that wanted to score. He wanted to defend those counterattacks. The two roles of the teams would switch. It was in his blood to play dirty like that.
This time, the Celtics did not do what he wanted. They chose to continue defending and waited for an attack. Twain had to stand on the sidelines and supervise the war, asking his players not to relax their vigilance.
During intermission, Twain repeated his request to everyone. He analyzed the current situation and asked them not to underestimate the enemy. They should not be taken lightly, and they should not relax. The defensive line was still not allowed to attack. They had to continue defending the opponent's quick counterattacks.
In this game, he had put all the self-confident and conceited players on the bench. From the player's mentality, he was not worried about anything.
Now, he just had to pray that there would not be any inexplicable accidents. At the beginning of the second half of the game, the Celtics intended to attack fiercely the moment the game started to equalize the score while the other party was still not completely focused. However, as Tony Twain had expected, Nottingham Forest was not inattentive at all, so they played against that instead. They made several counterattacks against the Celtics and almost scored.
This time, the Celtics were a lot more honest. They retracted and no longer came out. The second half of the game was quite dull. Nottingham Forest was indiscriminately bombarded by the Celtics' restricted area. Due to lack of luck, it was impossible to score. The Celtics' few counterattack opportunities could not threaten Akinfeev's goal.
Nottingham Forest finally won against the Celtics at 1:0 at home and gave them a good start on the Champions League death group match tour.
At the post-match press conference, Celtics coach Rod Strickland said, with some helplessness, "This is football. I think a draw was a fair and reasonable result."
Twain almost laughed out loud. What did he mean "fair and reasonable?" He responded sarcastically, "I'm not very satisfied because we only won by one ball."
A reporter later asked, "Group C was the recognized group of death, so can the victory on the Celtics explain that Nottingham Forest has taken the lead on the group's exit road?"
"I never thought about that issue," Twain said. "As long as we can continue to win, we will definitely be able to qualify. I prefer to focus on the opponents in the quarter-finals."
Scottish reporters were still a little too unaccustomed to Tony Twain's habitual madness, but the English reporters were accustomed to it. They rephrased their question. "Which two teams do you think would come out of the group?"
Twain looked at the reporter with a sigh of relief. "If I said that everyone has the potential to qualify, are you sure you won't be dissatisfied, thinking I am suffocating you guys?"
This sentence was very true. To Tony Twain's character, he almost never said anything that would be satisfying. He went on to give his own answer. "Nottingham Forest and any other team."
The three teams of the death team had become his foil. No one was surprised. It would have been more unsettling if Tony Twain were not arrogant. The reporters liked to see this Tony Twain.
A group of people were excited to prepare the titles of the next day's report:
Tony Twain sees nobody but himself
Twain looks down on Juventus!
Twain pre-registers in the form for the team leaving group matches
Twain could be very arrogant in front of the media, but that was a means for him to confuse his opponent. There was a quote from Sun Tzu's "The Art of War," All's fair in war. This was also the case for football.
In fact, his real idea was that any opponent in this group was a threat to the team, but there were three or six things in it. The most threatening team was Juventus followed by Atletico Madrid. The third was the Celtics, which he had just defeated.
Twain was not too worried about the team's morale and state of Juventus. The only team that had not won in the European Champions League two years ago must win this time! Everyone must have thought this way.
Playing Atletico Madrid was a challenge for the team. They were an opponent they had never encountered before, not to mention the team's silver boots shooter Aguero in the World Cup in South Africa.
As for the Celtics, returning to play at home was the final round of the group stage. If the forest team's qualifying situation had been fixed, how the results would go was not a concern to Twain. If the Celtics want to qualify or fight for a League Cup entry, they would inevitably launch a storm at home. Nottingham Forest would just deploy their best tactic to defend against counterattacks.
After the game, the media's attitude toward this game was mixed. The local media in Nottingham unanimously praised the performance of Nottingham Forest, saying they won a key victory and made a good start for the qualifying group. Although the score was not high and the scene was not good, the three points were the most crucial. This game has strengthened their confidence. They could once again smash the team's at the top of Europe.
There was also a lot of media sneering at Tony Twain's habitual arrogance. Just because of this Nottingham Forest team, it was not necessarily possible to qualify from the group stage, let alone things that were further away. Playing the Celtics, which was the weakest team in the group, and only having a 1:0 win at home, made it hard to understand how Twain could say, "The teams that will qualify will be Nottingham Forest and any other one."
Public opinion was generally not optimistic about Nottingham Forest qualifying from this group. They were more optimistic about Juventus and Atletico Madrid. As if to cite their ideas, Juventus and Atletico Madrid scored a 0-0 level at the Alpi Stadium. It seemed they were all ready to qualify from the group together and without conflict.