Thursday 27 June 2019

Celtic slip up but lucky break sees them advance

Celtic 1 Salzburg 2

Fredrik Gulbrandsen pounces on Craig Gordon’s error to score Salzburg’s second goal. Photo: Ian MacNicol/Getty Images
Fredrik Gulbrandsen pounces on Craig Gordon’s error to score Salzburg’s second goal. Photo: Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Roddy Forsyth

Celtic made it into the knockout stage of the Europa League despite being beaten by Salzburg, for whom Munas Dabbur and Fredrik Gulbrandsen scored second-half goals, before Olivier Ntcham scored a late consolation, tucking away the rebound from his own penalty awarded for a foul on Filip Benkovic.

The crucial event, though, occurred in Germany where Leipzig were held to an improbable draw by Rosenborg, this ensuring Celtic's advance.

"A couple of minutes beforehand I heard the crowd going wild so I thought maybe something had happened in Germany," Celtic midfielder Scott Brown said.

Fantastic

"We've worked hard and got through a hard, hard group and for us to get European football yet again after Christmas is fantastic.

"We didn't get the result we wanted tonight but we have managed to qualify."

Celtic's Ryan Christie reacts after sustaining an injury. Photo: Action Images via Reuters/Lee Smith
Celtic's Ryan Christie reacts after sustaining an injury. Photo: Action Images via Reuters/Lee Smith

Salzburg had previously booked their place in Monday's draw for the round of 32 and were guaranteed to finish top of Group B but their assured progress did not diminish their desire to finish this stage of the tournament on a high.

The Scottish champions were deployed in their recently-acquired 4-1-4-1 formation which meant that Brown was on the bench, despite the wealth of European experience that might have helped stem the tide of red jerseys pouring inexorably towards Craig Gordon.

Powerful and technically adept, Salzburg spent almost all of the first half operating in Celtic territory to the extent that, by the break, they had controlled 64pc of possession, a statistic witnessed rarely from visitors to this venue.

An early save by Craig Gordon from a Zklatko Junuzovic header drew an ominous groan from the home crowd but more tangible pain was felt by Mikael Lustig in the next Salzburg surge when he was the victim of a clash of skulls that left him prostrate and in need of several minutes' treatment.

Kristoffer Ajer misses a chance from close range. Photo: Graham Stuart/PA Wire
Kristoffer Ajer misses a chance from close range. Photo: Graham Stuart/PA Wire

Once revived, Lustig, along with his defensive colleagues, was afforded no relief from the Austrian pummelling.

Lustig was able to soldier on for another quarter-hour before being replaced by Kris Ajer.

A flicker of hope was kindled by James Forrest when the winger took advantage of a rare Salzburg error to sprint forward for a driven cutback which found no takers.

Rodgers made the necessary change at the interval when he replaced Scott Sinclair with Brown, a switch which injected energy immediately into the midfield.

Olivier Ntcham scores from the penalty spot. Photo: Graham Stuart/PA Wire
Olivier Ntcham scores from the penalty spot. Photo: Graham Stuart/PA Wire

Another substitution, however, reduced Celtic's options when Ryan Christie was injured while blocking a shot and was stretchered off to be replaced by Ntcham.

Midway through the second half, however, the opening blow was inflicted by Dabbur when his header from Lainer's cross found the net, although Gordon got a hand to it.

Just into the final quarter hour, though, the goalkeeper's attempt to roll the ball to Kieran Tierney was intercepted by Gulbrandsen and turned home by the Salzburg substitute.

That seemed to have nailed the coffin lid on Celtic's hopes of a place in the knockout round - until the news of Rosenborg's late equaliser in Germany electrified the crowd and ensured one of the most unlikely qualifications in the Hoops' history, garnished Ntcham's goal deep into injury time. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers acknowledges the fans. Photo: Graham Stuart/PA Wire
Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers acknowledges the fans. Photo: Graham Stuart/PA Wire

Telegraph.co.uk

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