Saturday 16 December 2017

Legia run riot as Ambrose red leaves Celtic dreams in disarray

Legia Warsaw 4 Celtic 1

Legia's Miroslav Radovic is congratulated by teammates after scoring against Celtic in the Champions League qualifier at the Pepsi Arena in Warsaw. Photo: Piotr Hawalej/Getty Images
Legia's Miroslav Radovic is congratulated by teammates after scoring against Celtic in the Champions League qualifier at the Pepsi Arena in Warsaw. Photo: Piotr Hawalej/Getty Images

Ewing Grahame

New Celtic manager Ronny Deila has spoken about not allowing himself to be kidded by positive results if performances are substandard. Quite what he makes of this debacle remains to be seen.

Not only did his side lose, they turned in a display which was utterly shambolic and their hopes of qualifying for the play-offs for the Champions League are now almost certainly dead.

This was a car crash, made worse by the fact that their rivals missed two penalties and several other opportunities as well. A night of misery on the pitch was worsened with reports before kick-off that Hoops fans had allegedly been attacked in Warsaw.

Celtic started confidently and had the lead and a valuable away goal. Pukki could claim an assist but, in truth, his role was minimal. He supplied Callum McGregor wide on the right but the 19-year-old had it all to do.

Cutting inside, he burst past Tomasz Brzyski before firing in a shot from the edge of the penalty area which took enough of a deflection to loop over goalkeeper Dusan Kuciak. McGregor scored the only goal of the first leg against KR Reykjavic in Iceland earlier this month but teams are often at their most vulnerable immediately after taking the lead and so it proved in this match.

Left-back Adam Matthews was caught napping when the ball was played inside him, allowing Miroslav Radovic a free shot at goal. Even so, Fraser Forster will feel that he should have done better than allow the forward's scuffed angled drive from 15 yards to go through his legs. Celtic regrouped and Commons was shoved to the ground inside the box by Tomasz Jodlowiec, only for the Dutch referee to award a foul to the hosts.

Midway through the first half Commons clipped the top of the crossbar with a shot from distance but his rearguard was worryingly indecisive and appeared almost static at times as the Poles passed the ball around them.

The biggest problem for Deila's side was the distribution of the defenders, who regularly conceded possession cheaply as they attempted to build from the back and the home side moved in front following some more abject defending. Charlie Mulgrew failed to prevent a cross coming in from the right flank, Lustig missed it at the far post, allowing Michal Kucharczyk to nod the ball back across goal. Efe Ambrose was then outmuscled by Duda as he attempted to clear, leaving the unmarked Radovic with a simple finish from inside the six-yard box.

Jo Inge Berget, making his debut on loan from Cardiff City, had barely featured during the opening half but one cutback for McGregor at least forced a save from Kuciak. However, things took a turn for the worse for Celtic in the 44th minute when Ambrose was dismissed for a last-man foul on Kucharczyk, a direct result of a desperately poor first touch from the captain Charlie Mulgrew and the red card effectively turned the Hoops' dream into a nightmare.

Mulgrew, dreadful throughout, had a let-off in the 58th minute when his rash challenge on Duda gave Legia a penalty kick, only for their captain Ivica Vrdoljak to fire a yard wide.


That Celtic were still in the tie was entirely down to the shortcomings of their opponents. Sub Jakub Kosecki burst between Lustig and Matthews to fire in a netbound shot which was blocked by Virgil van Dijk, who could easily have given away another spot-kick with a clumsy hand ball.

Then Duda was denied a goal when his strike cannoned off Mulgrew.

Zyro was similarly frustrated when the outstretched leg of van Dijk prevented him from opening his account but he was left free to head home a cross from Radovic immediately afterwards.

The wretched Mulgrew provided Legia with a second penalty when he pulled back Kosecki, but Forster saved a second poor effort from Vrdoljak.

There was still time for things to get worse and they did. Mulgrew was caught dithering when Lukasz Broz crossed for Kosecki to fire home Legia's fourth. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport