Tuesday 20 March 2018

Celtic bow out of Europa League following draw with Fenerbahce

Fenerbahce's Gokhan Gonul, and Jozo Simunovic of Celtic fight for the ball during the Europa at Sukru Saracoglu Stadium in Istanbul. (AP Photo)
Fenerbahce's Gokhan Gonul, and Jozo Simunovic of Celtic fight for the ball during the Europa at Sukru Saracoglu Stadium in Istanbul. (AP Photo)

Ronnie Esplin

A Kris Commons equalising header helped Celtic regain some pride in their doomed Europa League campaign against Fenerbahce at the Sukru Saracoglu stadium but once again the Hoops were scarred by another self-inflicted wound in a 1-1 draw.

Fenerbahce 1 Celtic 1

The Parkhead club had travelled to Turkey for the first time guaranteed to finish bottom of Group A after taking just two points from five fixtures.

The Scottish champions had held their own in the first half with striker Nadir Ciftci missing a good chance but a howler in the 39th minute by keeper Craig Gordon allowed winger Lazar Markovic to score.

An Efe Ambrose mistake just before the break when the two sides met at Parkhead in October led to the Hoops surrendering a two-goal lead.

But this game changed in the 67th minute when Fenerbahce midfielder Diego, booked early in the first-half after an altercation with Hoops midfielder Stefan Johansen, was shown a straight red by Belgian referee Serge Gumienny for a kick at the Norwegian.

Moments after replacing Scott Allan in the 73rd minute, Commons headed in a Mikael Lustig cross for the point which takes Fenerbahce into the knockout stages with Molde and offered some hope next season for Celtic.

Boss Ronny Deila had vowed to bring Champions League football to Parkhead in the likely event that they win their fifth Ladbrokes Premiership title in succession but he will need to find a way to cut out the individual errors at both ends of the park which have proved so costly.

The Norwegian wanted Celtic to finish their downhill European sojourn on an upward curve and he made two changes from their win over Inverness in their last outing with midfielder Tom Rogic on the bench and injured Leigh Griffiths dropping out altogether.

Midfielder Allan, the summer signing from Hibernian, was given his first start after five substitute appearances, while Turkish striker Ciftci took over from top scorer Griffiths for his first start in almost two months.

In the fourth minute Gordon did well to tip a powerful angled-drive from Fenerbahce midfielder Mehmet Topal on to the post before the visitors scrambled the ball clear.

Celtic grew into the game, though, and had a great chance in the 24th minute when midfielder Nir Bitton released Ciftci through the middle with a fine pass but the Hoops striker's hesitation allowed defender Abdoulaye Ba to get in a saving tackle.

Gordon then spilled a long-distance effort from Deigo but made amends by knocking Souza's angled-shot from the loose ball over the bar for a corner which Celtic defended.

However, six minutes from the break the Scotland keeper raced from his goal to cut out a long and hopeful pass from Fenerbahce skipper Gokhan Gonul to Markovic and inexplicably let the ball go through his legs with the Fenerbahce wide-man, on loan from Liverpool, sliding the ball in from a tight angle.

The goal stunned Celtic, although they came close with seconds of the first half remaining when skipper Lustig's hooked shot from 16 yards was deflected past for a corner, which was headed past by stopper Jozo Simunovic.

Fenerbahce took control of the second half but on the hour-mark Ciftci seemed slow to react to defence-splitting pass from Allan with keeper Fabiano coming out to smother. There was little protest from Brazilian playmaker Diego when he was told to walk but his folly proved costly.

Commons replaced Allan and Rogic came on for Johansen with 17 minutes remaining and a minute later Commons, back after missing four games with a hamstring injury, headed in a Lustig cross from eight yards.

The visitors went looking for the first three points of the campaign but had to settle for the draw, which, not for the first time in the campaign, was perhaps scant rewards for overall efforts.

Press Association

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