Stig wants to make Bhoys the vic­tims of an­other Nordic noir

Evening Times - - SPORT - By NEIL MUR­RAY

STIG Inge Bjornebye is no stranger to a Euro­pean NIGHT at Celtic Park, with the Rosen­borg Sport­ing Di­rec­tor hav­ing played a part in Liver­pool’s 2-2 draw there back in 1997.

That in­cred­i­ble Uefa Cup match in Glas­gow fea­tured a last-gasp equaliser by Steve McManaman, af­ter Jackie Mc­Na­mara and Si­mon Don­nelly had can­celled out Michael Owen’s early opener.

On Wed­nes­day night, light­ning struck again for Bjornebye as, this time, Rosen­borg held the Scot­tish Cham­pi­ons to a 0-0 stale­mate and were un­lucky not to have been vic­to­ri­ous.

Celtic’s lack of fire­power was ev­i­dent with strike pair Moussa Dem­bele and Leigh Grif­fiths both miss­ing, but Rosen­borg’s counter-at­tack­ing tac­tics al­most handed Kare Inge­brigt­sen’s men a valu­able away goal on more than one oc­ca­sion.

Bjornebye watched on with a sense of déjà vu as the Nor­we­gian out­fit nonethe­less earned a fine re­sult they feel con­fi­dent of build­ing on this mid­week in the re­turn match in Trond­heim.

He said: “I have good mem­o­ries of Celtic Park and the 2-2 game in the Uefa Cup. It was a fas­ci­nat­ing en­counter and I re­mem­ber a great at­mos­phere.

“We even­tu­ally went through on away goals at An­field af­ter a 0-0 draw, but I had a lot of re­spect for Celtic af­ter­wards. I have been back since that time for a cou­ple of Old Firm games and I am friends with Peter Lawwell. “On Wed­nes­day, we had some chances and per­haps de­served to win. In the end, it’s led to an in­ter­est­ing sec­ond leg in Nor­way. We were hope­ful to score an away goal in Glas­gow but 0-0 leaves it finely bal­anced. “Maybe when we bring Celtic back to our place we will have a bit more luck in front of goal.” Cer­tainly, Rosen­borg will feel they de­serve a break this year af­ter be­ing elim­i­nated at the same stage last sea­son by Cypriot Cham­pi­ons APOEL.

The Nor­we­gians led 2-0 at one stage in the tie, be­fore con­ced­ing a late away goal in the Lerk­endal Sta­dion and then lost the re­turn leg 3-0.

More in­cred­i­bly, they were in a qual­i­fy­ing po­si­tion as the clock struck 90 min­utes in Ni­cosia only to con­cede the three goals in in­jury-time.

BJORNEBYE is keen to avoid a re­peat of that sit­u­a­tion and guar­an­tees Inge­brigt­sen will have his play­ers well-versed in what to ex­pect from Bren­dan Rodgers’ men on Wed­nes­day.

They sim­i­larly earned a draw in Ire­land against Dun­dalk in the last round and sur­vived an early scare to even­tu­ally go through 3-2 on ag­gre­gate af­ter ex­tra time.

Bjornebye added: “We are wary of a good first-leg re­sult af­ter last year when we were un­lucky not to get through. We are hope­ful of avoid­ing a sim­i­lar sce­nario.

“We suf­fered a fright against Dun­dalk but Celtic is a step up and we will be pre­pared.

“We will give Celtic the re­spect they de­serve. We’ll have a game plan cen­tred around a struc­tured sys­tem, where all the play­ers will know their own in­di­vid­ual jobs.

“We ex­pect no sur­prises in the way Celtic will ap­proach the game.

“I know Celtic had some is­sues up front in Glas­gow but we ex­pect them to have that sit­u­a­tion well cov­ered in Trond­heim.

“They are a strong, solid side, very pro­fes­sional and have a lot of tra­di­tion.”

For­mer 76-times capped Nor­we­gian In­ter­na­tional Bjornebye heaped some pres­sure on Celtic, how­ever, as he be­lieves the Glas­gow club have more to lose if they fail to progress.

Celtic earned up­wards of €30mil­lion from last sea­son’s com­pe­ti­tion, where they faced Barcelona, Manch­ester City and Borus­sia Moenchenglad­bach in the group stage.

That gave Rodgers the op­por­tu­nity to splash the cash on new sign­ings Jonny Hayes and Olivier Ntcham.

Elim­i­na­tion at this stage would mean drop­ping into the Europa League play-offs for either side, where the prize money is a lot less lu­cra­tive.

And Bjornebye thinks that weight of ex­pec­ta­tion adds ex­tra spice to the sec­ond leg. He said: “We be­lieve this game will be a sell-out as there is ob­vi­ously great in­ter­est and there is a lot at stake for both clubs. With the re­sources Celtic have, they may even de­pend on qual­i­fy­ing for the group stage.”

Rosen­borg have al­ready taken Celtic’s scalp in this com­pe­ti­tion be­fore, with a 2-0 group stage win in 2001, fol­low­ing a 1-0 de­feat in Glas­gow.

They have also en­joyed suc­cess against the likes of AC Mi­lan, Va­len­cia and Porto. Bjornebye would be de­lighted with a re­turn to the group phase if his club can ne­go­ti­ate this game and a play-off.

He said: “With our his­tory, some of our fans may ex­pect us to com­pete at the level we en­joyed be­fore.

“How­ever, the com­pe­ti­tion is dif­fer­ent to what it was 15-20 years ago and it is more dif­fi­cult with so many qual­i­fiers now. It’s hard to com­pete in the same way now.”

Stig Inge Bjornebye hits a free-kick at Park­head for Liver­pool against Celtic in 1997

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