Daily Record

Cruel hand of wait

Bren’s Bhoys come of age but first CL win in decade eludes them


IT started as many feared it would. And it ended as it almost always does... with Celtic licking their Champions League wounds all over again.

But even though much of what went on inside Parkhead was entirely predictabl­e last night, it didn’t make the 95-minute thrill ride from A to B any less engrossing.

In fact, at times what went on under the lights took the breath away as Brendan Rodgers and his players produced a coming-of-age performanc­e and yet still somehow failed to cling on for a first group stage win here in more than a decade.

Spellbindi­ng throughout an adrenalin-surging first 45 minutes, they took the lead twice through Kyogo Furuhashi and Luis Palma.

It was no more than they deserved for their phenomenal efforts.

And yet, in the end, they were left with just a single Group E point after running out of steam in the second half and being left deflated by Alvaro Morata’s equaliser.

With the return to come in less than a fortnight, Celtic’s hopes of dropping into the Europa League may also have been punctured beyond repair. The savage cruelty of this competitio­n has beaten them up again.

Long before the warm-up, the Green Brigade were already laying out their display – and in full view of stewards and security – just to prove they’ll do whatever they want, whenever they want to do it.

Rodgers, though, who has been targeted by this particular herd before, had a game to be getting on with and one of genuine importance.

It was no surprise at all that his starting XI from Tynecastle on Sunday remained unchanged. But what did come as a shock – and in particular to Atletico – was the trick Rodgers and his players had up their sleeve as they stormed into the lead just threeand-a-half minutes in.

This was not any ordinary opening goal. This was a piece of sporting art.

It began with Kyogo pinging a short pass to Daizen Maeda who, in turn, zipped it into the feet of Matt O’Riley 30 yards from goal.

O’Riley’s first touch was a slide rule pass in behind Atletico’s flat-footed defence for the darting Kyogo, who then created further confusion in the Spaniards’ ranks by sending the ball back towards the Dane.

And O’Riley had them completely flummoxed with yet another delicious first-time pass back to Kyogo, who took a touch to steady himself before scooping a left-foot finish inside Jan Oblak’s right-hand post.

If there’s a slicker, more stylish goal anywhere in Europe this week, then it will take some doing.

And it rattled the Spaniards, who were already being swallowed up by the bedlam all around.

Manager Diego Simeone prowled disapprovi­ngly around his technical area, gesturing at his players to calm down. Heads were being scrambled amid this pounding mayhem though.

Yes, they settled and pulled level midway through the half from the spot after Greg Taylor tripped Nahuel Molina. Antoine Griezmann found the net at the second attempt after Joe Hart had clawed out the French striker’s penalty.

But the truth is, for all Griezmann’s class and the threat of Morata, Celtic were not only overpoweri­ng Atletico in midfield, they were passing through them. Skipper Callum McGregor was

at the heart of almost every move and O’Riley glided over the ground.

It was sensationa­l stuff and not least because Rodgers had been forced into a change moments after Kyogo’s opener when Reo Hatate went down clutching a hamstring and had to be replaced by rookie Paulo Bernardo.

Sensing their superiorit­y, Celtic charged back up the pitch following the equaliser to storm into another deserved lead within five minutes.

This time Maeda thundered on to Taylor’s probe down the left and fired a low cross into the box.

The ball was behind Kyogo’s darting run to the front stick but fell perfectly for Palma, who took one touch to assess his options and then lasered a right-foot shot into a gap inside Oblak’s right-hand post.

And the Slovenian keeper then reacted superbly to prevent a third Hoops goal before the break after O’Riley had cannoned a volley into the turf, sending it soaring off towards the roof of Atletico’s net. When the half-time interval came, it felt like an unwelcome intrusion.

And there were danger signs at the restart with Atletico immediatel­y on the front foot – as if they were terrified to go back inside to face Simeone until the damage had been repaired.

It took them only eight minutes to draw level again as Molina sped away from Bernado’s tackle before feathering a cross in from the right, which had Morata’s name written all over it.

The 31-year-old striker did what he’s done his whole career, burying a header at the back post without giving Hart a chance of keeping it out.

Moments later, after a defensive brain fart, Morata was in behind again to force Hart to scramble the ball around his left-hand post.

For the first time on the night, it felt as if this Champions League game might get away from Celtic again. As they almost always seem to do.

Rodgers reacted by replacing Palma with Nat Phillips and switching to a back three in a move that caused confused mutterings all round.

But with Palma running out of steam, the manager had to steady the ship for the final half hour.

It was a very different game now. The ferocious first-half atmosphere had fizzled into a familiar, nervous hush and Atleti’s players were coming at Celtic in waves.

Hart had to keep another one out when sub Angel Correa turned Cameron CarterVick­ers and lashed a shot the keeper saved with his feet.

Nine minutes from time, however, Celtic caught a break when the outstandin­g Rodrigo de Paul lunged into one tackle too many and, having already been booked, was duly sent packing to leave the Spaniards with 10 men and take the inevitable sting out of the tail.

 ?? ?? QUicK To iMPReSS Kyogo nets opener just three-and-a-half minutes into clash
QUicK To iMPReSS Kyogo nets opener just three-and-a-half minutes into clash
 ?? ?? 1-0
 ?? ?? MaD STUFF From top, Griezmann’s leveller, Palma’s rocket, and Green Brigade protest. Main, Morata nicks point for Atletico
MaD STUFF From top, Griezmann’s leveller, Palma’s rocket, and Green Brigade protest. Main, Morata nicks point for Atletico
 ?? ?? caN’T lUiS NoW Palma enjoys making it 2-1
caN’T lUiS NoW Palma enjoys making it 2-1

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom