The dream of an unlikely quadruple died on Italian soil for Celtic tonight as they surcame to a late Freddy Guarin strike.
The tie was evenly balanced following a dramatic 3-3 draw in Glasgow a week previous, although Inter headed into the game branded as ‘heavy’ favourites. Celtic, however, since the turn of the year have found a new level under Ronny Deila and were full of belief that they could spring an upset in the San Siro.
The first half was an open affair, Celtic starting John Guidetti up top with the in-form Griffiths out through injury. Arguably, the best chance fell to the feet of Gary-Mackay Steven who after taking the ball out of the air, could not slot home past the on rushing Inter goalkeeper. Chances were few and far between with Gordon making a few good stops, atoning for his errors at Celtic Park. The game took a turn, however, towards the latter stages of the first half as Virgil Van Dijk received a ‘harsh second yellow’ in the words of John Hartson for a foul on Mauro Icardi . The nerazzurri, inspired by the extra man advantage, went on to push for the opener before half time but some desperate defending coupled with some inspired keeping saw the game stay goalless as it headed for the interval.
As the teams reemerged for the second half the task which faced Celtic was nothing other than monumental but the belief was still there in Ronny Deila’s side that they could nick a goal against a less than stellar defence. It was again a half of few chances with substitutions breaking the flow of the game as Inter looked to see out what seemed to be a comfortable night after what had transpired. Celtic brought on James Forrest and Kris Commons towards the end but, for all their defence work in the second half showed very little going forward. A long-range effort from Commons was the closest they came. As the game wore on so to the legs of the Celtic defence began to give and after 87 minutes a break from Inter resulted in a thunderbolt from Guarin. A man famed for the spectacular lashed the ball past the reach of Gordon into the top right corner of the net as Inter sealed their passage into the last 16. It could have been 2 if not for Gordon saving again in the dying minutes.
Celtic showed their frustration towards the Slovakian referee at the final whistle with Commons booked for venting his fury. Stuart Armstrong questioned the referees’ decision not to award him a first half penalty as well as the red card and several other baffling decisions.
With all that being said Celtic should be proud of their efforts. They gave their all and on another given night could have got the result. Their european exploits, again, have put Scottish Football on the map and given their supporters another memorable european adventure. So, as ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ rings around the San Siro Celtic’s players need to pick themselves up and continue their push for domestic dominance with a top of the table clash against Aberdeen on Sunday firmly in their sights.
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