Back at European football’s top table after a three year absence, Celtic are definitely making up for lost time. The support has longed to have those special nights back at Parkhead, and wow, they were treated to another Euro classic. Facing England’s top team, spearheaded by mastermind Pep Guardiola, Celtic matched the multi-millionaires in what was a thrilling 3-3 draw.
An Atmosphere that can’t be Matched
Deemed the ‘Battle of Britain’ in the days leading up to the game, with little to none English pundits giving Celtic any hope; they were given the tag of massive underdogs. However, at paradise anything is possible. You only have to look back over the years. Tony Watt, anyone! Prematch, as the stadium began to fill and atmosphere build, the City supporters were beginning to understand what a European night in Glasgow’s east end is all about. A passionate You’ll Never Walk Alone rung around the famous arena, drowning out the travelling support, which were rarely heard from that point. The strains of the Champion’s League hymn sent the stadium into rapturous applause, shortly followed by the world renowned Celtic huddle. It was a noise Celtic Park hadn’t heard in three long seasons, the foundations shook, as the Italian referee got the game underway.
Magical Moussa Loves Paradise
Many had thought it would be a cagey start from the home side following their humbling in Barcelona, they couldn’t have been more wrong. Riding on a tremendous wave of support, Celtic took the lead after only three minutes. James Forrest’s late run was found perfectly from a Sinclair free kick 25 yards out; he in turn knocked the ball across goal finding the head of Sviatchenko, who found the net via the chest of Moussa Dembele. The noise that reverberated around the stadium was indescribable. However, as became the theme of the night, City struck back after eight minutes. A strike from Kolarov was wonderfully taken in by Fernandinho, who in turn swept the ball past Craig Gordon. Celtic wrestled back control following the setback, and retook the lead on 20 minutes after a wonderfully constructed move. Picking the ball up on the halfway line, Nir Bitton nutmegged Fernandinho before slipping the ball to Rogic; on the turn, the Aussie drove at the City backline before picking out the run of Tierney. The youngsters cross was inadvertently turned into his own net by Raheem Sterling. The Scottish champions were in front once more. Again, the blues were level within eight minutes. A slack pass from star man Dembele allowed David Silva to nip the ball off Brown in the midfield, and slide a wonderfully weighted pass to Sterling. The Englishman timed his run to perfection before selling both Gordon and Tierney for a dummy, and finishing with aplomb into the corner of the net. Approaching the end of the half, Rogic went close for Celtic with a free kick, before Sterling, a player transformed under Guardiola, rattled the top of the Celtic bar with a powerful drive. The first half flew by, thanks to waves of emotion coming from every sinew of the stadium and wonderful attacking football played by both sides.
Lightning Strikes Thrice
The second period followed in the same fashion as the first. Two minutes in, Dembele scored the goal of the night, firing Celtic in front for the third time. A routine cross into the box from Tierney was completely miscued by Kolarov, his clearance falling straight to the young French striker, who spectacularly hooked the ball back over himself and into the bottom right-hand corner. Claudio Bravo was left with no chance in the city goal, wrong footed by Dembele’s magic. Following suit, Manchester City equalised for the third time in the 55th minute. Intricate passing from Sterling and Silva unleashed Aguero on goal with Gordon to beat, but the keeper would make a fine stop. Unfortunately for Celtic, the ball fell kindly at the feet of Nolito who swept home. Six goals at paradise, with 35 minutes still yet to play. Man City really took a stranglehold of the game in the final half hour, pinning Celtic back whilst limiting their attacking threat. However, there was very little in the way of clear cut chances. An effort from Fernandinho which zipped just over Gordon’s bar, and a deflected Gundogan strike, which was wonderfully saved right at the death was as close as City came to a winner.
What a Difference a Week Makes
What a week for Celtic; stumbling to a narrow win over Alloa, to battering Kilmarnock, and now going blow for blow with the mighty Manchester City. It’s what the club thrives upon, entertaining the fans and preserving Scotland’s image on the European front. Everything said, Champions League nights are back at paradise, and boy are they back with a bang!