CELTIC eased past Sarajevo in the first round of the Champions League Qualifiers this evening, winning perhaps more comfortably than the 2-1 scoreline on the night suggests. With a 3-1 lead from the first leg in the Bosnian capital last week, Neil Lennon’s side could afford to be patient as they pressed home their superiority and in 24 minutes Ryan Christie fired the first goal of the evening high into the Sarajevo net.
Perhaps the floodgates were about to open after that breakthrough goal but resolute defending from the visiting, including more than their fair share of robust tackles combined with Celtic dropping down the gears to send the sides in level at the break.
The second half started just like the first with the visitors content to sit back and keep the scoreline down and Celtic pressing with perhaps a little less urgency than would normally be the case. When Ryan Christie lined up a free just after the hour mark, it looked like a second goal of the night might be on the cards and anyone who thought that would have been right. But it’s a funny old game and it was the visitors, who actually had the ball in the Celtic net in the opening seconds of the match only for a flag to be raised by the referee’s assistant, who shocked a rain soaked Celtic Park by grabbing an equaliser.
Tatar certainly finished nicely but Neil Lennon will be angry that the clean sheet was lost through pretty careless defending.
At this stage Sarajevo needed two more to force the tie into extra time but they failed to put in any sort of effort to get those goals, looking happy to hod out for a credible draw in Paradise. Tatar’s goal was joyfully celebrated by the very small band of supporters who had made their way to Glasgow from Sarajevo – a city whose story was so powerfully told by Matt Corr this week on The Celtic Star. It’s one of the first Celtic related articles ever published – please have a read HERE.
Celtic went in search of a winner as the referee continued to show maximum leniency to the visitors who had five books and probably deserved a couple fo reds. Certainly Scott Brown was continually making this point to the Luxembourg referee Alan Durieux, and it has to be said, that the Celtic skipper was right.
With 75 minutes gone Callum McGregor called for a pass from the right wing, and when the ball found him he took a touch to steady himself and drilled the ball low past the Sarajevo keeper Vladan Kovacevic, who had a fine match.
That was that. Leigh Griffiths came on to replace Edouard and got received the biggest cheer of the evening and both Morgan and Christie were take off after being on the receiving end of some additional rough treatment. Their replacements were Scotty Sinclair and Ewan Henderson. But by this time Celtic were happy to see out the tie with a comfortable 2-1 win on the night, 5-2 on aggregate.
The game come thick and fast in the Champions League qualifiers, next Tuesday the Estonian champions Nomme Kalju visit Celtic Park for the first leg of the Second round of qualifiers. Having won away the other night in Macedonia, Neil Lennon will be asking his players to raise their level for this next challenge.
However it is one that he will fully expect to negotiate. Good luck to Sarajevo in the Europa League.
Man of the Match – Ryan Christie.