Cluj Horror Repeated as Copenhagen Punish Celtic errors

CELTIC got everything they deserved against a well organised Copenhagen side who after the first 45 minutes in the first leg – when the tie could have been out of sight – had Celtic sussed.

And for the second time this season in knockout European football, Celtic earned a creditable 1-1 draw in the away first leg then bottled it completely in a dreadful second leg.

Neil Lennon, once again, was guilty of over thinking his team selection and also of failing to look to his bench. And you suspect that there were players in that starting eleven who were not match fit – Scott Brown for instance – and some with nowhere near enough match sharpness – Moi Elyounoussi and Tom Rogic.

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They say it’s a funny old game. Celtic best Lazio home and away only to lose —3-1 to a team roughly at the same level as Rosenborg- and you know what, we have nobody to blame but ourselves.

The weird idea of shifting formation depending on who has possession just seemed to confuse the players and all three goals conceded would embarrass a Sunday league pub team.

What the hell was Jozo Simunovic thinking of with that terrible decision at the opener? He could have done anything, concede a throw-in, even a corner but my oh my. That was a calamity.

Copenhagen’s high press was pinning Celtic in our own half and for much of this game there was no flow to the play but a Callum McGregor did find the back of the net but the joy was short lived as the referee saw an infringement and awarded a free-kick.

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Minutes later Celtic we’re behind, despite the best efforts of Christopher Jullien to save the day. Like Celtic, the big Frenchman stumbled at the crucial moment, a metaphor for Celtic’s night. Santos couldn’t believe his luck as he accepted the gift.

VAR then came to Celtic’s rescue and Odsonne Edouard concerted the penalty with a coolness that had to be admired. Copenhagen never score more than once in Europe and the perceived wisdom was that they would settle for penalties

But another catastrophic error, this time from Tom Rogic with a weak header in the centre circle that failed to reach his captain and Copenhagen’s Biel pounced after a comedy of errors in the Celtic defence with Kris Ajer at fault. It was a sickener, Celtic now needed two goals with five minutes plus stoppage time remaining.

But it was another Simunovic error in the last minute that allowed N’Doye to add insult to injury and end Celtic’s European season, just as happened against Cluj in August.

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Neil Lennon remarkably used only the one substitute- despite so many players being well below acceptable levels. Scott Brown wasn’t fit, Frimpong should have played at right back and should have been brought on to provide another attacking option.

So no more Europa League trips this season and Scotland still has one side in the last 16, and we know who that is.

“I’m hugely disappointed. We were in control in the first-half. We made a mistake that gave them encouragement and we shot ourselves in the foot for the second goal, “ Neil Lennon said afterwards, adding that he was “bitterly disappointing in the manner we lost. Copenhagen didn’t have to work too hard for their goals. We gave them away cheaply and that’s not like us at all,” the manager said.

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“We’ve got another big game on Sunday and I’m not going to throw anyone under a bus. We win as a team and we lose as a team.

“We let ourselves down in really important moments of the game tonight.”

It is hard to even think who deserves a Man of the Match Award – let’s give it to Edouard for the penalty. It was a thing of beauty on a dreadful day all round for Celtic.

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About Author

The Celtic Star founder and editor, who has edited numerous Celtic books over the past decade or so including several from Lisbon Lions, Willie Wallace, Tommy Gemmell and Jim Craig. Earliest Celtic memories include a win over East Fife at Celtic Park and the 4-1 League Cup loss to Partick Thistle as a 6 year old. Best game? Easy 4-2, 1979 when Ten Men Won the League. Email editor@thecelticstar.co.uk

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