Honours Even in Copenhagen so Home Advantage should edge it for Celtic next Thursday

If you didn’t enjoy that last night then you may be Spanish, Italian or Portuguese. For the rest of us that is what football is all about. A genuine rip roaring game.

Perhaps not one for the purists but the sort of encounter that would make me consider returning to a subscription TV if only they could guarantee games like tonight, that they’d transferred Kris Boyd and Kris Commons to BBC Alba and that a European league minus the aforementioned countries was part of the plan.

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For those who remember Saint and Greavsie on a Saturday lunchtime I’ll drop us back to the 80’s. ‘It’s a funny old game same Saint’ and ‘it was a game of two halves Greavsie’ gets the cliché’s out the way but basically covers what the game last night was all about.

In the end Celtic take a 1-1 draw from Copenhagen and have it all in our hands at Paradise next Thursday night. It’s a tie that is there for the taking but it will be a big fight night.

Twenty-five seconds from kick off Edouard had the chance to put Celtic in front but perhaps the speed of the opening exchanges caught our main man a little cold, a dink was all that was required but the limbs and brain were not quite warmed up and the chance went a begging. It was a bright start though and the next clear chance was just round the corner.

Then after three minutes a chance for Edouard again this time goalkeeper Karl-Johan Johnsson who was exceptional tonight and worth keeping an eye on as to future availability blocked well at point-blank range and recovered in time to kicks away Olivier Ntcham’s shot from edge of the penalty box on the rebound.

Only a minute later and Copenhagen broke on the Celtic defence and man monster of a striker Dame N’Doye went through on goal only to be thwarted by a brilliant Kristoffer Ajer tackle. It was a breathless start and there was more around the corner. Celtic’s first away goal in the knock-out stage of European competition since 2003 and third time lucky for French Eddy.

Ryan Christie fed James Forrest at the edge of the penalty box, and Jamesey’s quick flick found our misfiring talisman and Edouard delicately chipped Karl-Johan Johnsson as the goalkeeper went to ground, the ball sneaked just inside the corner of the net. A beautiful finish and just what Celtic deserved.

The other big moment of the first half was a brutal clash of heads between Copenhagen striker N’Doye and Jullien. Both had already exchanged pleasantries in a good old fashioned Centre half/Centre forward tradition. Both required medical intervention, both eventually got up but it’s fair to say N’Doye proved he has the hardest of nappers. Jullien tried to rock the cotton wool up the nose look with French panache but didn’t quite carry it off.

There was one last chance in a half dominated almost entirely by Celtic as Ryan Christie played in a deep free-kick, but Jullien’s view was blocked by his Johnson and Johnson nose bag and the big man’s downward header went straight at Karl-Johan Johnsson.

Then came the second half. If like me you thought Copenhagen looked a bit rustier than expected then perhaps what happened next also saw you like me, call the drug busters hotline and ask them to search for signs if intravenous drug use in the Copenhagen changing room at half time. Whatever happened in there at half time led to performance enhancement that’s for certain.

The Danes came flying from the traps but the goal conceded was of Celtic’s own doing. Olivier Ntcham lost possession outside his own penalty box as he turned into play looking to counter attack when a clearing of the lines would have been a more sensible approach.

Rasmus Falk dinked the ball through the caught unawares defence and Dame N’Doye fired in a shot off inside of the far post for Copenhagen’s equaliser. To be fair he deserved it for his performance on the night. He was a handful.

The 57th minute saw Celtic’s best chance at restoring the lead. A great chance on the break became a two on two as Callum McGregor charged forward towards the edge of the penalty box, but as Calmac decided to go for goal and hit the ball over the bar an unmarked Odsonne Edouard was just asking for a pass to feet. Decisions, decisions.

Odsonne Edouard was then denied for a third time by Karl-Johan Johnsson in the 70th minute. The French striker stretched every sinew to poke a low James Forrest cross towards goal from 10 yards, but the Sweden goalkeeper was equal to it.

Scott Brown was booked and appeared to injure himself in the tackle that earned the card. Hopefully it’s precautionary but it’s a worry when Broony chooses to leave the pitch.

Copenhagen began piling on the pressure and two good challenges from Kristoffer Ajer and Christopher Jullien stopped Copenhagen and the Danes settled for a corner but from the ball in Christie handled and the referee correctly gave a penalty after a VAR intervention.

The decision however to book Christie and have him miss the second leg seemed a case of double jeopardy that soon became triple. If that’s the rules then it really does need looked at. It was an unfair outcome. A penalty by all means but a booking on top and subsequent suspension. Ryan must feel the footballing Gods are conspiring against him at the moment.

As usual however the penalty wasn’t going to matter. As Stage struck his spot kick, The Wall had enough time to finish his cigarette before getting down late to touch the penalty away and on to the post. To be fair I’m not entirely certain. As I already knew he’d save it I took the opportunity to go for a quick jimmy riddle but I’m told that’s how it panned out.

The wall’s opposite number Karl-Johan Johnsson had enough time to deny Celtic again as James Forrest makes a thrusting run into the penalty box, but the goalkeeper’s big hand pushed it clear. Both keepers’ it must be said played their part tonight. Both were simply superb.

Celtic could have won this one by half time but by full time they could have lost it. If the second leg threatens to be as good then BT Sports should consider charging the £25 they were advertising for the Wilder-Fury rematch on Saturday night.

This was the kind of football you’d be happy to pay to view.

It was a fantastic advert for European football and the second leg can’t come quickly enough. Home advantage should edge it for Celtic but on tonight’s evidence it’s going to be a heavyweight battle.

Man of the match? It has to be big Jullien but his opponent N’Doye could lay a claim. What a battle that was.

Niall J

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About Author

As a Bellshill Bhoy I was taken to my first Celtic game in the summer of 1987. It was Billy McNeill’s return to Celtic Park as manager and Celtic lost 5-1 to Arsenal . I thought I was a jinx, I think my Grandfather might have thought the same. It was finest gift anyone ever gave me when he walked me through Parhead's gates.

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