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From Russia With Love

Still in shock? Still waiting on the alarm to ring wakening you up from a deep but incredibly excitable sleep? Walking about the house / work / street with a permanent smile on your face?

Magic intit?

After two centuries of trying Celtic finally managed to break our away day Champions League hoodoo by defeating Spartak Moscow 3-2 away on Tuesday night. It was a night of tension, high drama and skitter breeks (at both ends of the y-fronts) as our Bhoys took us on a rollercoaster of emotions before gaining our just desserts thanks to a late winner from Sami.

Lenny started with a 4-3-3 / 4-5-1 formation that saw Captain Broon push on from the centre of the midfield three to support Hooper when their defence was playing keep-baw and had Victor and Charlie primarily protecting in behind.

The hosts put us under early pressure without creating anything of note but having withstood a mini-storm – something we’ve been dreadful at in the majority of European campaigns since Columbus in the 15th century – it was a sign of things to come from this Celtic team.

With probably our first foray up the field we opened the scoring and what a cracking goal it was. Sami pinged a thirty yard to pass to Victor on the halfway line for our Kenyan Lion to advance onto. His first touch wasn’t the best but it resulted in a 50-50 challenge that saw his opponent literally shite himself as Vic strode on and played a pass wide to the advancing Lustig. The dashing Swede resplendent in silly moustache looked up and sent in a wonderful low cross to Hooper who made it look ridiculously easy by effortlessly guiding the ball into the net.

Celtic weren’t for sitting back and were denied a penalty by another hopeless referee. Commons broke at pace and did the Ali shuffle in the Spartak penalty area before tumbling to the ground. On first viewing I thought the home defender won the ball but upon second viewing the only contact he had was with Kris’s leg.

Celtic continued to look menacing on the counter and were denied a second when Hooper was correctly called offside. Great work down the left set Sami free and his inch perfect cross was headed into the net but Hoops had gone a fraction too early when all he had to do was hold his run.

With Spartak not offering much in an attacking sense it was disappointing to see tem equalise on half time. Kallstrom picked the ball up just over the halfway line and sent a ball over the head of Wilson into the path of Ari whose exceptional first time touch across goal left strike partner Emenike with the easiest of tasks to place the ball into the unguarded net.

The second half was barely a few minutes old and once more we had this, oh no, not again moment as Spartak went ahead from the softest of goals.

Ari’s 25 yard deflected shot had Forster stretching but all he had to do was palm it wide or put it out for a corner. Instead he made a meal of it allowing de Zeuww the opportunity to cut the ball across goal for Emenike to score from one yard out.

This is the moment when Celtic normally capitulates away in the Champions League, right? Not tonight Josephine!

The team didn’t panic and instead regrouped and kept their shape well for the next ten minutes to feel their way back in before a beautiful Mulgrew pass set Hooper free on goal. With only the keeper to beat he was hauled down by Insaurraide in as blatant a last man challenge as you are ever likely to see. Straight red? Of course it is but wait what the fcuk is that useless referee Chapron doing? He’s running away waving play on. Right on the first flight to Moscow to get the bassa but wait, hawd on, he’s now got his red card out and sending the defender off. What’s happening? I’ll give my view on it. He was not giving the decision until prompted by either the assistant referee behind the goal or the fourth official via their headsets. It was in the region of ten seconds before he ultimately made the call and there’s no doubt in this blinkered supporters view that the hapless referee would have waved play on if it wasn’t for the intervention of other officials.

The most important factor is the correct was made and after that Celtic and Neil Lennon were quite simply brilliant.

The already cautioned Victor was replaced by wee Jamesie as Celtic moved to a 4-4-2 with Sami going through the middle and Commons moving to the left. The key instruction however was for Celtic to push 40 yards up the pitch and press the hosts on their penalty area. In my view this took them by complete surprise as we tore up the (old) rulebook and played some real fitba. Have faith and trust in your team and have a right go was the motto and we did so with some lovely considered passing football that was a delight to see and stretched Spartak all over the field. Down the right, nothing on then turn back through the midfield or defence and then down the left. Watching a Celtic team away in the Champions League playing patient, professional and quality football was a delight and by invoking this measured and skilful style of play we would get our rewards.

A lovely ball by Commons set Mulgrew free and his first time cross into the penalty area was dummied by Sami. The ball landed at the exquisite Hooper’s feet who took a touch and fed the onrushing Forrest. The wee man struck his effort at goal and while the keeper did well to save the ball broke off defender Kombarov and landed in the net. Bit of luck but fully merited slice of luck.

Would we settle for the point? Not a chance. Lenny had Spartak by the baws and made another clever change by removing the yellow carded Mulgrew and brought on Ledley in his place. It’s great having a top class bench for the first time in eons intit?

We kept possession and retained our patience before striking in the final minute of normal time with another top class goal. Rather than hoof a free kick into the penalty area this Celtic team decided to play at short and bring the hosts out. A few short passes later and Izzy fired over a fantastic cross that Sami the Salmon leaped magnificently at to place a wonderful header into the corner of the net.

Bedlan? Bedlam? You better believe it.

The ecstatic team must have heard the roars from Glasgow as it was partee time with a capital P.

This was a position we’d never been in and yet no panic from our heroes who professionally saw out time outside their opponents penalty area with the utmost of ease.

The game was now over and so was the hoodoo. This internet bampot has predicted for weeks we’d win away in the Champions League this season as I felt the players we have at our possession are more suited to this style of football. We have presence, technique and most importantly pace throughout the team – something you need in the Champions League.

We will only grow and get better and while the realistic head says Barca will beat us home and away because they are quite simply in my view a wonderful team don’t rule us out of at least taking a point in Lisbon.

Brilliant Celtic. Let the fun begin.

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11 years ago

“After two centuries of trying Celtic finally managed to break our away day Champions League hoodoo by defeating Spartak Moscow 3-2 away on Tuesday night.”

Hector, I knew I was ancient but not that old cause I remember doing it last century :>)

I think I got what you meant – I could be called a nit picker but I have no hair! Enjoyed your summary and would happily go along with your conclusions. It was a terrific night and nothing can sour the enjoyment.


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