Wow….just….wow, what a game, what a result, and what a way to finally get an away win in the champions league!
In a game that had as much excitement as the last time we met Spartak five years ago Neil Lennons young bhoys delivered a performance which at times looked shaky, even when Spartak were reduced to 10, but ultimately they dug deep, really deep, to score a 90th min winner with Giorgios Samaras’ well placed header clinching the win.
Celtic were slow out the blocks in the first half as Spartak looked to put new bhoy Efe Ambrose under early pressure. Lennon’s tactics seemed to be to allow Spartak to have the ball for as long as they wanted it in their own half and then press them as soon as they crossed the half way line hoping to hit them on the break.
Our passing was poor to begin with, we couldn’t put two of them together, our touch looked unassured and nervous….then….it happened!
With our first real attack, which ironically came about from a poor touch from Victor Wanyama that seemed to get away from him in the middle of the park, he showed real bravery and comittment to go right into the tackle and come out the other side with the ball, he sent Mikael Lustig flying down the right hand side who then sent in a lovely low curving ball to the front post which Gary Hooper dispatched clinically beyond the ‘keeper with the deftest of touches. A real strikers finish, suddenly we had belief!
Our tactics seemed to be working perfectly and we almost doubled our lead when Hooper stuck a neat header in from a cross clipped in from Samaras, he was about an inch offside, still we looked comfortable containing the Russians.
Then from nowhere in the 40th min one long ball played forward from their main playmaker Kim Kallstrom caught Kelvin Wilson on his heels and under the flight of the ball allowing Ari to square it to Eminike for a tap in which neither Forster or Ambrose could do anything about. Welcome to champions league football bhoys, one mistake and bang, goal. The team looked shaky and nervous again until the half time whistle came.
The second half had just started and the Russians again came flying out the blocks, Lenny had just sat down by the time the Russians had the ball in the net again and he was off his seat going mental wondering what had happened! From a tame shot that took a slight nick off Wilsons studs on the way through, Forster parried it to the side, he should have done better and got it round the post as it broke to De Zeuwwe who squared it again for Eminike to tap in on the line, my heart sank….please Celtic…not again!
We didn’t panic though and go chasing the game, instead we stuck to our gameplan, hoping to keep ourselves in it and just after the hour mark our opportunity came, Samaras played hooper in with a great through ball he was bearing down on the keeper when he was pulled from behind by Insaurralde and sent spinning to the deck just outside the box, a straight red surely!….well at first no! The ref seemed to run away from the incident, none of his assistants flagged, Lennon was going mental at the sideline and rightly so! Then after what seemed an age the ref ran back towards Hooper reaching for a card everyone thought hooper was getting booked for diving….even Hooper thought it but at the last second someone or something told the ref what had really happened and he sent the Spartak man off…phew! (I’m convinced they are already using tv evidence but not telling anyone). We would never have a better chance to get this away record monkey off our back than this.
After a spell of decent possession for Celtic the ball goes out and James Forrest comes on to make an instant impact in the 70th min, Mulgrew goes scampering down the left and whips in another low ball to the front post to big Sammi who dummies it completely to let it go through to Hooper who holds off the defender and spins playing it across the six yard line for hooper to fire it goalward before a couple of deflections took it into the net! Ya beauty! If the neighbours didn’t hear me the first time they definitely heard me this time!
The game went from end to end without any real goal mouth action from either team, we had a couple of corners that came to nothing, Joe Ledley had a fantastic shot from 25 yards that the keeper tipped over and as the clock ticked down that seemed to be that… then…it happened again!
Celtic won a free kick on the left and took it short to Izzaguirre who swung in a decent cross and the big greek rose highest to direct his header low and to the keepers right giving him no chance! I swear it went in slow motion just like Henriks goal against Boavista!! The Celtic players swamped him but the big man seemed more concerned with fixing his hair!
The neighbours heard this one alright! Finally an away win in the Champions league and in such dramatic fashion. The Russians must hate the sight of the bhoys coming to town having dumped Spartak out the last time we met and also beating Dynamo Moscow recently!
Celtic are sitting at the top of group G at least until the barca game finishes but it still looks good!
Well done Neil and the Bhoys, I think we all deserve a wee voddy after that!