Celtic had the better of the opening 30 minutes against an accomplished Atletico Madrid team in this evening’s Europa League clash but after losing what will be considered a bad goal from a defensive perspective, were corralled by the visitors, who were content to tighten the game and play on the break.
Arda Turan’s blistering shot from outside the box should have been blocked, but Beram Kayal won this season’s Regi Blinker European Endeavour award and ducked out of the way, only a few yards in front of the helpless Fraser Forster, who did well to get a hand on the ball but could not stop it.
Celtic were a goal behind after 3 minutes in the corresponding fixture in Madrid and should have been behind inside 60 seconds when Eduardo Salvio was gifted a free header from 6 yards but he failed to hit the target.
Celtic soon settled with Georgios Samaras again proving effective in a wide-left midfield role. Daniel Majstorovic headed a corner into the six yard box which Samaras knocked goal-wards but keeper Courtois blocked on the line.
Next Anthony Stokes found space on the left to cross for Samaras but he couldn’t keep his first-time shot from the edge of the area down as Celtic had Atletico on the back foot, however, the goal would settle the visitors and clearly spread some dissonance among the home team.
Neil Lennon lost Joe Ledley to a twisted ankle seven minutes from half time and changed tactics at half time when Victor Wanyama went off with a dead leg, sacrificing five in the middle for a 4-4-2 but chances were few in the second half as Atletico defended effectively.
Georgios Samaras, who ran tirelessly and threw himself into challenges with no shortage of bravery while playing with space to exploit on the left, looked uncomfortable in the latter part of the game when playing with Gary Hooper as a front pair.
Hooper had the ball in the net but was judged offside after Stokes knocked the ball onto him. Ki fired a 25-yard free-kick on target midway through the half forcing a fine save from Courtius before Fraser Forster made two excellent saves, one from a remarkable Diego free kick from a tight angle that was heading for the top corner and another when he stopped Juanfran.
Celtic laid siege to the Atletico goal for the final five minutes but could not find an opening.