CELTIC 1 ROSENBORG 0
ONE flash of Leigh Griffiths was all Celtic needed to break down the stubborn resistance of a gritty Rosenborg outfit at Parkhead this evening.
The opening Europa League confrontation was heading for a dour goalless stalemate until the 76th-minute substitute showed his killer instinct to give the Hoops a crucial victory and three much-needed points.
Griffiths came on for the ineffective Odsonne Edouard as Brendan Rodgers looked to add a bit of vim and vigour to the frontline.
And lethal Leigh provided that in the 87th minute with a deadly header after a superb build-up following the breakdown of a corner-kick.
Kieran Tierney, the Man of the Match by a mile, fed the ball forward to Scott Brown who lifted a long diagonal ball into the box from the left.
THE WINNER…Leigh Griffiths shows his skills.
Dedryck Boyata, who had stayed up with the attack for the set-piece, did well to get above a defender and knock the ball across to Griffiths and the Scotland international did the rest with a sublime header beyond the reach of the helpless Andre Hansen at his left-hand side.
It was a win created more through perspiration than inspiration, but no-one at the Hoops will be complaining.
The nearest thing to a goal in a fairy uninspiring first-half came in the 42nd minute when the keeper and the woodwork denied the Hoops the breakthrough.
Tierney, putting in his usual power of work on the left flank, set up an opportunity for Tom Rogic that eventually saw the Aussie flash in a low shot to Hansen’s right, but the Norwegian No.1 sprawled full-length to push the ball away.
It fell perfectly for Edouard who just wasn’t quick enough on the trigger. His return effort was deflected by the goalie onto the right-hand post and away for a fruitless corner-kick.
A few minutes earlier, KT had a drive from long distance that was held by Hansen who was suddenly being brought into action after a fairly comfortable opening period.
And the energetic left-back also set up Callum McGregor with a neat cutback before half-time, but the midfielder’s powderpuff effort didn’t unduly worry Hansen.
There appeared to be a lack of cutting edge up front with Edouard rarely looking at ease being the main attack leader. He was caught offside a couple of time and his hold-up play was not impressive. He was not allowing others to get up and join him in the opposition’s danger zones and moves were continually breaking down.
The passing from McGregor and Edouard wasn’t exceptional, either, and far too many balls were going astray.
MAN OF THE MATCH…Kieran Tierney surges ahead.
In the 22nd minute, Edouard was given the chance to hit the crucial opener when he was set free by Tom Rogic with a neat ball, but the £9million Frenchman was wayward with his finishing effort and his attempt zipped well off target.
It was no surprise when he left the field to make way for matchwinner Griffiths in the second period.
Rodgers was brave with his earlier substitutions, too, when he took off Rogic and James Forrest, who had received little in the way of service, and introduced Scott Sinclair and Mikey Johnston.
They brought some impetus to the final third and before they came on in the 58th minute Rogic had the chance to make a name for himself.
He made a brilliant interception to charge forward, but, unfortunately, the Aussie made the wrong choice when he fired a shot straight into the chest of Hansen when McGregor was racing into an unmarked position to his left. Rogic, at least, had the good grace to acknowledge his error.
Johnston looked tricky on the right and he combined with his fellow-sub to set up a half-chance, but Sinclair’s finishing effort swept wide of the keeper’s right-hand post.
Johnston blew the opportunity of becoming an instant hero when he missed from 12 yards in the 80th minute. Tierney, following another lung-bursting run on the left, picked him out with a rapier-like pass, but the winger swung his left foot at the ball and sent his attempt wildly over the bar.
It looked like being one of those nights until the introduction of Griffiths and his quest to hit a second century for Celtic. Well, that’s one down and 99 to go.
He signed a new four-year deal on Friday – would you bet against him?
TEAM: Gordon; Lustig, Boyata, Benkovic, Tierney; Brown, Ntcham; Forrest (sub: Johnston 58), Rogic (sub: Sinclair 58), McGregor; Edouard (sub: Griffiths 76).