CELTIC 2 ATLETICO MADRID 2
WELL, looking on the positive side, Celtic at least stopped the rot.
First-half strikes from Kyogo Furuhashi and Luis Palma claimed the goals that gave Brendan Rodgers’ men their first point at the third attempt in Champions League Group E at Parkhead tonight.
It was an evening of what-have-been for the Hoops who will reflect on this encounter and realise the three points were there for the taking.
The Spaniards, with three players red-carded in Glasgow back in 1974, had Rodrigo de Paul dismissed in the 82nd minute which handed the hosts the advantage, but they couldn’t make the extra man count in the remaining eight minutes of regulation time and the five minutes added on.
Now they go to the Spanish capital in a fortnight’s time in an effort to keep alive any hopes of European football beyond Christmas.
PALMA IN PARADISE…Honduran ace Luis Palma celebrates his strike against Atletico Madrid.
At the moment, the champions are anchored at the foot on one point with Feyenoord on six after their 3-1 win over Lazio earlier this evening. The Italians are on four while Atletico move onto five.
The pulsating first-half flew past at breathtaking pace with the Hoops maintaining a ferocious tempo right from the start.
The packed ground exploded in delerium in the fourth minute when Kyogo fired Brendan Rodgers’ men into the lead with a mesmerising strike to get the hosts off to a flying start.
Daizen Maeda got the ball rolling when he won a high ball on the right to deflect it inside to the speedy striker who quickly passed to Matt O’Riley before taking a return pass.
With Atletico chasing shadows, the stylish midfielder worked a quick one-two with Kyogo who raced into space in the box before tucking the ball away from the stranded Jan Oblak for an eye-catching strike.
OUTNUMBERED…six Atletico Madrid players are left helpless as Kyogo Furuhashi slots in the opener.
The fans were still celebrating when it was noticed that Reo Hatate had gone to ground before the opening goal. The influential midfield man clearly strained a hamstring as he stretched for a ball and it was game over when Paulo Bernardo replaced him in the seventh minute.
Celtic were settling into a pattern, but they still had to keep a close watch on the Spaniards’ wily double-act of Antoine Griezmann and Alvaro Morata up front.
Parkhead was stunned into silence when referee Felix Zwayer awarded the Spaniards a penalty-kick after Greg Taylor was adjudged to have fouled De Paul who went to ground far too easily after the merest touch.
Griezmann grabbed the ball while VAR checked the award and, amazingly, they agreed with the German official that it was a valid spot-kick.
Luck favoured the Frenchman when he levelled in the 25th minute. He saw his low shot touched onto the left-hand post by the diving Joe Hart, but, unfortunately, the ball ricocheted straight back to the veteran hitman and this time he had no trouble rolling an effort into the empty net.
THAT’S MY BHOY…Matt O’Riley congratulates Kyogo Furuhashi after the first goal.
Three minutes later, Celtic went back in front and once again the roof was almost lifted off the stadium.
Greg Taylor sent the inexhaustible Maeda racing clear on the left and he sizzled over an inviting cross. It missed out his countryman Kyogo, but coming in from the right was Palma who didn’t hesitate as he struck a vicious low angled drive past the helpless Oblak.
The ball was a blur as it zipped past the netminder, thumped off the inside of the far post and rebounded into the net.
Oblak, though, denied O’Riley shortly afterwards after the midfielder fired in a first-time effort from the edge of the box. The keeper took off for his left to beat the ball to safety.
As the first-half roared to a conclusion, it looked as though Axel Witsel had equalised for Atletico when he diverted a header beyond the startled Hart after the defence had failed to deal with a free-kick.
The Spaniards’ joy was cut short when an assistant flagged for offside and VAR images proved it was off – but there wasn’t much in it.
WALLOP…Luis Palma thunders in Celtic’s second goal with a mighty right-foot drive.
It took Atletico a mere 10 minutes to get another that counted after the turnaround.
They had penned Celtic in their own half and it looked as though a breakthrough goal would inevitably come their way.
Bernardo allowed Marcos Liorente to surge away from him in a break from midfield. Taylor had a moment’s fatal hesitation which allowed the opposition player the opportunity to send in a cunning cross.
Cameron Carter-Vickers was caught out as the ball whipped past and Morata was following up at the back post to dive and send a header spinning away from the exposed Hart.
Rodgers made a change just after the hour mark when he took off Palma and put on centre-back Nat Phillips to push Scales wider left and place Taylor higher up the pitch to try and combat the runs of Liorente who was enjoying the freedom of the park.
HOOP HOOP HOORAY…Luis Palma enjoys the moment after putting Celtic 2-1 ahead.
The Honduran is easy on the eye going forward, but he will need to be schooled in the art of defending and covering for team-mates.
Play became a bit uneven with a lot of Celtic passes going astray and there was a massive void between Kyogo and his support players.
The Japanese striker spent so much time chasing back it was no surprise when he was withdrawn in the 78th minute with James Forrest coming on and Maeda moving into the middle.
De Paul then saw red after a foolish lunge on Bernardo, but, try as they might, Rodgers’ side could not get that first elusive win.
TEAM: Hart; Johnston, Carter-Vickers, Scales, Taylor; O’Riley, McGregor, Hatate (Sub: Bernardo 7); Maeda, Kyogo (sub: Forrest 78), Palma (sub: Phillips 62).