CELTIC 1 RAPID VIENNA 1
MOUSSA DEMBELE just can’t stop scoring goals – and he underlined his menace once again with the leveller in a good work-out in Austria tonight.
The Frenchman, who thumped in 32 goals in an astonishing debut season at the Hoops, stepped up to the mark again against tough Austrians opponents.
Jonny Hayes was chopped inside the box and the 20-year-old powerhouse, who came on as a second-half substitute, zipped in an unstoppable effort.
And that’s the way it ended as the Parkhead men brought up their fitness levels.
On the stroke of half-time, Dedryck Boyata handed the Austrians the opportunity to take the lead.
The Belgian centre-half was wayward with a back pass that fell right at the feet of the surprised and grateful Brazilian striker Joelington.
He advanced on the exposed Craig Gordon, swept the ball wide to the the keeper’s right and went down under the merest of touches from the Hoops No.1.
The referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot and Joelington walloped it low in at Gordon’s left hand.
The Celtic shotstopper had been the team’s busiest performer in the stamina-sapping sweltering conditions as he made several good saves to defy the opponents.
Early on, he showed he was on top of his game with an excellent dive to his right to hold a dangerous header.
In the 12th minute, Stuart Armstrong was sloppy with a pass to Kieran Tierney and it fell to an Austrian, but Gordon smothered the sizzling low drive from just inside the box.
The over-fussy match official booked Scott Brown and Joelington after a little jostling match as Rapid prepared to take a right-wing corner-kick.
The treble-winners had a let-off when a first-time lob from 20 yards by Erik Schwarb sailed over the shotstopper, but thumped against the right upright and bounced to safety.
Gordon was then forced to make a flying save from Tomas Murg and the same player zipped just one wide before Boyata gifted the Austrians the advantage.
Right at the start of the second-half, there was more urgency from Brendan Rodgers’ men as they attempted to up the pace.
James Forrest was clattered and Leigh Griffiths flighted in an inviting right-wing free-kick, but Mikael Lustig’s elevation was slightly awry and he headed over the crossbar from a good position.
There were some good runs from Forrest and Scotty Sinclair, but, unfortunately, there were no rewards.
On the hour mark, Rodgers replaced his entire starting line-up as the champions continued on their quest for match fitness.
New Bhoy Hayes was one of the substitutions and he played a key role in the Hoops getting back into the confrontation.
He worked a neat one-two with Dembele and was clearly brought down inside the box by a frantic defender. Again, the referee was left with little option but to point to the spot.
The Frenchman was the eptome of composure as he stepped up to fire a right-foot effort high into the top left-hand corner of the net with the keeper taking off in the wrong direction.
Boss Rodgers will undoubtedly be delighted and now all eyes are on Tuesday when the champions face Slavia Prague.
TEAM (first-half): Gordon; Lustig, Sviatchenko, Boyata, Tierney; Brown, Armstrong; Forrest, McGregor, Sinclair; Griffiths.