CELTIC stopped the rot in Europe tonight when they came back from a horrendous blunder from Craig Gordon to earn a point in Istanbul.
The Hoops were playing for pride and knew before the kick-off against Fenerbache that they would finish bottom of Europa League Group A.
The Turks completed the tie with 10 men while hanging on for second place to make sure they went through alongside shock side Molde with Ajax dropping out alongside Ronny Deila’s side.
Winds3DMidfielder Diego was sent off with 23 minutes still to play when he foolishly kicked out at Stefan Johansen right in front of the Belgian referee.
The players had both been booked in the fifth minute after a skirmish in midfield and the Fenerbahce star kept the feud going into the second-half.
After three consecutive defeats to Molde, twice, and Ajax at least the Parkhead side managed a draw on this occasion, but the stark fact is they managed only three points from a possible 18 and failed to win a single game.
Game changer Kris Commons was the goal hero after coming off the bench and netting within moments as he threw himself at a Mikael Lustig cross from the right.
Goalkeeper Fabiano had no chance as the ball soared high into the net.
There was a surprise for the 1,200 travelling fans before the kick-off with the non-appearance of top scorer Leigh Griffiths. The striker didn’t even make the subs’ bench with Deila taking no risks with the player suffering a slight calf strain. Nadir Ciftci took his place.
The lumbering Turk squandered an excellent chance to give the Hoops the advantage in the 25th minute when he got a clear run in on goal after a superb long pass from Nir Bitton.
Winds3DHowever, he lacked pace and composure at the crucial moment and Fenerbahce defender Abdoulya Ba managed to slide in to knock the ball to safety.
And, unfortunately, Ciftci was involved in the Turkish side’s goal that gave them the half-time lead when he presented them with the ball from a good position on the left wing.
An accurate pass sliced through the exposed Celtic defence in the 39th minute and Lizar Markovic, on a season-long loan from Liverpool, chased after it as he left Johansen in his slipstream.
Gordon, though, was favourite to get to the pass first, but, alas, he allowed the ball to slip through his legs and a grateful Markovic raced round the crestfallen shotstopper and placed an angled drive into the net with Jozo Simunovic and Dedryck Boyata doing their best to clear off the line.
The keeper, though, had better luck in the fourth minute when he sprawled to his left to touch a raging shot from Mehmet Toval onto his left-hand upright.
Ironically, Gordon looked confident up to the loss of the dreadful goal and was well in command of his penalty area as he came for a succession of high balls.
Simunovic joined them in the 13th minute when he needlessly dived into a challenge on Gokhan Gonul and left the referee with little alternative to flash a yellow card.
Scott Allan, starting his first Celtic game after his summer move from Hibs, had Fabiano in trouble in the 21st minute with a well-driven corner-kick from the left. Fernandao, who scored his side’s goals in the 2-2 draw in Glasgow, helped out by getting in front of Simunovic to head clear.
Winds3DGordon got a fright, too, when Diego decided to try his luck from 35 yards. The ball dipped and swerved, but he managed to push it away and then flicked the follow-up effort from Josef de Souza over the bar.
Lustig, skipper in place of the injured Scott Brown, came close to playing a captain’s part just before the interval. The Turks failed to deal with a corner-kick and the Swedish defender fired in a vicious drive from 20 yards.
It took a nick off a defender and zipped inches wide of the post with Fabiano helpless. However, he got his revenge when he set up Commons for the equaliser.
The Hoops went for the winner with the Turkish fans clearly frustrated. James Forrest, who came on for Stuart Armstrong, was proving a menace on the left and he came close when he drove forward before hammering an 18-yard shot just wide.
Moments later, he set up Callum McGregor, but his 20-yard effort was just off target, too.
Lustig, Boyata and Kieran Tierney were booked in the second-half as Celtic tried to keep up the pressure.
So, the European campaign hardly got off the ground this season, but boss Deila has promised they will be ready next time out. Celtic could and should have taken many more points from this group. Indeed they could have won it.
Winds3DRather than consider what might have been, Ronny has to get things sorted for next year and the one consolation is that the detestable Ajax are also out!
TEAM: Gordon; Lustig, Boyata, Simunovic, Tierney; Johansen (sub: Rogic 73), Bitton; McGregor, Allan (sub: Commons 73), Armstrong (sub: Forrest 63); Ciftci.
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