Much of our Champions League history was on show last night, apart from the fragility which has accompanied Celtic so often on the road. The game was immeasurably more difficult than any challenge we face in domestic football. The opening minutes were so stressful, otherwise composed players were spooked, but winning is all about how you react when you are spooked. Do you crumble and concede an early goal?
With less than three minutes on the clock, and Spartak about to take their third corner kick, how many of us thought back to early goals lost in the opening minutes of recent European adventures?
Not for this team, who reacted to being spooked by scoring a genuinely top class goal.
It wasn’t until Spartak went down to 10 men that we made them look like Motherwell (the similarity in possession, passing, composure last night and on Saturday are remarkable) but, Spartak going down to 10 men was not the deciding factor in the outcome of the game. Kris Commons should have won a penalty when Celtic were 0-1 up and Gary Hooper was clean through on the goalkeeper at the incident which led to the red card.
Once level, with 20 minutes remaining, the stage was Celtic’s, but a more illustrious (i.e. expensive and feted) Celtic team had the same stage against a weaker opponent in Anderlecht in 2003 but ended up losing the game. Last night Hooper, Izaguirre, Samaras, Forrest and Brown went about their business in a steady and unspectacular fashion, exuding the confidence you need to win at this level.
No result is achieved in this competition without an enormous performance; just ask those who lost in Belgium nine years ago, including the proudest man in Europe last night.
Bring on the Salt ‘n’ Sauce Rangers.
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