Udinese were pushed all the way tonight but hold on for a point that was enough to get them through to the knock out round of the Europa League at Celtic’s expense. Gary Hooper gave Celtic the lead but Antonio Di Natale equalised in time added on at the end of the first half.
The game was only six minutes old when Georgios Samaras extended his telescopic legs and moved beyond Benatia to the edge of the Udinese box but the defender dived in front of the Greek striker to con the referee into awarding a free kick.
Udinese should have taken the lead in 12 minutes when Scott Brown was careless with a cross-field pass which was intercepted. The Celtic defence were caught moving forward and had left Di Natale in acres of space but his lob missed the target.
Gary Hooper was the next sinner 10 minutes later. Udinese had no answer to the probing of Samaras and James Forrest. The former beat two players and slid an inch perfect pass inside the full back for Hooper to collect 16 yards from goal. Unfortunately he failed to find the target with what at that time looked like being the best chance of the game.
Celtic opened the scoring on 28 minutes when Samaras rampaged down the left and sent a dangerous cross between goalkeeper and defence. Handanovic punched the ball against his own defender and was left stranded when it rolled to an unmarked Hooper three yards from goal. The Englishman rolled the ball over the line to put Celtic ahead.
With 45 minutes already played Samaras again rampaged down the left but possession was lost as Celtic were reluctant to pour forward seconds before half time. Udinese moved the ball quickly up field and a fortunate break of the ball allowed them to catch the Celtic defence flat footed. Cha was wrong side of his player who crossed for Di Natale to finish. It was an unfortunate break for Celtic who had the better of the first half.
Udinese stepped up the pace after half time and enjoyed their best period of the game. Fraser Forster made three saves within as many minutes just after the hour mark. Ten minutes later a sharp passing move provided Asamoa with a gilt edged chance from 10 yards but he turned the ball against the post with Forster stranded but this signalled the end of the home team’s pressure.
Celtic came close to taking the lead again on 74 minutes when Cha DuRi stretched to volley from outside the box. His shot struck the post with Handanovic unable to reach it. The ball rebounded off the goalkeeper, who landed on the ground, and spun back towards goal, but Handanovic recovered in time to catch it on the line.
Greek referee, Koukoulakis, did not have a good game, mistook Cha for Scott Brown and incorrectly booked the Korean. 18 minutes later he booked Cha again but had clearly received a message from an assistant informing him of his earlier mistake, leaving Cha bemused and relieved to survive his second yellow card.
Celtic were pressing for the goal but with 10 minutes remaining a slip by Daniel Majstorovic set Di Natale clear. Fraser Forster then had the most impressive 6 seconds of his career. The keeper made himself a big target and saved Di Natale’s shot but he had change direction quickly as the ball broke free on the right. A cross was swiftly dropped onto the head of the unmarked Di Natale 8 yards from goal but Forster changed direction one more time to save again.
The match finished with Celtic camped inside the Udinese box. The ball broke to Ki inside the six yard box from a Charlie Mulgrew corner but his shot was blocked. Fraser Forster came forward for two further corners. From one, Daniel Majstorovic flashed a header goalward but an Udinese defender raised his arm to the ball, however, the referee failed to award a penalty.