Celtic edged out as Lennon prepares for Europe

Georgios Samaras: Late strike. Picture: SNS
Georgios Samaras: Late strike. Picture: SNS
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Celtic continued their Champions League preparations with a 2-1 defeat by CFR Cluj in Kufstein, Austria on Saturday.

Celtic 1-2 CFR Cluj

Scorers: Celtic - Samaras (81); CFR Cluj - Costea (9), Kapetanos (65)

However, Celtic manager Neil Lennon should not be unduly worried. Their opponents are further ahead in their pre-season preparations and at times it showed.

Celtic eyes are all on the Champions League qualifying ties against Northern Irish side Cliftonville later this month and to that end, Lennon is assessing his squad.

A far from full-strength Parkhead side, captained by defender Mikael Lustig and with Calum Waters making his first start for the senior side, went a goal behind during a shaky start when Florin Costea’s well-taken shot from inside the box curled high past goalkeeper Fraser Forster and in off the post.

The goal shook Celtic out of their slumber and moments later striker Gary Hooper drove wide of the target from 20 yards.

The Romanians, who had former St Johnstone striker Gregory Tade in their attack, reasserted themselves and Forster had to make a great save from Ciprian Deac’s whipped-in free-kick before Costea sent a header from a corner high over the bar.

James Forrest, Darnell Fisher and Charlie Mulgrew replaced Dylan McGeouch, Lustig and Liam Henderson respectively at the start of the second-half soon Samaras replaced Amido Balde as the substitutions on both sides continued.

Celtic began to look more purposeful but just after the hour mark, after giving the ball away, Kayal had to make a last-gasp tackle at the expense of a corner to prevent Paul Batin getting a shot away inside the box.

The corner came to nothing but Batin was less hesitant minutes later when he evaded Parkhead defender Kelvin Wilson to set up Patelis Kapetanos to steer the ball past the helpless Forster from 12 yards.

The Parkhead men reduced the lead with eight minutes to go when Forrest’s cross from the right came off the knee of Samaras with Mulgrew moving quickly out of the way to allow the ball to cross the line.