Celtic signed off their Champions League campaign with the rare return of having collected more points away from home in the group stage this season that on their own turf.
On-loan Manchester City winger Patrick Roberts gave the Scottish champions an early lead against his primary employers which was quickly cancelled out by Kelechi Iheanacho’s strike.
Celtic more than held their own against Pep Guardiola’s side which, even though showing nine changes from their established Premier League line-up, still totalled £112 million in transfer fees.
It was Brendan Rodgers’ men who had the best chances to win the match in the second half but they could take satisfaction from a second successive 1-1 draw on the road in Europe’s elite club competition.
Their final place at the bottom of Group C had been determined before this dead rubber but it has been a campaign which has provided plenty of encouragement that Rodgers can ultimately make further progress at this level.
Having managed to recover from falling behind three times when the sides produced the 3-3 thriller at Celtic Park in September, City found themselves facing a familiar scenario when Roberts put the visitors in front after just four minutes. It was a reward for a positive start by Rodgers’ side which saw City keeper Willy Caballero forced to sprint out of his penalty area to deny Moussa Dembele, before saving a follow-up attempt from Tom Rogic.
But Caballero was then partially culpable for the goal which opened the scoring. His kick-out to Leroy Sane was overhit with the German winger unable to control the ball as he kept it in play right on the touchline. Mikael Lustig nipped in to seize possession for Celtic and feed Roberts. The young winger cut inside, gliding away from Gael Clichy, before beating Caballero with a firm shot from around eight yards. His celebrations were reasonably modest, in deference to his parent club, but there was no such restraint among the 4000-strong Celtic support at the other end of the stadium.
Unfortunately for them, they were only able to savour the lead for four minutes. The Celtic defence was split open by Nolito’s through ball which allowed Iheanacho to gain a crucial yard of space ahead of Jozo Simunovic in the penalty area before he fired a left-foot shot high past Craig Gordon.
Iheanacho should have put City in front three minutes later when Celtic’s back four again found themselves stretched by some slick passing and movement from the hosts. Pablo Zabaleta drove forward down the right and squared the ball to Iheanacho. It was a simpler opportunity than the one he had just finished so impressively, but this time he scuffed his shot wide.
But Celtic might easily have regained the lead on the counter attack in the 18th minute when some terrific work from James Forrest saw him play in Dembele on the left of the penalty area. Dembele’s finish lacked composure and conviction, however, as his first shot was blocked by Caballero before he sent the rebound wildly off target.
Gordon made an excellent save to keep out a cute back-heeled close range effort from Iheanacho after a run from Sane. The ball broke to Nolito whose shot was blocked by Emilio Izaguirre.
While City had now imposed themselves as the more persistent attacking force, they were fortunate not to concede a penalty a minute before the interval when Clichy appeared to pull Roberts back. Celtic’s appeals went unheeded, however, with Lustig’s show of dissent to the additional assistant referee, who was positioned right in line with the incident, earning him a booking.
There was a setback for Celtic six minutes after the restart when Forrest, who had been a real thorn in City’s side, suffered an injury. He was replaced by Gary Mackay-Steven, the former Dundee United wide man making his first appearance since the Scottish Cup semi-final defeat by Rangers back in April.
He was bright and eager as he looked to make the most of his first chance to bring himself in from the fringes of Rodgers’ squad. City had the ball in the net when Nolito drove home a cross from substitute Jesus Navas but it was correctly ruled out for offside.
Rodgers made his second change of the night when Leigh Griffiths was introduced, replacing Dembele who had been conspicuously short of his optimum form. Griffiths passed up a glorious chance to make a rapid impact, dragging a left foot shot wide from 14 yards after fine set-up play by Mackay-Steven. The closing stages also saw Mackay-Steven denied by a smart save from Caballero when he would feel he should have scored..