Knutsen is the real deal
The Norwegian champions are a team who have been four years in the making under coach Kjetil Knutsen who is no longer flying under anyone’s radar. The 53-year-old has resisted several approaches from other clubs to stay with his unfashionable club from north of the Arctic Circle but if he maintains their current trajectory, the day can’t be far away when he is offered a plum job in a major league.
Bodo/Glimt perform with poise, purpose and the kind of clear identity, within which all of their players are comfortable, that so many modern day coaches strive for. Knutsen has clearly got the knack.
Back to back Norwegian titles have cemented his domestic reputation, while his wider profile was raised by Bodo/Glimt’s stunning 6-1 win over Jose Mourinho’s Roma earlier this season. It was certainly no fluke.
Despite losing several key players over the winter break, they returned to competitive action in seamless fashion at Celtic Park as goals from Runas Espejord, Amahl Pellegrino and Hugo Vetlesen secured their 3-1 first leg victory.
If you know your history
In many minds, the relevance of references to the battle for Irish independence being displayed at a football match may be questionable at best.
The Green Brigade’s return to Celtic Park, having served a one-match absence from the Scottish Cup tie against Raith because of their use of pyrotechnics during the Old Firm victory over Rangers, saw them produce a dramatic banner in tribute to manager Ange Postecoglou.
Bearing the legend ‘Leading them was a mighty man with his fist raised to the sky’ – with an image of Postecoglou in said pose – it was a nod to the Irish folk song about the Citizen Army which was commanded by Edinburgh-born Irish Republican and trade union leader James Connolly, who was executed for his part in the Easter Rising in 1916.
Among those in attendance at Celtic Park was a man who may be planning regular journeys to Glasgow in the coming months. Japan head coach Hajime Moriyasu may have been slightly disappointed that Daizen Maeda was the only one of his compatriots in the Celtic starting line-up, although he at least saw the striker score the hosts’ only goal.
Reo Hatate replaced Tom Rogic for the last half hour, while Moriyasu had plenty of time to chat with the ineligible Yosuke Ideguchi and injured Kyogo Furuhashi beside him in the stand as he ponders how many of Celtic’s Japanese quartet will be in his squad for next month’s decisive World Cup qualifiers against Australia and Vietnam.
Celtic (4-3-3): Hart 6, Juranovic 6, Carter-Vickers 6, Starfelt 5, Taylor 5; McGregor 6, Rogic 5 (Hatate 59 5), O’Riley 7 (Forrest 74); Abada 5 (Giakoumakis 59 5), Maeda 6, Jota 6. Subs not used: Bain, Oluwayemi, Jullien, Scales, Bitton, McCarthy, Ralston, Welsh, Dembele.
Bodo/Glimt (4-3-3): Haikin 7, Sampsted 7, Moe 7, Hoibraten 7, Wembangomo 6 (Larsen 90+3); Vetlesen 7, Hagen 6, Saltnes 8 (Konradsen 76), Solbakken 7 (Mugisha 90+3), Espejord 7 (Boniface 69 5), Pellegrino 7 (Koomson 69 5). Subs not used: Smits, Fet, Kongsro, Nordas, Kvile.
Referee: Andris Treimanis (Latvia)