Celtic win over Feyenoord is no dead rubber as late goal from unlikely hero lifts Champions League hex

Celtic's Gustaf Lagerbielke celebrates after scoring to make it 2-1 to Celtic over Feyenoord in the 90th minute. (Photo by Paul Devlin / SNS Group)Celtic's Gustaf Lagerbielke celebrates after scoring to make it 2-1 to Celtic over Feyenoord in the 90th minute. (Photo by Paul Devlin / SNS Group)
Celtic's Gustaf Lagerbielke celebrates after scoring to make it 2-1 to Celtic over Feyenoord in the 90th minute. (Photo by Paul Devlin / SNS Group)
90th minute header ends decade-long wait for Celtic Park success at Europe’s top table

Celtic’s final European excursion of this season had the sense of a real oddity. A meaningless Champions League game it felt they could not afford to lose.

And by Jiminy did it feel the lives of Brendan Rodgers’ men depended on ending the club’s winless nightmare in the competition in a tousy, at times brutal, and, by its close impossibly dramatic, contest from which they – somehow – clawed out a 2-1 victory.

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So much of the story of their home heartaches across their six year, 15-game sequence without a win in the competition has been a story of late-goal drama to sicken them. It was fitting this should be flipped as they claimed a first Celtic Park success in the exalted domain for 10 years – and only a third victory in 32 outings in it – with an added time coup de grace of their own. From the unlikeliest of unlikely sources with Gustaf Lagerbielke, on as a late substitute for Stephen Welsh, almost on the goalline to make brilliant set-up play and a dinked left flank cross from Matt O’Riley count. A mere eight minutes after the familiar pattern seemed to have been set when a 32nd minute Luis Palma penalty was cancelled out as the home side’s escapes from Feyenoord cutting them open ended when Yankuba Minteh was able to lash in from the left after the ball had bobbled in the Celtic box.

Feyenoord didn’t go at it like a team with nothing to play for through being assured of third as Celtic propped up Group E. The home supporters’ anxieties over that likely prospect would not have been eased as they made their their way to the stadium…more dutifully than anything else, it seemed, judging by their general mood at the start. Replaced with unbridled elation by the close, of course.

The team news revealed Nat Phillips’ frailities in the Kilmarnock calamity at the weekend had led to him losing his place to Welsh. A player whose last senior appearance came with a 45-minute outing at Aberdeen in mid-August following an injury sustained by Cameron Carter-Vickers, deputising again for him in similar circumstances.

It seemed inevitable that a central defence in which Welsh partnered Liam Scales would come under pressure from a front-footed opponent, and so it proved. But not before Celtic could make inroads into the Feyenoord backline, Callum McGregor set up by O’Riley for a low drive comfortably saved by Justin Bijlow before Kyogo Furuhashi squandered a one-on-one opportunity with the keeper by failing to lift the ball over him that was earned via a superb defence-splitting pass from Scales.

Arne Slot’s men were able to seize control after Tomoki Iwata was lost to injury in the 17th minute, and Joe Hart – whose displays at this level have been griped over by certain sections of the fanbase – had to pull off a series of excellent blocks to ensure the Celtic goal remained intact. The 36-year-old’s alertness later in the period taking on all the greater significance because by then Rodgers’ side had a lead to protect.

Slot had said pre-match that the two combatants in the east end of Glasgow this week had enjoyed no breaks in their Champions League sortie. His team providing that with argy-bargy in the Feyenoord box at a Celtic corner giving way to Ramiz Zerouki gripping his hand round Scales’ neck, the Irishman crashing to the deck, and Senoit Bastien immediately pointing to the spot for Palma to despatch ruthlessly. Celtic luck extended to Lutsharel Geertuida hitting inside of the post with Hart beaten in the 42nd minute.

As Rodgers was forced to constantly rejig his team in the second period – 17-year-old Mitchel Frame introduced for his debut, but not as the left-back he is but as a left winger – it seemed inconceivable that this night of all nights could end well for Celtic in a competition that never does. But however irrelevant it might be, the relief for Rodgers, his players and their fanbase will be papable that it did.



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