Celtic 2—1 Lazio.

Celtic got lucky last night and I got unlucky, with my three quid bet on Christopher Julien to score the first goal, odds 40/1. Julien popped up with the winner on the last minute of the ninety. But there was still time for the Italians to fling players forward. Celtic held out. Prior to the nail-biting finale, with some stout defending, but for two wonder saves by Fraser Forster victory could and perhaps should have went to the Italian visitors.

Fraser Forster does what goalkeepers are meant to do. Win you games. Scott Bain stopped doing it, prior to his injury. Craig Gordon is so out of the picture he’s grew a beard and is auditioning for seasonal shifts as Santa in his local supermarket. Forster has his limitations. He’s not a goalkeeper that’s going to keep the ball and play dinky little passes to his midfield or defenders. He’s a humper of balls and that’s the way I like it. Forster also had a howler this season, if you look back at the second goal against Livingstone. The ball was kicked from one end of the park to the other and into his box. Stay or go. Forster stayed and went too late. It was his goal to lose and his fault. Simple.

But remember when Barcelona tagged him the big yellow banana, or something stupid. It might have been barrier. He was that good that world-class players, who would never remember the name Scott Brown, kinda remembered who he was. Forster took the iconic number 67 and put it on his back. He knows what that means.

Ryan Christie took the place of Tom Rogic, scored in 67 minutes to equalise a tie that looked to be slipping away from the Celts.

Celtic with a capacity crowd behind them—and me screaming from the pub couch, with a pint of Guinness in my hand—started brightly. Forest set up Odsonne Edouard, but the Celtic striker took too long to hit it and was blocked by the Italian defender Denis Vavro. Hatem Abd Elhamed was in for Jeremy Frimpong, the Dutch wonder kid, who played so well in the six-nil defeat of Ross County.  I’m tempted to quote Bruce Lee when he spotted somebody karate-ing their way through lumps of wood, ‘boards don’t hit back’. Lazio weathered these early setbacks. Our wingers, James Forest and Mohamed Elyounoussi, largely disappeared as attacking threats. The latter, was replaced late in the game by Tom Rogic, but it could have just as easily been Forest. And everybody that knows if you’re a winger and you get replaced by Rogic, you’re having a stinker.

Ryan Christie had shaved the outside of the post. Callum McGregor then came close with a dipping drive. There were shouts for a penalty. I was shouting anyway. We didn’t get a penalty, but we did lose a goal. That shut me up.

Boli Bolingoli was too high up the park. I’m not blaming him, although I’m tempted. He’s redeemed himself somewhat, after his performance at Ibrox, but he’s still the weakest link. A pass in behind Boli split the Celtic defence. Kristoffer Ajer went too late to block Lazarri. The Italian zipped the ball into the net at Forster’s near post. All three Celtic players were culpable, but despite his late heroics, perhaps the goalkeeper should have done better.

Celtic were a goal down at half-time and Lazio were the more dangerous and better team. Celtic didn’t offer the same energy at the start of the second half. Lazio looked the team more likely to score the second goal and win the tie. We got lucky again.

We’d almost scored. Edouard chased the ball down and worked his way into the box. Closed down by defenders he back-heeled the ball to Elyounoussi who had a clear shot on goal, but fluffed it. The ball broke to Christie who hit it at an on-rushing defender.

At the other end of the park, time seemed to stop as Joaquin Correa went through a one-on-one with Forster. The human banana blocked him and he flicked a shot off the base of the post. Celtic were still in the game.

And in 67 minutes Christie again scored in Europe, hitting the ball first time and curling it by the keeper.

Lazio looked the more likely team to get a winner. Forster made two world-class wonder saves. Lazarri had, once again, left Bolingoli needing a drone delivery to get back in, and Parlo met his nemesis in Forster. Parlo was in again later, to shank wide.

Julien popped up with that winner. Raising the roof. I’d like to say the best team won. Aye, we did. Kinda.  

Rennes 1—1 Celtic

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This is a tale of three penalties. Two of which were give. One for Rennes, in the first-half, and two for Celtic in the second-half. Celtic started well. That’s always a bit worrying, usually, after a bright start, they usually concede, especially when playing away from home. Rennes had beaten PSG in the French Cup final last year and in the league this year. They sit second to PSG in the French league. In other words, they are no mugs.

The under-twenty-one French striker Edouard, the media darling of the French and Parkhead die-hards, had the first good chance of the game. Early in the game, James Forest picked him out at the back post, but his shot was skewed and didn’t trouble the keeper or hit the target.

Next up, Mohamed Elyounoussi was a toe-poke from getting on the end of Bolingoli’s cross and scoring the first goal.

Edouard thought he had a penalty, forcing his way into the box, nutmegging the defender and tumbling before he was tackled. He got a yellow card for diving.

Rennes had a few efforts on goal too, but Fraser Foster only had to make one save, which didn’t trouble him too much.

Then with five minutes to go before half-time, with Celtic easily ahead on possession and chances on goal, Ayer conceded a needless penalty. Replays showed it was clear cut. Ayer had been hauling at Niang’s jersey and his tackle whipped the legs from the attacker. The referee looked at the linesman then pointed to the spot. Niang scored.

1—0 down at half time and playing quite well, the game was bound to open up. Rennes, as a counter-attacking team were bound to come into it. That was the script.

It didn’t work out that way. Celtic dominated, in the way they would against lesser teams in the Scottish Premier league. But it was all huff and puff and no end product. Decent display and no end-result is Celtic’s calling card in Europe.

Scott Brown, for example, had a decent chance with a header at the back post. But he missed the target.

Then midway through the half, a big call for the referee. Ryan Christie was taken out by Renness’s defender Joris Gnagnon. Replays show the Celtic attacker was clearly in the box. It was an obvious penalty, that wasn’t given.

About five-minutes later James Forest wrong-footed Damien da Silva and fell over after the defender connected with a foot. Christie’s penalty was far clearer cut. The two of them were penalties, but this was of the softer variety. Christie took the penalty and scored, adding to his goal-a-game tally.

Rennes and Celtic made substitutions. The home team had another penalty claim turned down. Vakoun Bayo came on for Edouard and managed to get a red car. The second-string Celtic striker can think himself unlucky. But Celtic managed to see the game out and claim a point. They almost claimed three points in the last few minutes of added time. An away point in Europe doesn’t happen very often, so is reason to celebrate. Celtic are on a domestic and European high.