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
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
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.