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.