Celtic 3-3 Manchester City
Champions League draw for Celtic against Manchester City
Pep Guardiola arrived in Glasgow with many onlookers expecting a comfortable night for his unstoppable Citizens. After sharing six goals, other managers may take note.
Given that Celtic came into this game off the back of a 7-0 humbling at the hands of Barcelona and Manchester City have a 100% record over the first ten games of the Pep Guardiola era, you’d have been forgiven if you expected this to be a stroll in the park for the Citizens. But this is no ordinary park, this is Celtic Park.
The Parkhead factor
As has happened on Champions League nights in Glasgow over the years, the home team came out of the blocks at a pace that the more experienced and technically gifted visitors couldn't cope with. Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic took an early and deserved lead through recent Old Firm hatrick hero Moussa Dembele although he didn’t know much about it as it hit off his chest from close range when he appeared to be in an offside position. To be fair to the officials it took several replays to see that it was offside so easy to see why it was given. The Scottish Champions and league leaders nearly doubled their lead when Claudio Bravo denied Kolo Toure as City rocked in the early stages.
No Premier League awe
The English Premier League leaders found their feet and after a short period of pressure equalised through Fernandinho who showed great composure to finish after gathering a scuffed Kolorov shot fell in his path. Many would have expected City to capitalise on this but Celtic showed no sign that they were going to be collapsing under City pressure and after the increasingly influential Australian Tom Rogic broke through the middle of the park a wonderful run by Dembele drew in the City defenders leaving the left channel free with a galloping Kieran Tierney charging into the box. Rogic found him and his cross-cum-shot was deflected past Bravo by the despairing tackle of Rahim Sterling.
Sterling was clearly distraught about his own goal but didn’t let his faux pas get him down. Constantly showing for the ball and comfortably taking on and beating the young Tierney you could sense he was trying to make up for his error. After a Dembele pass left Tic skipper Scott Brown under pressure, he conceded possession to World Cup winning Spaniard David Silva who slid a delightful pass through the middle to Sterling who drew the challenge of the defender and Celtic ‘keeper Craig Gordon before sitting them both down and sliding the ball home.
No let up as Celtic light up
The rest of the first half was still played at breakneck speed but the nets didn’t bulge again until 72 seconds into the second when that man Dembele lit up the night again. Good work from Tierney on the left saw the ball crossed into the penalty area where Dembele controlled the ball and the hooked it over his head into the bottom corner leaving Bravo rooted to the spot. Just as Celtic were probably looking to consolidate their lead and slow the tempo of the game City stuck back through Nolito who tapped in after Gordon parried a Kun Aguero strike.
After an hour the pace of the game appeared to drop but whether that was due to substitutions changing the shape of the teams a little or just that the frenetic pace could never last the full ninety minutes is up for debate. Fernandinho stung the palms of Gordon in the 82nd minute and the Scotland No 1 excelled himself again in the 90th minute with a wonderful one handed block from a deflected Ilkay Gundogan strike but that was the closest either team got to a winner.
Daring to dream
Celtic will be delighted to have got a point on the board in the Champions League and to have halted the Pep juggernaut. English Premier League managers could do worse than watch this game and try to emulate the Celtic performance. It showed what can be achieved if teams dare to dream against City.