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  • Celts battle for draw in Brendan Rodgers' first match

    Celts battle for draw in Brendan Rodgers' first match

    By: Martin Dalziel in Slovenia on 30 Jun, 2016 20:38

  • Pre-season Friendly
    Arena Petrol, Slovenia
    Thursday June 30, 2016

    CELTIC...2
    (Ciftci 56, Rogic 75)

    NK CELJE...2
    (Miskic 28, 49)

    CELTIC came from behind to record a 2-2 draw with NK Celje of Slovenia in their first match under Brendan Rodgers.

    The Bhoys kicked-off their pre-season run of matches by using a complete set of fresh legs in either half, with both Celtic line-ups conceding to the hosts either side of the interval, but Nadir Ciftci and Tom Rogic reduced arrears in the second 45 minutes.

    A first-time shot at a corner from Celje captain Danijel Miskic put the hosts in front before the skipper added a second from a free-kick five minutes after the break, but Ciftci’s precise header got the Celts back into proceedings.

    Stuart Armstrong was the architect for his former Dundee United team-mate and he turned supplier again with 15 minutes left to set up Rogic for a classy chipped finish and ensure a draw for the champions.

    The match was played in clammy conditions in the late evening sun and heralded a debut for Kristoffer Ajer who paired with Erik Sviatchenko at the heart of defence in his first start for the club.

    Darnell Fisher returned to the fold following his season-long loan at St Johnstone and a three-pronged attack of Ryan Christie, James Forrest and Leigh Griffiths was spearheaded by the Player of the Year.

    Friendly matches are often criticised for the raft of changes that are stereotypically made in the latter stages but Celje bucked that trend by making their first switch on 19 minutes, replacing their outgoing keeper of 18 years, Amel Mujcinovic, with Matic Kotnic.

    Celtic’s goalkeeper was then called into action for the first time after the game restarted following the substitution, but he did well to deflect Jure Travner’s snapshot.

    An angled cross from the hosts then forced Kieran Tierney into conceding a fourth corner of the night to the Slovenians and the set-piece saw them take the lead through their captain Miskic, whose first-time shot from the low delivery spun past Craig Gordon and into the net.

    Celtic responded through a curling first-time shot by Griffiths but Celje looked comfortable on their home turf.

    The Hoops pressed for an equaliser down the left, with Ajer heavily involved as well at the back in an impressive first 45 minutes, but the champions struggled to find their rhythm and went in at the break a goal down.

    The second-half saw Brendan Rodgers refresh his entire line-up as Leo Fasan, Anthony Ralston, Eoghan O’Connell, Jamie McCart, Saidy Janko, Liam Henderson, Callum McGregor, Patrick Roberts, Tom Rogic, Stuart Armstrong and Nadir Ciftci took to the field.

    The fresh-looking Celts started well with Ciftci forcing an early corner and McCart heading over but a clumsy challenge from O’Connell at the other end opened the door for Celje to go two in front.

    The Irishman was booked for his foul 20 yards out and Miskic grabbed his second from the set-piece, curling a delightful shot over the wall and past Fasan.

    The Bhoys soon rallied, however, and a weaving run from Armstrong down the left and into the box allowed Ciftci to pull one back with a well-placed header from six yards.

    Armstrong and Henderson remained heavily involved as they tried to work room for crosses from the left and Rogic also showed flashes of his incredible close control.

    And it was through an exquisite touch and finish from the Australian in the box that Brendan Rodgers’ side drew level with 15 minutes left. Armstrong was the architect again, supplying Rogic with a ball to feet in the box before the playmaker jinked to the left, drawing the keeper out, and finishing in style with a cool lob into the goal.

    The Hoops continued to press and drag the home team across the pitch in the search for an opening but two solid, yellow banks of five and four kept the door shut on the chance for the Bhoys to enjoy a winning start to their pre-season campaign and life under Brendan Rodgers.

    CELTIC (4-3-3) Gordon (Fasan 46); Fisher (Ralston 46), Sviatchenko (O’Connell 46), Ajer (McCart 46), Tierney (Janko 46 [Lindsay 88]); Johansen (McGregor 46), Bitton (Henderson 46), Allan (Armstrong 46); Christie (Roberts 46), Griffiths (Ciftci 46), Forrest (Rogic 46)

    NK Celje (4-4-2) Mujcinovic (Kotnik 19); Kous (Klemencic 70), Hadzic, Travner, Vidmajer; Podlogar, Pisek (Lovrrecic 69), Miskic, Marcius; Glavac (Pungarsek 46), Hadzic (Dzinic 57)

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