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  • Celts turn on the Euro style to beat Zenit at Paradise

    Celts turn on the Euro style to beat Zenit at Paradise

    By: Tony Connelly on 15 Feb, 2018 21:58

  • UEFA Europa League
    Round of 32, 1st leg
    Celtic Park, Glasgow
    Thursday, February 15, 2018

    (McGregor 78)


    CALLUM McGregor celebrated his 150th appearance for the Hoops with a stunning goal that gave Celtic a 1-0 win over Zenit St Petersburg in the UEFA Europa League. Brendan Rodgers' side produced an impressive European performance and were worthy winners of this last 32 tie.

    Indeed, the Russians were fortunate not to find themselves trailing by a considerable margin by the end of a first-half dominated by Celtic, but McGregor finally broke the deadlock in the second period with a fantastic goal on 78 minutes to hand Celtic a one-goal advantage going into the second leg.

    Brendan Rodgers made two changes from the side that defeated Partick Thistle 3-2 at the weekend, with McGregor and Eboue Kouassi starting ahead of Scott Sinclair and Charly Musonda.

    And Celtic dominated possession from the off, wasting no time in attacking the visitors as they went in search of an early lead.  Kieran Tierney was lively in attack and managed to get a shot off inside the box which was deflected out for a corner. The full-back used his change of pace to good effect as he burst past Miha Mevlja down the left flank again and again, and delivered dangerous crosses into the Zenit box.

    Olivier Ntcham also came close when he latched on to a pass from Moussa Dembele, but his shot went inches wide of the post.

    On the rare occasions that Zenit did have the ball, Celtic pressed them aggressively and the Russian side struggled to deal with the pressure. Kouassi won back possession deep inside Zenit’s half and quickly fed the ball to McGregor who worked enough space to get a shot off but it was saved by the Zenit keeper.

    Zenit rarely threatened in the half but they did issue a warning of their attacking threat when they forced a brilliant save from Dorus De Vries with a low cross at the near post which the Hoops keeper saved before Tierney cleared the resulting header off the line.

    McGregor played a key role in much of Celtic’s attacking play and troubled Zenit with his willingness to run at their defence and link up with Dembele. And he had a golden opportunity midway through the half when Ntcham delivered a great ball into the box, but McGregor’s shot was deflected out for a corner.

    And Dembele came within inches of scoring with 10 minutes remaining in the half but Tierney’s excellent low cross was just out of reach for both him and Kouassi.

    Celtic started the second half on the front foot and continued to heap pressure on Zenit. Opportunities soon followed with Tierney, initiating a counter-attack by firing a great diagonal ball across to Kouassi on the right. The Ivorian controlled well with his chest and immediately tried to slip the ball through to McGregor, but the Zenit goalkeeper rushed out to smoother the danger.

    Kouassi himself had a shot at goal shortly afterwards and surprised the Zenit keeper with a thunderous effort from distance which he could only awkwardly push away.

    As the half unfolded, a stubborn Zenit defence were able to limit Celtic’s chances and Brendan Rodgers responded by bringing on Charly Mussonda for Kouassi.

    The change had an almost immediate effect as the Hoops took the lead. Surrounded by Zent players out on the left touchline Musonda weaved space for himself and threaded the ball to Dembele, initiating a Celtic counter attack.

    A neat one-two down the left then saw Musonda loft the ball toward the back post where McGregor controlled the ball before smashing it across goal and into the roof of the net. It was a wonderful goal that capped a wonderful performance from the midfielder.

    Celtic managed the remaining 12 minutes of the game with composure to record an impressive and well-deserved 1-0 win over a top European side. Now they go into next week's second leg in Russia aiming to complete the job.

    CELTIC: (3-5-1-1) De Vries; Lustig, Simunovic, Ajer; Forrest, Kouassi (Musonda 73), Brown, Ntcham, Tierney; McGregor; Dembele (Edouard 83).
    Not Used: Bain, Miller, Hendry, Rogic, Sinclair

    ZENIT ST PETERSBURG (4-3-3) Lunev; Mevlja, Mammana, Criscito, Smolnikov; Erokorin, Kuzyaev (Kranevitter 61), Paredes; Rigoni (Driussi 61), Kokorin, Zabolotny.
    Not Used: Lodygin, Terentyev, Poloz, Zhirkov, Ivanovic

    Website Man of the Match: Calum McGregor


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