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  • Celtic secure valuable draw in Maribor

    Celtic secure valuable draw in Maribor

    By: Martin Dalziel on 20 Aug, 2014 22:00

  • UEFA Champions League

    Stadion Ljudski vrt

    Wednesday, August 20, 2014

    NK Maribor...1

    (Damjan Bohar 13)


    (Callum McGregor 6)

    CELTIC won a share of the spoils in Slovenia tonight after a hard-fought draw with NK Maribor in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League play-off.

    The Hoops took an early lead through Callum McGregor after good work from Jo-Inge Berget forced Jasmin Handanovic into a save but were pegged back by Damjan Bohar shortly after.

    Celtic boss Ronny Deila made a two changes going into the match following the emphatic 6-1 victory over Dundee United at the weekend.

    Mikael Lustig and Beram Kayal both started as the manager opted for a 4-3-3 over his favoured 4-2-3-1.

    The Hoops opened the game well, passing patiently through defence and midfield as they studied the Maribor defence for an opening and it wasn’t long before they found it.

    Jo-Inge Berget showed good determination down the Maribor left to win the ball and poke a shot at Handanovic in the Maribor goal. The keeper stopped the effort but his save fell kindly for Callum McGregor who wasted no time in scoring his third European goal for Celtic and setting the Hoops on their way.

    The Bhoys piled on the pressure and almost went two up but Anthony Stokes’ cross from the left was cleared by the home team.

    Maribor looked content to sit in, despite Celtic’s positive and pressing opening. Their patience soon paid dividends, however, when they dragged themselves equal through Damjan Bohar.

    The left-winger capitalised on a defensive slip from the Hoops, latching onto a deflected through ball before slotting low past Craig Gordon to make it 1-1 within 15 minutes.

    Play resumed at the same frantic pace with which the game opened. Maribor camped in their own half, allowing Celtic possession and time to pick their passes. The Bhoys took advantage of that and tried to pry the home side’s defence apart by drawing them out and attempting to play a killer pass.

    The Scottish champions enjoyed their best spell of the half shortly after with a succession of corners down the Maribor right.

    Good work from Lustig and Stefan Johansen continued to win the set-pieces and the Hoops went close with the second corner after Charlie Mulgrew flashed a header from the back post to the front before the chance was cleared off the line.

    Virgil van Dijk then had his own effort cleared off the line from an Antony Stokes corner but the header struck the back of Stefan Johansen and Maribor breathed a sigh of relief.

    The home side began to edge their way back into the game and threatened through a flow of their own corners.

    Craig Gordon stood strong though, particularly so when blocking a rasping shot from Agim Ibraimi, and the sides went in even at half time.

    The second half began with Celtic under pressure from Maribor as the home side looked to turn the tie round.

    In a reverse of their first half tactics, the Slovenian champions pressed high up the pitch and deep in Celtic territory.

    The Hoops were struggling to retain possession in the wake of the new approach from Maribor and were forced to sit tight in their own half.

    The hosts soon began to test Craig Gordon in goal, with goal-scorer Bohar the main architect of their opportunities.

    Celtic weathered the storm however and began to ease the pressure by playing long passes to Stokes. The Irishman did well to hold up the ball and bring his teammates into the game but he was smothered by the Maribor defence.

    The home side were still dangerous on the break, however, and caught Celtic out with a clever pass which found Ibraimi in space in the box, but the talisman’s strike was saved well by Gordon.

    Stokes had to watch another shot go agonisingly wide soon after, as the game opened up and both sides became stretched.

    Johansen then had the best chance of the half for Celtic with a determined run through the middle of the pitch from his own half but Handanovic raced out to thwart the Norwegian, just as he was set to pull the trigger.

    Ronny Deila replaced Berget with Efe Ambrose on 73 minutes and Celtic then had a penalty claim after Kayal was felled in the box but the referee waved play on.

    Maribor went all out for the win by bringing on Jean-Philippe Mendy for Dare Virsic, and Sintayehu Sallalich on for Bohar.

    The changes worked as the fresh legs gave the home team more pace but Virgil van Dijk still had space to fire in a rocket from 30 yards out which was tipped over by Handanovic.

    Maribor made their final change as the game drew to a close, with Amir Dervisevic making way for Ales Mertelj before Celtic also swapped Stokes for Leigh Griffiths.

    The home side continued to press but Celtic stood resolute in defence, with van Dijk clearing corner after corner before the Hoops finally won the ball back deep in Maribor’s half.

    Nir Bitton replaced Kayal as the seconds ebbed away and the travelling fans were then left elated after the final whistle blew, signalling a positive result for the Hoops to take back to Celtic Park next week.


    CELTIC (4-3-3) Gordon; Lustig, Denayer, Van Dijk, Izaguirre; Mulgrew, Johansen; Kayal (Bitton 90); McGregor, Berget (Ambrose 73), Stokes (Griffiths 80)

    Not used: Zaluska, Henderson,Commons, Pukki.

    NK Maribor (4-4-2) Handanovic; Stojanovic, Rajcevic, Suler, Viler; Vrsic (Mendy 73), Filipovic, Dervisevic (Mertelj 80), Bohar (Sallalich 78); Ibraimi, Tavares (C)

    Not used: Cotman, Mejac, Arghus, Zahovic.

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