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  • Celtic stung by late Astra equaliser

    Celtic stung by late Astra equaliser

    By: Martin Dalziel in Romania on 06 Nov, 2014 20:06

  • UEFA Europa League

    Stadionul Marin Anastasovici, Romania

    Thursday, November 6, 2014

    Celtic...1

    (Johansen 31)

    FC Astra...1

    (Amorim 79)

    CELTIC were forced to settle for a 1-1 draw in Romania tonight (Thursday) after FC Astra stole a point with a late equaliser in their UEFA Europa League Group D tie.

    The Bhoys controlled large spells of the game and went ahead through a stunning strike from Stefan Johansen on the half hour mark.

    Astra came out fighting in the second period, however, and clawed their way back into the game before substitute William Amorim curled an unstoppable shot past Craig Gordon in the Celtic goal to give his team a share of the spoils.

    Both teams displayed great tempo in the opening minutes with the poor visibility from the thick fog engulfing the ground forcing each side to play the ball on the deck.

    Astra started well and pressed Celtic high up the pitch but the Hoops soon began to stamp their authority on the game.

    Stefan Johansen, deployed in the central attacking midfield role, was the main protagonist for the Bhoys in the first 10 minutes and won the first corner of the match for his side.

    He swung the dead ball into the box on top of Silviu Lung in the Astra goal and the keeper was forced to punch clear from under the cross bar.

    It was an early sign of intent from the Norwegian who then forced Lung into another good save when he collected a cross from Emilio Izaguirre in the box and shot on the turn but the Astra keeper shifted his feet well and palmed the effort away.

    Celtic’s early dominance forced Astra to play long with a number of searching passes for Joaozinho sent over the Hoops defence but the Bhoys backline stayed tight and covered the danger.

    Seidu Yahaya and Constantin Budescu both tried shots from distance but their efforts were gathered easily by Craig Gordon.

    Sadat Bukari was then booked for a dive in the box after collecting a through ball when it was easier to shoot.

    Celtic’s compactness at the back gave the Bhoys the platform to play in midfield and they maintained their domination as the half wore on and took the lead on the half hour mark when Johansen received a pass on the edge of the Astra box but was fouled as he turned for goal.

    Charlie Mulgrew took the proceeding free kick but his left-footed shot hit off the Astra wall. Johansen was on hand to keep the pressure on, however, and he rattled a first time shot with his left foot as the ball was cleared from the box which sailed into the back of the net after taking a nick off Vassilis Pliatsikas’ back.

    The goal was deserved on the balance of play and buoyed the Hoops who continued to press until the half-time whistle but the scores stayed at 1-0.

    Celtic had a chance to double their lead at the start of the second period with Johansen central to the play again. The Norwegian played a clever one-two with Scepovic in the box and the Serb collected Johansen’s return ball but fired his effort well over the bar.

    Budescu also went close for the hosts in the opening minutes of the second half but he too sent a shot from close range over Craig Gordon’s bar.

    Astra were rejuvenated for the second half and continued to create space on the edge of Gordon’s area but the home side’s strikers couldn’t find the target.

    Celtic soon began to edge back into the half after Astra’s early attempts and resumed the quick and accurate passing which gave them so much joy in the first 45 minutes.

    Astra were dangerous on the break, however, and Gordon was forced to move quickly to stop a strong effort from Pliatsikas who did well to skip past Wakaso in the box before firing towards goal.

    The hosts were on the front foot after the effort and forced Celtic to sit deep to absorb the attacks.

    Astra then drew level with 10 minutes remaining through substitute William Amorim who collected a stray ball on the corner of the Celtic box before curling a precise shot into the far corner of Gordon’s net.

    Celtic looked to hit back immediately and almost did so with substitute Leigh Griffiths who did well to round Lung and shoot towards goal but the Astra keeper recovered and pulled off a great save.

    Griffiths then thought he had scored what would have been the winner when he fired home inside the six yard box but he was adjudged to have fouled Syam Ben Youssef as the defender jumped to head the bouncing ball and the goal was chopped off.

    Celtic were pushing for the equaliser and the pressure began to tell on the Astra players as they tried to stop the Hoops’ counter attacks.

    Seidu Yahaya was booked for a late challenge on substitute Adam Matthews before a moment of madness from Vincent Laban saw him red-carded for a terrible tackle on Charlie Mulgrew.

    The Bhoys pushed and pushed for the winner with efforts from Mulgrew and Lustig late on but it couldn’t be found and Ronny Deila’s team had to settle for a draw.

    CELTIC (4-2-3-1) Gordon; Lustig, Denayer, van Dijk, Izaguirre; Brown, Mulgrew; Wakaso (Matthews 80), Johansen, McGregor; Scepovic (Griffiths 71).

    Not used: Zaluska, Ambrose, Bitton, Tonev, Kayal.

    FC Astra (4-2-3-1) Lung; Pliatsikas, Youssef, Oros, Morais; Labin, Yahaya (Seto 80); Enache, Budescu (Florescu 61), Joaozinho (Amorim 45), Bukari.

    Not used: Coman, Chitu, Gaman, Rus,

    Website man of the match: Stefan Johansen. 

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