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  • Celts edged out in seven-goal thriller

    Celts edged out in seven-goal thriller

    By: Mark Henderson in Croatia on 11 Dec, 2014 20:12

  • UEFA Europa League

    Maksimir Stadium, Zagreb

    Thursday, December 11, 2014



    (Pjaca 14, 39, 50, Brozovic 50)


    (Commons 23, Scepovic 29, Pivaric o.g. 81)

    CELTIC were edged out in a seven-goal thriller by Dinamo Zagreb to end their ultimately successful UEFA Europa League group campaign with a narrow defeat.

    Marko Pjaca’s composed finish put the hosts ahead in the 14th minute, but Ronny Deila’s men hit back through goals from Commons and Scepovic.

    Pjaca profited on an untimely slip from Adam Matthews to level the match before the interval, and they were back in front three minutes into the second half thanks to Marcelo Brozovic’s fine strike.

    Pjaca’s thunderous effort gave them a two-goal cushion to put them in charge, but Celtic rallied in the closing stages and an own goal from Josip Pivaric gave them hope.

    Scepovic headed against the post as the Bhoys piled on some late pressure but they couldn’t find a late leveller.

    However, Celtic’s disappointment will be short-lived, having already booked their place in the knockout stages, and they will learn their opponents in Monday’s draw.

    With John Guidetti unavailable and Scott Brown and James Forrest rested, changes in personnel were always going to be necessary from Saturday’s league win over Motherwell.

    Scepovic started in place of Guidetti up front, while Kris Commons replaced Brown, with Stefan Johansen moving back into central midfield.

    Callum McGregor and Mubarak Wakaso also came into the side, with Anthony Stokes the other player to drop out. The Irishman was named among the substitutes.

    In an eerily, largely deserted Maksimir Stadium, it was the home side who fashioned the first chance in the second minute. Left-back Josip Pivaric reached the byline and picked out Domagoj Atolic, whose shot was blocked by Efe Ambrose.

    McGregor quickly replied with an effort from distance that flew over, before Commons forced home shot-stopper Eduardo into action with a fizzing angled drive after his corner had been cleared back into path.

    El Aarbi Hilal Soudani then had a goal disallowed for offside after Henriquez’s shot had deflected into his path.

    Both teams were intent on attack and it made for entertaining fare as the play flowed from end-to-end – but it was the hosts who made the breakthrough

    Arijan Ademi took aim from 20 yards and his effort rebounded perfectly for Pjaca and he calmly rolled the ball into the far corner.

    The lead lasted than 10 minutes as the Hoops struck back. Wakaso sent McGregor scampering down the right and his powerful cutback was inches away from Scepovic. However, Dinamo could only clear as far as Nir Bitton, who was fouled 25 yards from goal.

    Virgil van Dijk, captain for the night, took the free-kick and when his effort looped off the wall, Commons reacted quickest and headed home beyond the stranded Eduardo, much to the joy of the Celtic supporters gathered behind the goal.

    Back came Dinamo. Pjaca had a shot blocked following a melee in the Celtic box. But the visitors only took another six minutes to turn the game around.

    Again, it emanated from a set-piece. Commons was caught by Marcelo Brozovic on the edge of the area. The same player took aim from the 20 yards and his curling effort beat Eduardo but cannoned off the bar. Bitton headed the ball back into the mix and Scepovic spun quickly and lashed home.

    It was then the turn of Zoran Mamic’s side to apply the pressure, and they found another way through six minutes before the break.

    Adam Matthews lost his footing in the box when attempting a clearance and Pjacca took full advantage, his shot finding the net via a wicked deflection off Bitton.

    And it could have been a quick-fire double setback for the Bhoys as Brozovic had space to pull the trigger in the box. His shot was heading towards the far corner but Gordon was equal to the task.

    Gordon was also the Hoops hero after the interval, throwing out a hand to claw away Soudani’s crisp volley. Moments later, he denied Ademi with a low save at his near post.

    But even Celtic’s No.1 could do nothing as the Croatian side made it 3-2. Antolic sped down the left and rolled an inviting ball into the middle which Brozovic met perfectly, and his sweet strike whizzed into the corner.

    It had been a blistering start to the second half from Dinamo and they only took another two minutes to double their lead as Pjaca’s ferocious strike whizzed into the top corner from 25 yards.

    Gradually, the Scottish champions regrouped and began to claw their way back into the contest. Bitton teed-up Commons, whose shot was deflected wide, before McGregor drew a comfortable save from Eduardo.

    And as the game entered its final 10 minutes, they were given renewed hope as Pivaric turned Izaguirre’s cross into his own net while under pressure from Scepovic.

    Substitutes Anthony Stokes and Liam Henderson tried their luck, before Scepovic headed Stokes’ corner onto the far post, but the home side survived the late barrage to hold onto the three points.

    But it was still the Celtic fans singing at the final whistle as the Hoops look forward to Monday’s draw for the last 32 of the competition.  

     CELTIC (4-2-3-1) Gordon; Matthews (Fisher 56), Ambrose, van Dijk, Izaguirre; Bitton, Johansen; McGregor (Henderson 63), Commons, Wakaso (Stokes 76); Scepovic

    Not Used: Zaluska, Tonev, Griffiths, O’Connell

    DINAMO ZAGREB (4-3-3) Eduardo; Ivo Pinto, Sigali, Taravel (Simunovic 11), Pivaric; Brozovic, Ademi, Antolic; Soudani, Henriquez (Cop 65), Pjaca

    Not Used: Mikulic, Paulo Machado, Fernandes, Goncalo Santos, Vukojevic

    Website Man of the Match: Stefan Scepovic

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