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  • Second-half fight-back not enough for Hoops

    Second-half fight-back not enough for Hoops

    By: Martin Dalziel in Gran Canaria on 13 Jan, 2015 17:56

  • Maspalomas Cup

    Maspalomas Municipal Stadium, Gran Canaria

    Tuesday, January 13, 2015


    (Griffiths 1, Thomson 73)


    (Matejovsky 24, Krejci 30, Dockal 45)

    A SPIRITED second-half display from Celtic was not enough for the Bhoys to grab a draw with Sparta Prague in their final game of the Maspalomas Cup in Gran Canaria today (Tuesday).

    The Hoops took the lead in the opening seconds with a clever give and go between Beram Kayal and Aleksandar Tonev which set up Leigh Griffiths but were pegged back in the first half through goals from Marek Matejovsky and Ladislav Krejci.

    A penalty award to Sparta on the stroke of half time, scored by Borek Dockal, proved to be the deciding goal and was enough to ensure Joe Thomson’s fine second-half strike was just consolation for Ronny Deila’s side.

    The Celtic boss made seven changes from the side that narrowly lost 1-0 to PSV in the Hoops opening game of the tournament. The most notable inclusion was Jason Denayer, who made his first start since the 2-1 over Dundee in November.

    He played an integral part in the opening goal for Celtic, which came within the first minute through Griffiths.

    Denayer strolled up with the pitch with the ball in the opening play and passed to Tonev who had dropped deep. His quick lay-off found Kayal, who turned his man and ran forward before playing a clever ball into the box for Griffiths.

    The striker showed good pace to reach the through ball and did enough to clip the ball beyond Marek Stech in the Sparta goal to put the Bhoys 1-0 up.

    The good start buoyed the Celts and they were comfortable in possession with Callum McGregor and Liam Henderson doing well in midfield to provide options and keep the ball.

    Sparta eventually began to find their stride, however, and had their first attempt just before 15 minutes when the ball fell kindly for Dockal in the box but he fired his shot over.

    The Czech side were coming more into the game and started to pull Celtic apart with good movement beyond the defence and with clever one-touch passing.

    Zaluska was called into action to stop a string of crosses from Matejovsky with the strong wind playing a factor in the game, as it did in the first match against PSV Eindhoven.

    Sparta seemed to realise that and began to test Zaluska from distance. They then equalised on 24 minutes when Matejovsky pinged a shot at goal from 20 yards which deceived Zaluska and hit the back of the net.

    The Czechs were on the front foot and were using the ball well on the wings. Pavel Kaderabel was starting to become a menace to the Bhoys down the right wing and his clever play began to bring his team more into Celtic’s half.

    The Hoops were tested by a string of training ground set-pieces from their opponents and went for a long spell without the ball before Sparta took the lead with a simple ball over the top of the Celts defence.

    The pass from Matejovsky found Ladislav Krejci in acres of space and he slotted comfortably home past Zaluska.

    Sparta remained on top and went 3-1 on the stroke of half time with a penalty from Borek Dockal which the referee awarded for hand ball in the box.

    The Hoops made two changes for the second half with Ronny Deila replacing Kayal with Nir Bitton and Denayer with Efe Ambrose.

    Griffiths brought the Bhoys up the pitch from the kick-off and McGregor stung the palms of Stech from distance and the Hoops sought to reduce the deficit.

    Celtic started to put Sparta under pressure much better than they had in the first half, owing in part to the inclusion of Paul McMullan up front who refused to give the Czech side time on the ball in defence.

    And the youngster had a chance to have a pop at goal after jinking inside from the right but he unselfishly passed into the box where there were no takers.

    McMullan’s fellow young Hoops star, Joe Thomson, then dragged the Bhoys back into the tie with a great strike from outside the box on his left foot after cutting in from the right.

    The goal was the result of good confident play from the youngster and was well deserved on the basis of Celtic’s second half play.

    The Hoops were pushing for the equaliser and went close to getting it through second half substitute Stefan Scepovic when he turned and shot from outside the box.

    The Serbian striker then had another good effort saved from the right after making a good run into the box.

    Those warnings brought Sparta back to life and they pinned the Hoops back for a spell in the closing stages but there was still time for the Hoops to create chances with a string of good crosses down the left from Calum Waters.

    It was encouraging play from the youngster who had enjoyed a good game but ultimately not enough to get Celtic the draw and the Czech’s ran out 3-2 winners.

    CELTIC (4-2-3-1) Zaluska; Fisher (Izaguirre 85), Denayer (Ambrose 45), O’Connell, Waters; Kayal (Bitton 45), Lindsay; Tonev (McMullan 51), Henderson (Thomson 63), McGregor; Griffiths (Scepovic 62).

    SUBS: Fasan, Nesbitt.

    SPARTA PRAGUE: Stech; Brabec, Kaderabek, Holek, Matejovsky (Svejdik 43), Podany, Krejci (Picault 45), Prikryl, Maracek, Dockal (Schick 60), Konate.

    Subs: Vorel, Janos, Miskovic, Vacek.


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