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  • Guidetti the last-action hero in six-goal thriller

    Guidetti the last-action hero in six-goal thriller

    By: Mark Henderson on 19 Feb, 2015 22:14

  • UEFA Europa League
    Celtic Park, Glasgow
    Thursday, February 2, 2015

    CELTIC...3
    (Armstrong 24,  Campagnaro og 25, Guidetti 90+3)

    INTER MILAN...3
    (Shaqiri 5, Palacio 14, 45)

    JOHN Guidetti was the last-action hero for Celtic as the Hoops and Inter Milan shared the spoils in a sensational six-goal thriller in Paradise.

    Early goals from Xherdan Shaqiri and Rodrigo Palacio had seemingly put the Nerazzuri in cruise control.

    But the Hoops roared back to level this UEFA Europa League last 32 tie in the space of 60 seconds through Stuart Armstrong and an own goal from  Hugo Campagnaro.

    Palacio restored the visitors’ lead on the stroke of half-time, and they looked as though they might hold on to that slender advantage as Ronny Deila’s men pounded on the Inter defence in the second 45 minutes without reward.

    But in the dying moments Guidetti raised the roof in Celtic Park as the striker acrobatically found the back of the net, giving the Scottish champions the draw they thoroughly deserved and renewed hope ahead of next week’s second-leg in the San Siro.

    The rich history attached to the fixture had captured the imagination of supporters since the draw had been in late December. Tickets had been eagerly snapped up by fans keen to see two great names in European football rekindle a famous rivalry, stretching back 48 years to that glorious day in 1967.

    There was a sense of that spirit and passion as kick-off approached under the floodlights. The inimitable Bertie Auld addressed a sell-out crowd, before the rest of the Lisbon Lions and two members of the Inter '67 team who took in the Estadio Nacional took the acclaim of the crowd and then formed a guard of honour. A special night seemed in store – and so it proved.

    New Bhoys Armstrong and Gary Mackay-Steven made their home bow as Ronny Deila kept faith the same team that sunk St Johnstone on Saturday.

    That meant the in-form Leigh Griffiths continued to lead the line up front, supported by Stefan Johansen, with Scott Brown and Nir Bitton anchoring the midfield.

    There was no surprise among the back-four as Adam Matthews, Jason Denayer, Virgil van Dijk and Emilio Izaguirre continued their partnership, having only conceded a miserly one goal in nine games.

    Mackay-Steven had only taken 38 seconds to mark his debut with a goal and he was presented with an opportunity on the edge of the box inside the opening two minutes, but goalkeeper Juan Pablo Carrizo was comfortably behind his shot.

    Celtic were competing well in the early exchanges but they suffered an early hammer blow in the fifth minute as Shaqiri put the visitors ahead.

    Racing on to Zdrako Kuzmanovic’s ball over the top, the Swiss internationalist’s angled volley was parried by Craig Gordon as it looked to be heading wide. The rebound fell kindly to the forward and he tucked it away.

    The Hoops faithful immediately attempted to rouse the Bhoys, and there was a response as Armstrong’s inviting cross from the left was inches away from Griffiths.

    However, Inter’s fluid front three of Shaqiri, Mauro Icardi and Rodrigo Palacio continued to look menacing, and Gordon was called into action by Shaqiri’s powerful shot from 20 yards.

    His diving stop was at the expense of a corner, though, and from the resultant set-piece the Italian side doubled their advantage.

    The delivery was aimed for Shaqiri at the edge of the box, and when he lobbed the ball back into the mix, Izaguirre’s clearance dropped kindly for Palacio, who took a touch and finished emphatically.

    Trailing by two goals inside the first 15 minutes was the worst possible start for Ronny Deila’s men but they remained undeterred and continued to pour forward.   

    Matthews’s searching delivery from the right was met by the onrushing Armstrong but he couldn’t flick the ball on target. A few minutes later, they combined again – but this time the ball ended up in the back of the net.

    The Welshman did brilliantly to hit the byline and his cutback fell for Armstrong who calmly stroked the ball home. Belief was back.

    Incredibly, 60 seconds later, they restored parity. After tenacious play from Griffiths had kept Inter hemmed in, the Hoops regained possession. Johansen lofted a cross into the mix and Armstrong’s presence forced Hugo Campagnaro to bundle the ball into his own net. Cue bedlam.

    Paradise was rocking and Inter were reeling at this stage as Celtic roared forward, sensing vulnerabilities in the Nerazzurri backline.

    Griffiths headed over from Izaguirre’s cross and Denayer glanced a header wide from Johansen’s free-kick after another purposeful drive down the flank from Matthews.

    A foul on Johansen gave Griffiths a chance to demonstrate his dead-ball dexterity but his attempt flew over.

    Brown’s determined drive into the box saw a shot from Johansen charged down. Mackay-Steven chased the loose ball but Carrizo got there first – just.

    Mackay-Steven had another effort blocked in the box as he hosts pushed to complete a remarkable turnaround by the interval.

    Instead it was Roberto Mancini’s men who would go in ahead as Gordon was unable to gather a hopeful diagonal ball from Gary Medel on the stretch. As the ball rolled agonisingly from his grasp, Palacio rolled the ball into the empty net.    

    It had been breathless and gripping opening 45 minutes and pattern looked like it would continue into the second half as the Bhoys burst from the blocks, with Bitton testing Carrizo from 30 yards.

    The match was swinging from end to end. Palacio somehow evaded the offside trap but Gordon was able to scoop up his shot.

    However, the Celtic keeper had to be at his best moments later to get a hand to Shaqiri’s shot after he had cut a path into the box.

    Bitton flashed a shot inches past the post and, after a period of Inter pressure, the Hoops showed their capacity for counter-attacking as Mackay-Steven hared in on goal but saw his effort saved by Carrizo.

    Driven on by the inspirational Brown, the Scottish champions resumed the offensive, and Johansen had claims for a penalty as he chested a long ball down for Griffiths and seemed to be shoved in the back.

    After a succession of corners midway through the half, Brown’s thunderbolt smashed into a ruck of players. Inter broke at speed but the magnificent Armstrong raced back to make a timely challenge.

    As the game entered the final quarter, there was little let-up to the furious pace. A neat piece of trickery from Mackay-Steven down the right gave Matthews and Brown chances to shoot. Both were blocked.

    Liam Henderson nearly made a dream introduction from the bench, when a ball from the right dropped for him at the far post. His shot was saved, however.

    But deep into stoppage time, they finally broke the away side’s resistance again as Guidetti swept home inside the box to spark delirium in the stands.  

    And as a pulsating match came to a close, there was still time for Gordon to make a stunning late save from a Shaqiri free-kick, bringing to an end one of the most epic European encounters Celtic Park has ever witnessed.

    CELTIC (4-2-3-1) Gordon; Matthews (Ambrose 81) Denayer, van Dijk, Izaguirre; Brown, Bitton; Mackay-Steven, Johansen, Armstrong (Henderson 75); Griffiths (Guidetti 75).
    Not Used: Zaluska, McGregor, Wakaso, Scepovic

    INTERNAZIONALE (4-3-1-2) Carrizo; Santon, Ranocchia, Juan, Campagnaro; Guarin, Medel, Kuzmanovic (Dodo 79); Shaqiri; Palacio, Icardi (Kovacic 75).
    Not Used: Handanovic, Vidic, Obi, Dodo, Puscas, Hernanes

    Website Man of the Match: Adam Matthews

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