Sarajevo 0 – 1 Celtic
The bookies had us at 1/4 for this match,and time proves them right once again. But this was no 1/4 performance,albeit that Sarajevo looked like the 10/1 shots that the bookies had them down as. Make no mistake,this was nail biting stuff from us-mainly because it took us so long to break them down and of course the second goal just would not come either! But in ties like this,the win is what is important,not the manner in which it is achieved. I’m happy enough to settle for that.
Plus,it isn’t as though we played badly. In fact,there were no failures on the pitch for us. Everyone did exactly what was asked of them. So why the negative waves,man? Well,watching the game,with their constant eleven behind the ball and an ability to break at speed,was heart in mouth stuff at times. And for so long,it looked like it would be just one of those nights,the ones we have seen so often in the past. Loads of the ball,can’t break down the defence-though in fairness we had a dozen shots on goal with half of them on target-and left completely frustrated at the end.
Fortunately,that’s not how it turned out. We finally hit them on the counter,with Ryan Christie getting a good shot away from the edge of the area across the keeper. He could only parry it out,and I Wanna was left with the simplest of tap ins. My blood pressure stabilised almost immediately!
Seriously,this was a very difficult tie for us,for all that the “hosts” didn’t really offer a great deal bar defensive resilience. Oh,and a penchant for leaving the boot in when they tackled. This was largely down to a very lenient referee,who did not make a single booking as a result of a tackle. And he had plenty of opportunity to do so. But it would be unfair to criticise Sarajevo for that,they simply played to their strength and the referee allowed it.
But to the game. Firstly,my congratulations to MAHE for calling the team correctly in yesterday’s article. And that meant the return of Eddie after sitting out a few games through injury. This time,it was The Yeti who was injured after Sunday,so needs must. Actually,he looked far from 100% last night,but he answered the call-and how!
Wee Frimpers lined up on the right again,and as usual had two and sometimes three men on him. He tried manfully,and got past them a few times,but the important thing was that it kept drawing them out of shape when he got the ball,and more often than not,we would use that advantage to swing the ball out left where they were short. But in the first half,we just could not penetrate that defence,couldn’t get the ball to drop in the penalty area. We tried low crosses,high crosses,playing it through the middle with one touch,the lot. Half time and we hadn’t landed a blow,while they had had a couple of efforts of their own. In fact,the most notable event in the first half was yet another injury-this time to Nir Bitton who had to come off within the first ten minutes after a crude swipe took him out.
So we regrouped for the second half,and came out firing with a clear intent. We looked much more focused,and we ran that team ragged,pulling them all over the place. I wouldn’t say that it was only a matter of time,but this was a much more purposeful Celtic in the second half. The chances started to come,with Ajer having perhaps the first one,though I doubt that he expected the ball to fall at his feet from six yards. Mo was next with an effort that brought out a decent save,and Christie wasn’t far away with an effort from distance and even Hatem Elhamed managed a cracker which went just wide. Would it come? Hell,yeah-and with twenty minutes to go Eddie got the goal,as described above.
We had another couple of efforts after that,one from Frimpers when he ran across the field while trying to get the ball under control-the pitch apparently hadn’t seen water since the April Showers-and decided to chance his arm from twenty yards,his left foot shot going just wide,and Christie had another shot saved by the keeper. After that,with time running out,Sarajevo pushed as many men forward as they could,but in truth they honestly didn’t look like scoring. And about five minutes into the three minutes of added time,the referee put them out of their misery.
We can probably look back at the qualifiers as a chance missed after the Ferencvaros debacle,but when we got our second chance we took it. Two awkward away ties duly negotiated,and the players and manager deserve credit for that at least. The group’s are drawn tomorrow at High Noon,and it looks like we will be seeded in Pot One. Now,there’s a first!
No Man of the Match for this one,I’m afraid. We were uninspiring as a team in the first half,but won it as a team in the second half. That’s another thing I can settle for,quite happily.
Above article by BMCUWP. Usual place for any articles,especially with an international break coming up. Mail MAHE on