UEFA Champions League
Third Qualifying Round, First Leg
Dr Constantin Radulescu Stadium, Cluj, Romania
Wednesday, August 7, 2019
CELTIC secured an impressive 1-1 draw in Romania tonight, in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League third qualifying round tie against CFR Cluj.
James Forrest scored the vital away goal for Neil Lennon’s side, cancelling out Mario Rondon’s opener, and it sets everything up for next Tuesday’s second leg at Paradise as the Hoops look to reach the play-off round.
From the first whistle it was an open contest, with Celtic intent on producing their slick passing game while Cluj relied more on long balls and hitting on the counter-attack. And after just five minutes, Odsonne Edouard came close to giving Celtic the lead with a powerful low shot which the Cluj goalkeeper managed to gather at the second attempt.
Just 60 seconds later, the Hoops had Kris Ajer to thank as the Norwegian’s timely interception in the six-yard box denied the home side a goal.
James Forrest was causing problems down the right-hand side, and Cluj had to be alert to clear his dangerous cross inside the area.
However, it was the Romanians who got the breakthrough on 28 minutes when they hit the Hoops on the counter-attack. The goal came from a Celtic corner, and when Forrest’s shot from the edge of the area was blocked, Cluj surged forward with pace, and it was Mario Rondon who finished the move, slotting the ball beyond Scott Bain.
The goal gave the hosts some impetus in the game, and Celtic had to be defensively resolute as Cluj looked to extend their lead.
However, on 37 minutes, Forrest scored a vital away goal for Neil Lennon’s side. He switched the ball on to his left foot, and from 16 yards out, fired a shot beyond the Cluj goalkeeper, the ball hitting the left-hand post and ending up in the net.
Six minutes into the second half and Scott Bain was called upon to produce a superb save, with Boli Bolingoli reacting quickest to clear the ball away.
The impressive Hatem Abd Elhamed almost managed to find a way to goal on the hour mark, but he was eventually crowded out, and just minutes later, the Israeli Internationalist was called upon defensively to foil a Cluj attack.
Forrest came close to giving Celtic the lead on 76 minutes after great link-up play with Odsonne Edouard, but his right-foot shot from the edge of the area went just wide of the target. Celtic came close again on 83 minutes, but Edouard just narrowly failed to get on the end of a Bolingoli header across the six-yard box.
Scott Bain did well with five minutes remaining to get in front of an awkward bouncing shot, and the follow-up effort came to nothing.
There was no be no further scoring in the game, and Celtic will take the well-deserved 1-1 draw back to a packed Paradise, hoping to take another step closer to the group stages of the UEFA Champions League.
CELTIC: Bain, Elhamed (Bitton 87), Simunovic (Jullien 74), Ajer, Bolingoli; Brown, McGregor, Christie; Forrest, Edouard, Morgan (Ntcham 66).
Subs: Gordon, Griffiths, Hayes, Shved
Man of the Match: Kristoffer Ajer
Motherwell v Celtic
10th August 2019
Kick Off 12:00