Bhoys One Step Closer to Promised Land
Rosenborg – 0 (0)
Celtic – 1 (1) (Forrest 69)
UEFA Champions League Third Round Qualifer, Second Leg
Lerkendal Stadion, Trondheim
Wednesday 2nd August
Celtic moved a step closer to the promised land of Champions League football with what was a professional and encouraging performance from Brendan Rodgers’ men. The tie was finely in the balance after the Norwegians had frustrated last seasons invincibles at Parkhead last week and managed to come away with a scoreless draw. Over the course of the two games they proved to be a rigid side, concentrating mainly on their defensive duties and smothering Celtic’s attacks, but seemed to offer little of note going forward and in truth, Celtic were probably more comfortable than the score line suggested.
Hoops fans were left to sweat over the fitness of key striker Leigh Griffiths over the course of the week but the Scot was declared fit for the game and was named on the bench. James Forrest was faced with the task of leading the line after his impressive display in the 5-0 thrashing of Sunderland at the Stadium of Light at the weekend.
Celtic’s injury woes at the back continued when Erik Sviatchenko went off with what appeared to be a knock to his knee midway through the first half. Nir Bitton replaced him and despite being out of position, looked comfortable throughout and Celtic’s level of dominance failed to wither. The Israeli was calm and composed in the centre of the defence and proved to be effective in his distribution of the ball.
Only three minutes after the introduction of Bitton, the crucial sought after away goal was prevented only by a fantastic finger-tip stop by Hansen in the Rosenborg goal. Tierney had been causing the Norwegians a problem or two down their right hand side, and it was his cut back that was met by James Forrest, who was thwarted by the Rosenborg goalkeeper. Celtic maintained an impressive level of control for the remainder of the half, but perhaps the lack of a natural striker meant that their overall good play was hindered with a lack of ruthlessness in the final third.
“The Troll Children” were clearly instructed to up the tempo at the interval by manager Kåre Ingebrigtsen as there was a noticeable shift in gear in the Norwegian champions’ play. Despite an increase in intensity, they lacked the punch that was needed to break down a team that hasn’t been beaten in a competitive game of football in 252 days. Rodgers’ men weathered the storm and began to regain a foothold on proceedings, signalled by the introduction of Leigh Griffiths in the 57th minute, who replaced Irish winger Jonny Hayes. The introduction of the hitman proved pivotal as he was central to anything Celtic did in an attacking sense for the final half an hour.
The deadlock was finally broken in the tie with just over twenty minutes remaining and it was worth the wait for the Scottish champions. Scott Sinclair was forced to play with his back to goal for large spells in this tie, as he was clearly identified as a danger man by the Norwegians, but on one of the few occasions when he did manage to receive the ball on the half turn he was able to punish. He received the ball in a deeper position than he is normally accustomed to, before eating up the yards, side stepping a Rosenborg midfielder and feeding the ball to the eager Forrest. The winger took a heavy touch and seemed to have lost momentum, but was able to recover before buying himself half a yard and blasting it past Hensen in the goal. It was a sublime finish and one worth of winning any game.
Forrest celebrates scoring the winner
With the crucial away goal, the home side now needed two which meant more of an impetus in attack, which allowed space to open up for the likes of Griffiths, Forrest and the recently introduced Tom Rogic. Indeed, the three mentioned were involved in what was probably the best chance of the game on 82 minutes, when Griffiths superbly brought the ball down under pressure and played a perfectly weighted pass to the onrushing Rogic. Unfortunately, the big Aussie was unable to adjust his feet which allowed the Norwegians to retreat. The ball did manage to fall to the persistent Forrest who found himself with an opportunity with just the keeper to beat. He appeared to have too much time to make up his mind however and his attempt to round the keeper was nullified once again by Hansen. It was a let off for the Scandinavians.
The closing exchanges were comfortable in truth, and Rodgers highlighted the progress made by his team after the game in terms of how they performed and managed the game. Some of the passing was very encouraging to see from a team that is only four competitive games into its season, being tested against the champions of a league that began back in April. Victory meant progression into the Play-Off, where one of Astana, Hapoel Be’er Sheva, Rijeka, Qarabag or Slavia Prague lies between a second consecutive Champions League Group Stage campaign. The Scottish Invincibles will feel confident regardless of the opposition, particularly with a fit and flying Leigh Griffiths, and will eagerly anticipate Friday’s draw in Nyon.
Jubilation - Celtic fans celebrate the goal that sees their side into the Champions League Play-Off