For me and many a Celtic fan we have been some what frustrating to watch over the last year or so, sluggish performances with many players not playing to anywhere near their potential, and as a team we were at times a chore to watch, however, this last month or so has seen us rekindle some of that magic we showed in the 2016/17 season where we blew away anyone and everyone domestically and put in some excellent performances in Europe against top opposition.
Speaking of top opposition, Celtic faced an RB Leipzig side which are just that, a team currently sitting 4th in the Bundesliga and having only lost once in the league all season, scoring 19 goals and conceding just 9. In the Europa league we all saw a few weeks ago how good they can be, albeit we were poor that night, and before Thursdays game they sat second behind Salzburg having played 3, won 2 and lost 1, scoring 7 and conceding 4.
It was a night where many Celtic fans sat and in anticipation to see whether we would come out like we had in recent weeks and have a real go at our opponents, there is no doubting that Leipzig are a top side with some extremely gifted players, however we have shown over the past few weeks that we have some top players ourselves, Callum McGregor has shone in a deeper role while James Forrest and Kieren Tierney have been outstanding.
It was also fantastic to stick my stream on and see two Celtic legends in the studio, John Hartson and Kenny Miller.
Celtic still had influential captain Scott Brown out injured with his normal central midfield partner Oli Ntcham also out, Youssouf Mulumbu however was fit for the game and he made the Celtic bench. Callum McGregor has taken up Scott Brown's 'holding' role in recent weeks and has brought a new dimension to Celtic's play with some classy passing from a deep position, while Ryan Christie has laid claim to Ntcham's position and has shown shades of Stuart Armstrong over the recent weeks.
RB Leipzig who have an array of talent in there squad left behind star striker Timo Werner as well as Yussuf Poulsen, while Swedish midfielder Emil Forsberg remained injured, however France U21 star Jean-Kevin Augustin made the trip to Glasgow.
Both sides selecting strong teams, with Benkovic and Boyata at the back Celtic had a centre back pairing which looked to be solid, we all know of the magic that the likes of Kieren Tierney, Tom Rogic, James Forrest and Odsonne Edouard can produce, while Scott Sinclair had another chance to show that he isn't just a one season wonder, it was a positive team selection from Brendan Rodgers who knew that a win tonight kept Celtic in with a good chance of getting out of the group, anything but a win and chances were slim.
Leipzigs forward line was menacing, Augustin in particular is a player known across Europe to be one of the top attacking talents that France seem to consistently produce, while in the centre of the park young Austrian midfielder Laimer has been impressive of late.
The light show wasn't really all that, like many i'd of preferred a new centre half or a free tea cake for each fan, but each to their own. The game kicked off and for the first 10 minutes it was extremely scrappy, neither side could really get there foot on the ball and play, Leipzig looked to have hold of the ball a little better than Celtic, but truth be told they were doing very little with it, Celtic looked good at the back and neither side really threatened. That was until the 11th minute when Celtic broke the deadlock, Celtic took a quick free kick into James Forrest who beat Sarrachi down the right with some great dribbling, his driven cross evaded Scott Sinclair and Edouard however it was met by Kieran Tierney who controlled the ball brilliantly before composing himself and shooting home into the far corner. It was a great finish from the young left back and it gave Celtic an early lead and the fans something to cheer which they did, the Celtic support were in great voice all night.
Tierney celebrating his goal with James Forrest.
It didn't take long for Leipzig to wake up and respond, a good one two between Augustan and Mukiele saw a low cross come into the box which Augustan tried latching onto, Celtic's Craig Gordon came out and managed to collect the ball before Augustan got there, Augustan caught Gordon when sliding in and was booked for his troubles, somewhat harshly in my opinion.
Celtic managed to settle down and with the Celtic support in full voice they began to knock the ball about with confidence, Odsonne Edouard was a constant thorn in the Leipzig's defence side pressuring them and forcing them to kick it long rather than play it out from the back. Celtic continued to look a threat half way through the first half, they had a number of dangerous wide free kicks and corners, however Callum McGregor has been taking set play lessons from his French team mate Oliver Ntcham and put in a string of poor deliveries, much to the disappointment of Brendan Rodgers. Around the half hour mark Odsonne Edouard broke out his inner Zlatan and ran passed a number of Leipzig defenders displaying great strength and balance before putting a low ball into the box which was heading for Scott Sinclair, the cross was blocked but it once again showed that when Edouard is on his game he is a handful for any defence.
Celtic won a free kick in a dangerous position just after the half hour mark, James Forrest was brought down by Saracchi who just couldn't handle the pace and directness of Forrest, Edouard stepped up to take the free kick but hit the wall. Celtic were were in complete control of the game, Kieran Tierney managed to get by his opposite number and loop a good ball into the back post were Edouard was waiting, the Frenchman controlled the ball well but his shot was blocked, the resulting corner once again came to nothing with Callum McGregor failing to beat the first man, it does often make you wonder what Celtic practise when it comes to corners and free kicks.
Bruma found himself in the referees note book towards the end of the half after tripping the outstanding Forrest who was running away from Tom Hanks down the right, i'm not overally sure if anything else happened after that because i forgot i had a curry cooking and when i went to go check it some of it splashed over my Celtic top so i had to deal with that, however we went into half time 1-0 up and in complete control, it was a mature first half performance where every player had played there part, French Eddy and Forrest where outstanding and causing Leipzig all sorts of trouble while McGregor was displaying great discipline in the deeper central role. During the half time break i had a cup of tea and an orange, it was very nice i enjoyed it.
The second half began with Leipzig bringing on Kampl for Ilsanker and the Germans tested Craig 'Pirlo' Gordon inside 20 seconds with a dipping shot from around 20 yards, the maestro saved easily. Celtic then had a massive opportunity to double their lead, a quick throw in from Kieran Tierney saw Edouard intelligently flick the ball onto the silky gazelle that is Scott Sinclair, the Englishman found himself clean through on goal but he decided to have mercy on his German opponents by completely fluffing the chance, he tried to take the ball round the keeper rather than shooting or passing to his on rushing team mates, I don't really think anyone other than Scott Sinclair knows why he didn't shoot but it could of been a costly miss. Tierney was then booked after he tried to beat the Leipzig full back using the old Declan John trick of kicking the ball in front of you and then getting beat for pace, John's disciple Tierney was booked for trying to win the ball back with a sliding tackle, the yellow could be considered harsh.
Leipzig began to get into the game a little more although it was scrappy from both sides, Leipzig had a couple of corners but could only muster tame efforts at the Celtic goal, Celtic to their credit were defending very well, showing great defensive transition and resorting into a compact 4-1-4-1 making it hard for Leipzig to create any chances of note. At around the hour mark Rodgers sent word to the second coming of Wanyama, Youssouf Mulumbu to get warmed up, Mulumbu has looked impressive so far in his short time at Celtic and i for one was extremely happy to see his shiny bald head tying his laces. The game remained scrappy with Craig Gordon showing a number of times why Xavi admitted to having a poster of him on his wall for his outstanding distribution.
Around the 67 minute mark Leipzig finally had another effort on goal, Sabitzer hit a decent looking shot which was deflected over the bar for a corner, the result corner met Sabitzer at the front post but he saw his header go wide. Leipzig were coming into the game more and Celtic began to slowly creep deeper and deeper but still looked as if they had some control over the game. A few moments later James Forrest and Edouard linked up well with Edouard once again running at the Leipzig defence and causing them all sorts of hassle, he managed to work his way into the box and get a shot off which was deflected just past the far post. The resulting corner was met by Benkovic who should have done a lot better with his header. At this point my stream died so i quickly ran to grab an ice lolly, i came back and it was 2-1....
Leipzig levelled the game when Austrian midfielder Laimer got the ball in some space on the right hand side of midfield, Celtic did not close the impressive midfielder down quick enough and he delivered a superb ball into the back post which was put in by Augustin, Celtic could feel hard done by however at this level you cannot give top class opposition any time on the ball, Lustig will also feel he could of done better when marking Augustin.
Celtic however were not to be denied a fantastic win, and 14 seconds after kick off the ball was in the back of Leipzig's net again, some neat play from Tierney and Sinclair out wide gave the Englishman a chance to run at the Leipzig defence, he managed to play the ball inside to the on coming Christie who had made a great run from the centre of midfield, Christie took the ball in his stride in the 18 yard box before playing the ball across the box into the path of Odsonne Edouard who tapped in to send the Celtic fans into hysteria and give Celtic the lead once more.
Edouard celebrating his goal and Celtic's second of the night.
With 10 minutes to go it was now a case of could Celtic hold on better than Rose did to Jack at the end of titanic. Youssef Mulumbu finally came on and after around 5 minutes of being on he had lost the ball about 4 times, one of those times presented Leipzig with a golden opportunity to level the scores again with Leipzig countering Celtic after winning the ball back in the centre of the pitch, some good football found Kampl on the edge of the Celtic penalty area, the pass played to him had taken out 5 Celtic players and his first touch which was excellent took him into the Celtic penalty area with only Craig Gordon to beat, Kampl beat Gordon but his powerful left footed drive slammed against the crossbar.
With only minutes to go Kampl wasted another well worked Leipzig chance, this time firing over the bar. It was a nervy final few moments for Celtic, with Kris Ajer coming on for Scott Sinclair who had worked hard and played his part in the second goal, Celtic took the ball into Leipzig's half and managed to hold on for a fantastic win against what is a top European team.
Each and everyone of the Celtic players can hold their head up high tonight, they all produced an outstanding team performance with a number of special individual performances, for me Edouard, Tierney and Forrest were absolutely outstanding, Edouard really showed tonight why we paid what we did for him, his constant pressing of the Leipzig back line and hold up play was a joy to watch, while Forrest and Tierney caused havoc down the wings.
Celtic stay third in the group but they have given them selves a chance of getting out of this difficult group, a win against another reputable side in Rosenborg on the 29th of November is a must, but before then Celtic must look to carry on there good form this Sunday against a Livingston side who are performing above expectations this season.