FK SARAJEVO 0-1 CELTIC FC
1st October 2020
Belino Polje Stadium
Celtic travelled to Bosnia to face champions FK Sarajevo in the final qualifying game before group stages and again it was a one off knock out tie that carried huge importance for both teams. Of course there is the main factor of being out of Europe before it properly kicks off. Sarajevo had chosen the Belino Polje Stadium, home of rivals NK Čelik and the Bosnia national team, due to their own ground being unsuitable for European competition. Neil Lennon picked the same side who swept aside Hibernian at the weekend but Edouard would start in place of the injured Albian Ajeti who along with James Forrest didn’t travel with the squad.
Celtic in the green and white hoops set out their intentions from the start, playing a high line and Sarajevo sat in. As early as three minutes Celtic had a very legitimate call for a handball at the edge of the opposition box but the referee wasn’t interested. Five minutes later saw a clear chance when Elyounoussi screwed the ball wide but was called back for offside. Amongst all this in 8 minutes, Nir Bitton went down injured and had to be replaced by Elhamed. Whilst Celtic enjoyed the majority of possession we did leave ourselves open at times for a well drilled Sarajevo to break away. One such attempt was saved at the left post by goalie Barkas on thirteen minutes. Celtic continued to press well, make space and create chances with Christie and Frimpong torturing his man Pidro and the Bosnian team at times but the cutting edge was missing in front of the Sarajevo goal.
Captain Scott Brown seemed to be enjoying his football and was instrumental in orchestrating his team into attack and breaking up play around him. On 39 minutes Christie picked up the ball on the left and bent a lovely pass around a couple of Sarajevo players to Edouard on the edge of the box. He flicked the ball up nicely for a first time strike by Elyounoussi only to be smothered by goalie Kovacevic. A few minutes before half time Sarajevo lifted the ball into the Celtic box only for Barkas to be smashed in the chin by an outstretched arm of Dupovac who received a yellow card. Celtic finished the half very strong and saw some beautiful play by Christie, Ely, Frimpong and Elhamed in around the Bosnian box. This was all much better football by Celtic than the previous round against Riga and Sarajevo served as a much stronger opposition who were breaking out well at times and a special mention for English man Fanimo. All level at half time 0-0.
The Hoops started the second half hungry to put this tie to bed and on 49 minutes a great effort from the right saw Jeremie Frimpong ping a shot that the keeper saved well. A couple of minutes later Frimpong was involved again when he attacked to win a corner and the ball flashed past everyone with Ajer getting a boot on it without converting. Sarajevo were sticking to their system rigidly and it could have worked but for some stout defending by Celtic and Duffy in 57 minutes connected with the head to snub out danger in our box. As in the first half all of Celtics best work saw Christie instrumental in everything and he had a couple of close efforts in the second with one just whizzing over the cross bar from 25 yards out. The Bhoys were turning the screw and edging closer to goal which came along in 69 minutes when a nice run of play saw Elyounoussi back heel on the edge of the box into the path of Ryan Christie. He took his shot first time which the keeper saved but big Edouard was waiting to tap it into the goal. 1-0 Celtic.
Celtic didn’t panic and looked assured in possession as they looked to kill the tie with another goal. Efforts were had by Edouard before being subbed off in 77mins for Klimala, Christie, a Duffy header and a solo run from Frimpong from around the half way mark to bear down on goal and went inches wide of the post. Sarajevo were on the ropes and trying to regroup to find their feet and they had one final effort when Handzic shot cleanly only for Barkas to make the save. Patrik Klimala and Oremus both saw yellow in the closing stages for a clash and this was after some theatrical behaviour by some Sarajevo players but it finished 0-1 to Celtic and into the draw for the group stages. The score line really flattered the Bosnians but Celtic need to be more clinical in front of the opposition goal, no matter who that is. A lot of positives to be taken from the game in that we are starting to see a more settled Celtic team easing into the season while playing with self assurance. We are creating plenty of chances and although this game finished 1-0 also, it was a more competent performance than in Riga the previous week.
MOTM: Ryan Christie.
SARAJEVO 39%. CELTIC 61%.
5 SHOTS 12
1 ON GOAL 5
The lunchtime draw (02/10/20) for the UEFA CUP group stages saw Celtic going into Pot 1 and drawn out in Group H. We will face tough opponents in every game as we compete with Sparta Prague, AC Milan and Lille. We need to be at our best and to prepare properly for each game and while 10 in a Row is the priority this season, a good European run always shows the metal of the team as a group. I believe once the window closes we will be seeing Odsonne Edouard make the step up again to help take Celtic forward domestically and in Europe and I hope that will coincide with the reintroduction of Leigh Griffiths. Can never have enough strikers that bring different things to the table. Next up on the fixture list is a tricky 12 noon Kick Off away to St.Johnstone but picking up points away after European Thursdays is what champions do. Keep it going Bhoys!!!