Celtic Rescue UCL Draw in Kazakhtan


Celtic emerged from a testing visit to Astana in which they were largely second best with a commendable draw.

Looking to reach the Champions League group stage for the first time since 2013, they found the Kazakhs tough opposition.

In Brendan Rodgers’ third competitive game in charge, they fell behind to a Yuri Logvinenko header.
But after heavy Astana pressure, Leigh Griffiths struck a potentially crucial away goal on 78 minutes.
Griffiths had scarcely been involved in the match, his partnership with Moussa Dembele failing to gel.
But the striker, whose 40 goals last year earned him multiple awards and medals, showed his worth with a fantastic equaliser.

Patrick Roberts, Celtic’s brightest player on the night, won possession near the byeline and picked out Griffiths inside the penalty area.

With barely a glance up, Griffiths rifled the ball past Nenad Eric to change the complexion of the tie.

Such an outcome had looked unlikely as a makeshift Celtic defence had to deal with a barrage of Astana chances.
With Erik Sviatchenko added to an already extensive list of injured defenders, Rodgers brought in 20-year-old Eoghan O’Connell for his European debut and Efe Ambrose was reintroduced to a three-man backline alongside Mikael Lustig.
Ambrose was fortunate not to see a lapse of concentration punished as he missed a Patrick Twumasi cross altogether, with Junior Kabananga inches away from connecting and Mikael Lustig nervously knocking the ball clear.

But from the 19th-minute corner, O’Connell was left for dead by Logvinenk, who headed unchallenged into the net.
Although there were several further scares for the small travelling support, the majority of Astana’s opportunities came from distance, with Craig Gordon looking assured.

As they often have, Celtic had their goalkeeper to thank for keeping the deficit to just one goal until Griffiths’ leveller.

The Scotland international again produced save after save to help ensure Celtic are in the driving seat going into next week’s second leg.

He somehow clawed away an awkward Azat Nurgaliyev chip after another Ambrose error, parried a ferocious 40-yard Twumasi drive, touched a dipping Nurgaliyev shot on to the crossbar and kept out a Kabananga effort with his legs.
Those interventions could prove vital as Celtic aim for a win in Glasgow next week to reach the Champions League play-off stage.