Hoops face Europa League play-off after crashing out of Champions League

By | 13th August 2019

CELTIC just saw £30MILLION flushed down the Clujy.

At least, that’s what it felt like for Hoops fans after this stomach churning Euro sickener.

George Tucudean celebrates after scoring Cluj's winner
George Tucudean celebrates after scoring Cluj’s winner
Facebook/Jeff Bridges
Celtic's players look dejected
Celtic’s players look dejected after being dumped out by Cluj

It’s Romania’s champions in the play-off round after this dramatic end to end Champions League shocker.

Dan Petrescu said in the build-up to this second-leg clash he wanted Neil Lennon’s job. Well, here he did one on him.

It’ll be the Europa League as best now for Scotland’s champions who scored three times through James Forrest, Odsonne Edouard and Ryan Christie.

But no team can concede four goals at home and expect to win through.

Lennon’s line-up wasn’t one many supporters would have predicted as they made their way into the stadium.

But they’d have been talking about it on their way out.

Celtic shelled out the best part of £10m this summer on two new defenders.

CAN’T TRUST BOL

But neither Christopher Jullien or Boli Bolingoli were picked for this vital European clash.

Jullien’s issue seems to be his lack of match sharpness but Celtic at least have options at centre-back with Jozo Simunovic and Kris Ajer such a strong and reliable partnership.

Lennon doesn’t have that luxury at left-back. With Kieran Tierney gone, Bolingoli should be nailed-on at left-back on a night like this.

Lennon has gone out his way to defend the Belgian, insisting the flak that’s been flying in his direction has been grossly unfair on a player only two minutes through the door.

But it spoke volumes that Bolingoli couldn’t be trusted with so much at stake.

Callum McGregor was the man Lennon went with at left-back and it was a big call from the Celtic boss.

Bilel Omrani celebrates with his team-mates after scoring for Cluj
Bilel Omrani celebrates with his team-mates after scoring for Cluj
Cluj's players celebrate their win over Celtic
Cluj’s players celebrate their win
Facebook/Jeff Bridges

The one thing Bolingoli lacks more than anything else is composure on the ball, which is something McGregor has in spades.

But he was still playing out of position and no matter how good a player he is Cluj were always going to try and exploit that.

They almost did just that after nine minutes.

That’s when Dan Petrescu and the entire Cluj subs’ bench jumped out the dugout screaming for a penalty, and you couldn’t help think they had a damn good case for one.

McGregor did everything he could to retrieve an ominous-looking situation, when a hooked ball flew over his head and landed at the feet of striker Deac.

The Cluj No10 looked odds-on to score but he shot wide with McGregor catching him with a late challenge a split second later.

Anywhere else on the pitch and the Latvian referee, Andris Trelmanis, would almost certainly have awarded a free-kick.

CLUJ FULL OF ENERGY

But he took the decision that McGregor’s contact wasn’t significant and no spot-kick was given. They got away with one there, Celtic.

But then they got away with quite a lot in the first half-hour which was littered with unforced errors and slackness.

Cluj were full of energy all over the pitch with Celtic just all over the place.

Ryan Christie and Mikey Johnston came close with a couple of shots from distance but it was the visitors who looked far more dangerous.

When they took the lead after 27 minutes it came as absolutely no surprise.

The fact is came from an almost identical move which almost saw Cluj awarded penalty will be all the more galling for Lennon.

A quick throw-in down the left flank was hooked into the box again by Billel Omrani with Deac this time glancing a header in off the post.

Despite his best efforts, McGregor was the man out-jumped.

James Forrest celebrates after scoring for Celtic
James Forrest celebrates after scoring for Celtic
Celtic boss Neil Lennon
Neil Lennon on the touchline

Suddenly Celtic Park was gripped by nerves and tension as every home supporter inside the ground started to fear the worse.

Cluj got lucky before the break when hitman Mario Rondon escaped a second booking for a late foul on Ajer.

The fact the striker didn’t reappear for the second half showed boss Petrescu was worried another yellow card was on its way.

But it was a actually a Celtic goal.

Forrest’s equaliser was just a tremendous piece of skill and execution, as well as unbelievable composure.

McGregor did brilliantly first of all to cross from the left with Edouard stepping over it with a neat dummy.

The ball landed at Forrest’s feet at the back post and while most players would have stabbed at it first time he calmly took a touch before slotting it into the net with the outside of his right foot.

Cluj were rattled with their players, Petrescu and his backroom staff questioning every decision the officials made.

KNIFE-EDGE

On the hour mark they were all furious they weren’t awarded a free-kick on the halfway line but while the lost their shape Edouard showed his brilliance to fire Celts ahead.

Hatem Elhamed’s cross from the right wasn’t defended properly but French Eddy’s finish into the bottom corner was sublime.

For all that, though, the game was still on a knife-edge with Cluj only needing to score one goal to win through on away goals.

They thought they’d got it after a moment of madness from Scott Brown when he handled the ball inside his own box to concede a penalty.

Omrani blasted past Scott Bain from the spot to mean Celtic needed to score again – but only three minutes later Christie did just that.

Combining brilliantly with Edouard to burst into the box, the midfielder turned the ball into the net to regain Celtic’s advantage.

But Cluj weren’t finished and with ten minutes left to play Omrani netted his second goal of the night, blasting high into the net after a good initial save from Bain.


It was agonising stuff for Celtic who had nothing more to give with their Champions League dream left in tatters.

With the last kick of the ball they even conceded again with George Tucudean beating Bain.

Boos rang around Celtic Park at the sound of the final whistle as Cluj did a mass team huddle out on the pitch.

This post written by Matt Heath-Smith originally appeared on Football news - transfers, fixtures, scores, pictures | The Sun. Read the full post here.

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