Wednesday August 16th: Champions League Play-Off First Round; Celtic 5 (Postnikov (OG) 32’, Sinclair 42’, 60’, Forrest 79’, Shitov (OG) 88’) FC Astana 0
Celtic pulled off one of the most memorable European results in recent history with an emphatic 5-0 victory over Astana which all but guarantees our participation in this season’s Champions League.
Brendan Rodgers’ big selection decisions were to keep Nir Bitton in his role as centre-half, with Tom Rogic starting instead of Callum McGregor. Leigh Griffiths was fit to lead the line up front.
Celtic started the game on the front foot, and missed two good chances early on. First when a Griffiths corner fell to Griffiths in the box but he curled his shot just wide of goal, then Griffiths missed a great chance when he missed the target with a free header when it seemed easier to score.
Astana then had their best spell of the game, keeping the ball for long periods of time and constantly looking for a killer pass, but thankfully Celtic took the lead in the 32nd minute, with Rogic taking a Lustig pass and going on a run similar to the one which resulted in his Scottish Cup winning goal, on this occasion his chip past Mokin in Astana’s goal was touched into his own net by Postnikov, when the ball looked to be going wide.
A few minutes after the goal, Postnikov really should have made up for his mistake by equalising for Astana, but thankfully he put his header from a corner wide when similar to Griffiths earlier he really should have scored.
Celtic moved 2-0 ahead in the 42nd minute, the ball breaking to Sinclair who managed to beat the offside trip and his shot eluding Mokin, who really should have done better, but who cares. The perfect time for Celtic to get our second goal.
The third Celtic goal came after an hour, and once again it was Sinclair who put the ball in the net. Tom Rogic was involved in a clash of heads but the referee played on and Sinclair played a one-two with Griffiths and once managing to beat the offside trap Sinclair slotted the ball home through the goalkeeper’s legs.
Unsurprisingly after his head knock Rogic was taken off, replaced by McGregor, and not long after this Griffiths really should have made it 4-0 after he managed to stay onside and be through on goal, but he couldn’t get his shot on target and smashed it high and wide.
The fourth goal did arrive in the 79th minute though, and it was undeniably the goal of the night. The very impressive Olivier Ntcham’s cross-field pass found Griffiths, and he put in the overlapping James Forrest, who finished in style. A great Celtic goal.
The final goal once again involved Leigh Griffiths, as he cut inside from the wing and his shot deflected off Shitov and completely deceived Mokin and nestling in the back of the Astana net, a pity that the goal won’t be credited to Griffiths as he certainly deserved one.
The final whistle brought scenes of delirium, as the fans and players celebrated an easy victory in a match that was meant to provide Celtic with a huge test, credit of course has to go to Brendan Rodgers, who has installed a winning mentality in this Celtic side in only a year which is up there with the great Celtic sides of the past.
Nir Bitton can be very pleased with his performance, and Leigh Griffiths and Scott Sinclair created havoc going forward, but undoubtedly the man of the match performance came from Olivier Ntcham, who dominated the midfield area, and already looks to be a very good signing.
Now that the Champions League is 99.9% guaranteed, Celtic should go out and make a couple of statement signings, to show that we want to continue playing at this level for a long time to come. For now though, let’s celebrate a wonderful Celtic night in Europe.