UEFA must intervene

Before a ball was even kicked there were concerns about Celtic’s potential meeting with Linfield in the Champions League qualifiers. Not in Glasgow, but in Belfast.

I’ve often considered checking out the rivermouth of the sandbanks in recent years. After the ugliness of this week though I think I can score it off my list cities I’ve yet to visit.

Celtic decided long before Linfield were confirmed as their opponents that they would not be taking an allocation of tickets for the away leg in Belfast. This was disappointing news for fans near and far.

The fact that an agreement was made in advance to move the date of the fixture as well, tells it’s own story. Again, this was before the tie and prior to confirmation of who Celtic would face in the second qualifying round.

Concerns around the 12th July celebrations were not unfounded. Both in the build up to the match and in the antics seen on Friday evening inside Windsor Park, the evidence was there for all to see.

This didn’t prevent some Celtic fans from procuring tickets of course. At the last moment those in possession of tickets were moved to a segregated area, but that’s where the safety ended.

Perhaps the most disturbing event in the build up to the match was a picture that went viral depicting a bonfire that had a banner draped across it. The message upon that banner was racist in nature and aimed directly at Scott Sinclair.

It seems that being black is still an issue for some people in these modern times. Or is it just because he wears the Hoops?

These people who continue to celebrate and chant about events that took place in 1690 appear to be stuck in that era. There’s nothing civilised in how they execute their celebrations.

It’s a drunken piss up parade that brings out the worst in people. Often in the faces of those who oppose the events.

Why these marches haven’t been banned is beyond me. Mind you, with the state of politics in the UK of the last few years I shouldn’t be surprised.

Inside the stadium there were no such marches of course. That didn’t stop the home support bringing down the tone of the game though.

We saw the variety of missiles hurled at Leigh Griffiths live on TV when he went to take a corner kick in the second half. The biggest surprise was the reaction of match referee, Alejandro José Hernández Hernández.

I’ll deal with the scum that hurled those missiles in a moment. Let’s talk about Hernández first.

As match official he has a duty to manage the game. All aspects of it.

A player brought to his attention that he was the target of missiles from the crowd. Hernández ignored the safety of a player and instructed him to get on with the game.

As Griffiths did so in disbelief, more missiles rained down on him. A notable one being a glass Buckfast bottle. 

Had that struck Griffiths, Hernández would have been in a world of shit. Thankfully it didn’t strike the Celtic player, but as he showed the bottle to Hernández, he was presented with a yellow card for time wasting.

You can be certain that this incident will be dealt with by Celtic in a robust manner. Hernández will be hung out to dry.

Whilst we’re at it, lets talk about the stewarding. Or lack of.

They did little or nothing to control the situation. They didn’t even try to identify the offenders throwing missiles.

Did the PSNI step in at all? Not until much later.

When they did it was in full riot gear to fend off the home support. Never a good advert for your club or country.

What a disgraceful bunch these folk are. UEFA must intervene because Linfield are too incompetent to deal with their own fans let alone lead a so called investigation of their own.

For a club not to take an away allocatiom and then move the tie to a safer date is a massive concern. Even though both of these decisions were preventative measures and correct, safety was still an outstanding issue.

The conduct of the home support throwing missiles should carry a fine for the club as a minimum. Poor security and stewarding in the stadium should carry another.

Leigh Griffiths may have indicated six in a row (or was it a 5-1?) to the fans who taunted him and tied a Celtic scarf to the goal posts at the end of the match as he has done in many away games. What is unacceptable though was the failure of the club’s security and the match officials to put safety first.

Hernández, should be removed from UEFA’s list of officials because he cannot manage a match adequately. The yellow card that Griffiths received should be rescinded without question.

There’s no room in the game for this kind of crowd behaviour. Linfield fans behaved like animals.

It wasn’t a total surprise. You expect more from security and officials though.

Thankfully, nobody was hurt. Who knows what ensued outside the stadium though.

Celtic cruised to victory as expected. It was particularly fitting that Scott Sinclair had a big hand in the opening goal.

I’m sure that got the blood racing among the home support. The second goal by Tom Rogić was enough to seal the match.

The return leg at Celtic Park will hopefully have a competent referee. Linfield fans will travel to Glasgow and be welcomed by open arms at Ibrox this Wednesday.

That should have them sufficiently pumped up before coming to a Celtic Park. Let’s hope our security and Police Scotland are ready for these animals.

Defeat is already on the cards for Linfield. Let’s hope they enjoyed the 12th because the 14th was ours and so too will the 19th.

Once we’ve seen off Linfield on Wednesday, we’ll face either Dundalk or Rosenborg. It’s 1-1 from the first leg of that game with the second leg to be played in Norway.

Rosenborg will be favourites with home advantage and an away goal. However, Dundalk emerged from the depths of Irish football last season to make the play off round in the Champions League and eventually drop into the group phase of the Europa League.

Both were achievements for Irish football. So too were the first points and goals at this stage.

If Rosenborg do overcome Dundalk it won’t be without a fight. We’ll be watching that one closely.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

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