Celtic saw off FK Sarajevo in Glasgow last Wednesday amidst a barrage of dirty tackles. Despite the Luxembourg referee’s leniency, the home side came out on top.
The visitors were were organised and stubborn whilst dishing out some horrid challenges throughout the entire game. It was clear they had capability, but came up short in several areas, hence the physicality in their disruptive approach.
Celtic ran out 2-1 winners, adding to their tally from the first leg to win 5-2 over all. The Hoops remained composed, but there were a couple of flashpoints and the referee should have been tougher on the visitors.
The goals for Celtic were both great finishes from midfielder Ryan Christie and Callum McGregor. However, the goal conceded was sloppy from Celtic’s perspective and Boli Bolingoli has already stated he will need to improve on that blip.
I wouldn’t say it should detract from a positive display though. We’re building up momentum game by game.
It’s early in the season and this is a good time to identify errors and rectify them. The road to the Champions League group phase is a long one.
With Nõmme Kalju lined up for the second round, the draw for the third round will take place today at 11am. Should Celtic successfully navigate past the Estonian side this Wednesday and next Tuesday, we will know who they will have to overcome next in the Champions League qualifiers.
FK Sarajevo provided a bit more competition than Celtic are used to in these early games. It is also worth noting that Nõmme Kalju‘s late winner in Macedonia to see them through on away goals is a reminder that Celtic will not face a team that give in easily.
Avoiding any blips, Celtic will face one of the following teams:
PAOK (GRE), Qarabag (AZE) or Dundalk (IRL), Maribor (SVN) or AIK (SWE), Crvena Zvezda (SRB) or HJK Helsinki (FIN), Maccabi Tel-Aviv (ISR) or CFR Cluj (ROU) or Valletta (MLT) or Ferencvaros (HUN).
There are a few familiar names in there for Celtic and some they have so far avoided over the years. The competition level will be higher, but the expectations remain the same – win.
An exit at the hands of Nõmme Kalju would mean parachuting into the play-off round of the Europa League in the Champions path. Let’s not even consider that right now though.
We all want the Champions League. I don’t care who we face if we get there.