It was a game to match the occasion. A meeting of two old foes from the old days of the European Cup.
Many years have passed since Lisbon, but the sentiment around that historic encounter had not. Both teams came out of the traps with intent and the fans roared from the stands.
It was anyone’s guess how this was all going to pan out. Mistakes and lapses of concentration would play a big part but how would it all end?
Celtic showed will early on, but Inter would draw blood first….and second. Then Celtic would come back….twice.
Watching from home as I was, the lounge carpet was worn out. Not to mention a lot of man hugging – strictly platonic, you understand.
The noise from the fans, one of the greatest gifts from the Celtic faithful, was heard once more. They did the players proud and those of us who could not make the trip or fortunate enough to get a ticket.
As for the men in the studio, it may as well have been a World War II propaganda film. Chris Sutton, once a fans favourite, now a media moron, took another swipe at the club he once donned the Hoops of.
In tandemn, you had Steve McManaman following his lead into negativity. There was no mention of the financial gap, difference in managerial experience or standard of player personnel at each club within their analysis of the match.
Not only did they fail to highlight these facts. They ignored that this Celtic team are a progressive one, advancing in the league and trying to build a reputation in Europe under new management.
Sutton’s view on Celtic these days baffles me. The only assumption I can make is that his stance is purely career driven.
McManaman, I have no opinion on really. It was clear he only had an interest in the mighty Liverpool’s blistering 1-0 home victory over Beskitas and Spurs’ fantastic 0-0 draw, both home matches I might add.
Let’s talk about some of those errors though. Craig Gordon gifted two opportunities to prowling Inter players and they were out of character for him.
To be fair to the keeper, the first error began with Denayer playing an awful ball to Matthews who was unable to deal with it. That led to a passage of play forcing a save out of Gordon.
With the initial shot already going wide it was frustrating to see him parry it to Shaqiri who didn’t waste the opportunity. The second error was typical of a “heads down/just your luck” moment.
Izaguirre’s attempted clearance smacked off van Dijk and Palacio pounced. Cruel, unlucky and somewhat deflating.
Then Celtic got a break and two quick goals. Armstrong latched onto a Matthews cutback, tucking it into the Inter goal and the second came courtesy of Armstrong’s pressure, forcing Campagnaro to bundle the ball into his own net.
The game was all square and Celtic were back in the tie. Justified I would say.
However, Palacio would have a further say and Gordon would make another error. What looked to be a good take or a palm off to the side turned out to be something in between.
That resulted in Inter taking the lead once more and Celtic receiving the sucker punch before half time. By which time I had already endured several bouts of emotional trauma.
As tame as the second half was, it produced the moment of the game. Having never been in front the entire match, the draw was the best we could hope for given our luck on the night.
Step forward John Guidetti. A player without a goal since November 30th.
More recently he has been noted for stalling on a permanent deal with Celtic than making the net bulge. He picked his moment to return to form and did so with a sublime finish.
Credit must also go to the pass played by fellow substitute Liam Henderson. The young player’s touch picked out the Swede perfectly and it was all square in the third minute of the six minutes that were added on.
It was almost as though it was written for Guidetti. And a goal to send Celtic supporters into delirium.
When you consider Inter went with the mandatory five man defence manoeuvre to protect their lead, you have to applaud Celtic for picking the lock. Mancini was within his rights to deploy his team this way but Deila’s players took up the challenge.
We often talk about clean sheets and not allowing the opposition an away goal. In reality, I’m pleased we got a draw though.
On last nights evidence, it won’t be impossible to win at the San Siro. Not because Inter are a poor side but because Celtic were unlucky to have lost the goals in such a manor.
Most importantly, Celtic scored goals of high quality. Credit is due to the craft and determination that helped Deila’s players carve out three goals.
If someone had said to me before the match that we were going to be 0-2 down after 15 minutes and 2-2 after 25 munutes I wouldn’t have believed a word of it. This was a game of real football played at maximum pace and I accept 3-3 as a good graft from the team.
The tie is alive and the second leg awaits us next week. There’s everything to play for.