Dembele shines for Celtic
Celtic 2 Astana 1 (3-2 Aggregate) Moussa Dembele's first Celtic goal gave the Hoops a dramatic last gasp 2-1 win over Kazakstan side Astana at Park Head and set up a Champions League Play-Off.
The tie was in Brendan Rodgers' favour as the Hoops had got a draw (1-1) in Astana and had the advantage coming into the tie at Park head this evening. Leigh Griffiths who levelled the scoring in Astans opened the scoring on the stroke of half time when he scored from the penalty spot, before substitute Agim Ibraimi levelled proceedings with a stunning long range effort early in the second half. However, in stoppage time French international Dembele who came on as a second half substitute for James Forrest slammed in a penalty after he was fouled inside the box by Igor Shitov. Shitov, who was already on a yellow was sent packing by Romanian referee Istvan Kovacs on a second yellow card, with Dmitri Shomko following him amidst the mayhem in Park Head. It was a crazy end to a game that was played in good sports and the Scottish Champions now go into Friday mornings draw looking for a favourable draw which will see them into the competition proper for the first time in three years.
Rodgers had some selection dilemmas to deal with and although the dropping of Efe Ambrose was no suprise, eyebrows would of been raised to see Dembele on the bench rather in the starting 11. Saidy Janko started at right back, with Mikael Lustig partnering Eoghan O'Connell in the centre back positions.
The visitors began the game on the back foot. However, time was passing and Celtic couldnt turn their dominance into shots on target. Visiting keeper Nenad Eric seen little action in the opening half with only a shot from Leigh Griffiths the only really test he was given. The home side suffered a blow on the half hour mark as Patrick Roberts went off after picking up an injury, he was replaced by Stefan Johansen. This switch meant that James Forrest moved to the right side of midfield, while Armstrong switched to the left.
The games opening goal came just on the stroke of half time. Astana defender Abzal Beysebekov fouled Kyle Tierney inside the box as they both challenged for a bouncing ball, the Romanian referee pointed to the spot to the delight of the Park Head faithful. After a few minutes delay, Griffiths stepped up and smashed the spot kick to the right of goalkeeper Eric who was sent the wrong way by an expertly taken penalty. The goal lifted the home crowd amid the half time whistle.
The second half began much of the same with Astana again on the back foot and Celtic looking for another goal that would kill the tie off. However, Astana fought back to bring the sides level. Celtic keeper Craig Gordon raced out to head clear a through ball and although it went some distance Ibraimi controlled the ball and sent it into the empty net to the shock of the home fans. The game stretched further. Dembele replaced Forrest after Junior Kabananga shot wide of Gordon's post.
Shitov, who was booked in the first half for the trip on Griffiths was then sent off late on for a trip on Dembele inside the box. The referee with no hesitation pointed to the spot. The French man dusted himself down and stood up and fired home the winner among joyous celebrations at Park Head.