Celtic must take full advantage of superb Astana result

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers at the end of the match

Brendan Rodgers’ side earned themselves a positive 1-1 draw in their Champions League first leg qualifier with Astana.

Celtic fans

A gruelling flight into a time zone six hours ahead, an astroturf pitch, the searing heat, a defensive crisis, playing the champions of Kazakhstan who are in the prime of their domestic campaign: this was never going to be easy for Celtic.

Unbeaten at home in European competition for two years, Astana managed to hold Atletico Madrid to a goalless draw in last season’s group stage — the Spaniards were a penalty away from winning the Champions League.

They are undoubtedly no mugs and Celtic, in recent years, have been scuppered by teams at near enough the same level as their opponents on Wednesday.

An optimistic opening suddenly turned into exactly the kind of encounter the Scots had often served up on the road in continental competition.

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers before the match

Cheap defensive errors led to the opener, and more hesitancy in the back-line. However, a successful stand to prevent further punishment showed the Celts’ resilience.

It was time for Rodgers to show why there was so much optimism over his appointment at Parkhead. And a simple change did just that.

By replacing Moussa Dembele, Nir Bitton sitting in front of the back four allowed Celtic to re-establish their composure, nullify Astana’s counter threat and push up a little more, which ultimately contributed to their goal.

Leigh Griffiths’ clinical strike after superb play from the impressive Patrick Roberts stole an away goal that could prove crucial.

A score draw was a poor result for Astana; yet it should be perceived as an immense result for the Hoops. Playing the first leg away seems to be an advantage, and that should be further justified in the second leg.

With a packed Parkhead roaring them on next Wednesday, Celtic must take full advantage after encouragingly overcoming a potential Kazakh nightmare.

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