Unable to be reworded.
The Spanish team, Atlético, who were considered a top contender to win the competition, had different plans. They responded twice to Celtic’s attacks. Despite dominating in the second half, Atlético may feel they could have advanced further, but Celtic also played well and earned a point in the intense match. As a result, Celtic has rightfully gained their first points in Group E.
Rodgers praised the performance, stating that it was exactly what he had hoped for. However, he also emphasized the importance of achieving a positive outcome in addition to a strong performance. He highlighted the team’s ability to hold their own against a high-level opponent and acknowledged that the opposing team will return to Spain with the knowledge that they faced a formidable challenge.
The management of Celtic had issued a plea to their fans prior to the match, requesting that they refrain from flying Palestinian flags. However, it was expected that this request would be ignored, as many Celtic supporters have long expressed support for Palestine and this sentiment has only grown stronger due to the recent Israel-Hamas conflict. As predicted, Palestinian flags were displayed before the start of the match, not just by the vocal Green Brigade group – with whom Celtic has ongoing disagreements – but also throughout the north and east stands. It is likely that Uefa will impose a small fine for this display.
Shortly after, something caught the attention on the field. In under five minutes, Furuhashi executed a quick exchange with Matt O’Riley and then deftly flicked the ball past the oncoming Jan Oblak. The difficult angle of the goal scored by the Japanese forward, his second in consecutive Champions League matches, is certainly commendable.
Although Atlético maintained control of the ball, their attempts were mostly uncontrolled and from far distances. In a rare instance of potential for the opposing team, Joe Hart stopped Antoine Griezmann’s shot after an impressive reverse pass from Rodrigo De Paul. Diego Simeone, who is typically animated, showed clear signs of frustration with Atlético’s disorganized beginning.
Receiving redemption, Griezmann scored from a penalty kick due to a mistake by Greg Taylor. As Nahuel Molina made his way towards the goal, Celtic’s left back accidentally tripped him. Although Hart was able to deflect Griezmann’s initial shot onto the post, the French forward remained composed and slammed in the rebound.
Instead of sulking, Celtic retaliated. Axel Witsel made a strange move by ducking under a Daizen Maeda cross, leading to Palma scoring at the back post. The young Honduran’s powerful shot went past Oblak and hit the right post before going in. Celtic’s high energy and impressive playing justified their regaining of the lead. A great save from Oblak kept O’Riley from scoring a third goal before halftime.
Now for the tricky part. Atlético were unlikely to take kindly to Celtic out-performing them in so many areas. Two half time substitutions from Simeone – Rodrigo Riquelme and Marcos Llorente entered the fray – emphasised the manager’s annoyance.
Llorente played a crucial role in scoring the fourth goal of the evening. A threatening pass from the right side took the Celtic defenders by surprise, allowing Álvaro Morata to bend down and head the ball back towards Hart. Morata had been uninvolved in the game up until this moment; the creativity shown in his goal exemplified the skills of a high-level striker.
Rodgers was faced with the decision of whether to maintain the current strategy or change it up. In a rare move, the manager of Celtic switched to a defensive formation with five players for the final thirty minutes, substituting Palma with the Liverpool loanee Nat Phillips. Llorente narrowly missed a shot that was deflected. Witsel made a crucial block in the last seconds to prevent O’Riley from scoring. Celtic posed a threat, but were also at risk when the Spanish team pushed forward.
Ángel Correa forced Hart into a sharp stop with his feet. Yet the away team were to play the closing seven minutes plus stoppage time with 10 men after De Paul collected a second yellow card for a clumsy challenge on Paulo Bernardo. Atlético, like Celtic, settled for parity from there.
Simeone acknowledged that we had difficulties in the beginning of the game. However, he expressed satisfaction with our performance in the second half, which he believed was at a Champions League level. He also noted our display of character and accountability.