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Celtic show fighting spirit to earn draw with Lyon

Celtic showed the fighting spirit they will need to recover from their Champions League flop as the Scottish club battled back to earn a 2-2 draw against Lyon in the Emirates Cup on Saturday.

Neil Lennon’s side were playing for the first time since their dismal 3-0 defeat against Portuguese club Braga in the Champions League third qualifying round and they looked set for another dispiriting loss as goals from Michel Bastos and Harry Novillo put Lyon in control.

But two goals in the last eight minutes from Gary Hooper and substitute Georgios Samaras salvaged a draw in the opening game of the pre-season tournament at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium.

Celtic’s late rescue act was a much-needed boost before they attempt to pull off a miraculous recovery in the second leg against Braga at Parkhead on Wednesday.

Lyon’s French League campaign starts against Monaco next weekend and Claude Puel opted to send out an under-strength side missing the likes of Cris, Jeremy Toulalan and Lisandro Lopez.

Even so, Puel’s understudies could have been ahead early on. Samuel Umtiti’s cross was dummied by Alexandre Lacazette and Novillo appeared at the far post to drive in a shot that was cleared off the line.

Lyon were dangerous whenever they went forward and Puel’s side took the lead in spectacular fashion in the 28th minute.

When Bastos, one of the few senior stars in Lyon’s team, lined up a shot from a free-kick way out on the right edge of the Celtic penalty area, it seemed the Brazilian was being a touch optimistic.

But, summoning up the kind of strike that deserved to grace a more significant occasion than this, Bastos lashed in a ferocious swerving effort that raced past Lukasz Zaluska into the far corner.

Novillo threatened again early in the second half as he controlled a pass on his thigh before making space for a curling shot that cannoned off the bar.

It was a warning that Celtic failed to heed and 18-year-old striker Novillo increased Lyon’s lead in the 54th minute.

Lacazette crossed low into the penalty area and Novillo’s powerful shot deflected off Celtic defender Glenn Loovens and past Zaluska.

But to their credit, Celtic refused to throw in the towel.

They reduced the deficit in the 82nd minute when Hooper volleyed home from close-range to claim his first goal since his move from Scunthorpe.

And, with Lyon disrupted by a host of substitutions, Celtic were able to snatch an equaliser in stoppage time when Samaras headed in a cross from James Forrest.

Sat 31 July, 2010
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