Sunday, July 14, 2024

Celtic frustrated in Danish stalemate

Celtic were held to a goalless draw at home by ten-men Aalborg in their opening Group E Champions League game on Wednesday.

The Scottish champions, who missed a first-half penalty, were frustrated by the well-organised Danish side, managed by Scot Bruce Rioch and who had the best of the opening exchanges before Barry Robson's poor penalty was saved by Karim Zaza.

And despite being reduced to ten-men late in the second-half when Michael Beauchamp was wrongly red-carded in a case of mistaken identity for a foul on Georgios Samaras, Aalborg held on for a precious away point.

The draw means Celtic have yet to win an opening fixture in the Champions League in six campaigns.

Aalborg were presented with their first chance of the night when Robson fouled Andreas Johansson in the 14th minute.

Michael Jakobsen took the resulting free-kick and his powerful curling effort from 25 yards flew just past Artur Boruc's post.

The Danes grew in confidence and should have taken the lead a minute later when Stephen McManus was caught out of position.

Captain Thomas Augustinussen played a ball over the top of the Celtic defence to Jeppe Curth, who screwed his shot wide with only the keeper to beat.

The Aalborg players were showing more desire than the Scottish champions at this stage and seemed to be first to every loose ball.

Robson again gave away a free-kick in a dangerous position in the 20th minute but Kasper Risgard's effort flew high over the bar.

Despite the Danes' dominance it was Celtic who had the best chance to take the lead when Shaun Maloney was tripped after turning Steve Olfers in the box in the 29th minute.

Robson stepped up to take the spot-kick but his low drive down the middle came off Zaza's legs and the rebound was cleared.

Samaras then headed over the bar three minutes later from close range after the ball broke to him from Gary Caldwell's effort.

But it was Aalborg who finished the half stronger with the Celtic defence doing well to clear a Marek Saganowski pass across the face of goal after he beat Scott Brown down the right wing.

Celtic started the second-half with the urgency they had lacked in the first period.

Only some last ditch defending stopped Nakamura landing his effort on target with Enevoldsen throwing himself in front of his volley after 48 minutes.

The Japanese international took the resulting corner and his inswinging kick had to be turned on to the bar by Zaza.

Celtic's Samaras went close after 50 minutes. Maloney expertly found the Greek striker in the box and after turning his marker Samaras sent his curling shot just inches wide of the post.

Free-kick specialist Nakamura was presented with a chance 20 yards out after Robson was hauled down following a surging run in the 69th minute.

But the Japanese's curling kick was soft and easily saved by the keeper. Nakamura was involved again a minute later when his diagonal ball across the ball found Samaras but the Greek overran it and pulled his shot wide.

A good passing move involving Brown and substitute Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink played Samaras into the box but he took too many touches and Zaza got out to block his shot.

Brown thought he had put Celtic ahead in the 78th minute when he finished a neat one-two with Nakamura but the linesman had already flagged for offside.

Aalborg were reduced to ten men with ten minutes remaining when Samaras was hauled down at the edge of the box by Jakobsen.

However, the referee handed a straight red to Michael Beauchamp and this sparked bizarre scenes with the player refusing to leave the pitch for several minutes.

Zaza pulled off a superb one-handed save from Nakamura's resulting free-kick and despite constant pressure the home side could not make their extra man advantage count and had to settle for a point.


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