jueves, 29 de agosto de 2013

Forrest fires Bhoys into paradise Dramatic late strike ensures Lennon's never ... - Irish Independent

Dramatic late strike ensures Lennon's never-say-die Hoops land €25m European windfall

A performance of character and relentless will saw Celtic overhaul the 2-0 lead posted by Shakhter Karagandy in the first leg of this Champions League play-off and send the ground affectionately known as 'Paradise' into raptures.

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Celtic 3 S Karagandy 0 (Celtic win 3-2 on aggregate)

Goals on either side of the interval by Kris Commons and Georgios Samaras and the priceless strike – in the third minute of injury time – by James Forrest propelled them into today's group stage draw for the second season in succession and a windfall of around €25m.

The pattern was established from the start, with Shakhter sitting tight in two lines of defence to deny Celtic space in the crucial areas in and around Aleksandr Mokin's box.

The goalkeeper, too, demonstrated an appetite for the spectacular, if not always wholly secure, intervention. Within five minutes, all the central components of the drama had been paraded.

Celtic forced their first corner-kick and, when the ball was funnelled back to Commons, he delivered a beckoning cross on to the six-yard line which Mikael Lustig leapt to meet with a header that was drilling in until Mokin produced a tip over the top.

Anthony Stokes and Forrest swiftly forced successive corners before the winger whipped in a cross and the Irish striker responded with a header which was blocked on the line by the sprawling Mokin and he was denied again when the Dubliner drove from a free-kick rolled into his path by Commons.

As an additional insurance – and by way of a further irritant to the vociferous home support – Shakhter proved willing to incur cautions to break up any sustained Celtic momentum with Roger Canas, Aleksand Somcevic and Gediminas Vicius going into the referee's book, the latter two for fouls on Samaras. The Greek, who had proclaimed that he had never been so angry going into a game, looked far from being a man bent on vengeance and there were growls from the stands as he repeatedly drifted into dead-end streets.

It was, though, from just such a position that he helped fashion the breakthrough.

The opening period of normal time had come and gone and all the signs were that Shakhter would take their margin undamaged into the dressing-room when Samaras found himself meandering across the edge of the box, but when he lost possession on this occasion, the ball broke to Commons, who thrashed a left-foot drive beyond Mokin to ignite the legendary Parkhead European atmosphere.

Neil Lennon's half-time instructions were apparent from the restart as Celtic shifted up a set of gears and threw themselves at the massed ranks of orange jerseys, a change that took Shakhter so completely by surprise that the aggregate score was levelled inside two minutes. Lustig, pushing up in support, tried a shot which was blocked but fell kindly for Samaras, who kept his composure to draw Mokin off his line and beat him from close range.

Shakhter suddenly exhibited an unanticipated commitment to attack, which carried a degree of risk as far as Celtic were concerned, but also allowed them latitude to prove their belief that they would be favoured by an open game.

The two components of what had become an absorbing contest were on display in an extraordinary passage which saw both teams hit the crossbar.

Celtic thought they'd edged in front at last when Stokes' drive at the back corner cracked back from the bar.

Shakhter responded and Matthews blocked a Nikola Vasilijevic header on the line before Andrei Finonchenko rammed a shot off the woodwork.

For the second time in the game, normal time expired, but not Celtic's spirit. With extra-time looming, Stokes launched himself once more at the Shakhter back line to finish with a shot which took a nick and dropped towards Forrest, who cracked his drive past Mokin to the salute of a volcanic explosion of relieved and euphoric bedlam. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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