When Hapoel Be’er Shova’s Moar Milekson crashed the ball past the Celtic’s Craig Gordon; Brendan Rodgers must have been fearing the worst. Only minutes earlier Hapoel’s Lucio Maranhao had shimmied his way past the Celtic backline and begun an unexpected fight back from the Israeli champions.
Brendan Rodgers Almost Beaten by the Ghosts of Celtic Past
Earlier in the game Celtic had sprinted out to a 3:0 halftime lead through the mercurial Scotsman Leigh Griffiths. Griffiths, who scored twice in last five minutes of the half was playing like a man possessed. His first, a powerful header from a James Forrest cross, was created by Kolo Toure’s best Usain Bolt impression as he galloped over halfway and into the Hapoel area.
Griffiths second was a Lionel Messi-esque free kick. Curled beautifully into the keepers top left corner it sent Celtic Park into raptures. Griffiths leapt into Brendan Rodger’s arms as the team celebrated a goal that appeared to seal Champions League football for the first time in 2 seasons.
But Scottish Football is never straight forward. It has a cruel streak George R.R. Martin would be proud of. On European nights Celtic Park is a cauldron of unrivaled football passion. Its ferocity destroyed former Celtic manager Ronny Deila’s confidence. Deila lost the Celtic support in Europe, two poor Champions League performances against Maribor and Malmö cost prestige and around £50 million in lost revenue. The game against Malmö was in their hands until they conceded two soft goals and then lost away from home to stumble out of the Champions League.
Here we go again!
So when Hapoel brought the game back to 3:2 you can understand why Celtic Park could have turned on Brendan Rodgers very quickly. Like when the Goldcoats turned on Ned Stark, it usually ends with someone being publicly executed.
But they didn’t. Rodgers had previously pleaded with the boisterous home support to stick with the side. To cheer when things were going against them and to trust in the new version of Glasgow Celtic. A team who play from the back and never give up. Rodgers has the reputation to demand such from the Green Brigade. They certainly gave him the chance in this game.
Backed by the Celtic Park crowd, a crowd described by Hapoel manager Barak Bakhar as the loudest he had ever heard; Rodger’s team restarted their engine and worked through the gears.
They hit their fourth when former Fulham and Football Manager wonderkid Moussa Dembele nodded in from a Griffiths corner at close range.
Scott Brown sealed the result with his first goal in 28 European Qualifying games. He lashed the ball past the helpless David Goresh in Be’er Sheva’s goal with a fierce right footed shot.
To the Promised Land
A 5:2 result has given Celtic a solid lead to take over to the Middle East next week. The ability to keep the crowd onside and play from the back has kept Rodgers and his side in the tournament so far. But it will be a tough game in Israel. Whatever happens, from this result it appears Celtic have overcome the ghosts of last two seasons.