Review: Inconsistent Celtic dumped out of Europa League with Zenit defeat

An all too familiar poor away performance from Celtic saw them knocked out of the Europa league in Russia as Zenit St.Petersburg progressed to the last 16, as reported by BBC Sport.

Inconsistent Celtic out of Europa League

Despite an excellent first leg display from Celtic where they took a 1-0 lead to Russia, see match report here, the Hoops lost 3-0 away in St. Petersburg meaning they exit the competition 3-1 on aggregate.

Brendan Rodgers showed real disappointment after his side couldn’t build on their first leg win. In just one week, Celtic had gone from perfect to poor.

Zenit XI: Lunev, Ivanovic, Mevlja, Mammana, Criscito, Paredes, Kuzyaev, Kranevitter, Rigoni, Kokorin, Zabolotny. (4-3-3)

Celtic XI: De Vries, Lustig, Simunovic, Ajer, Forrest, Brown, Kouassi, Tierney, Ntcham, McGregor, Dembele. (3-4-2-1)

First Half

Zenit were boosted by the return of former Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic who missed the first leg through injury. It took just seven minutes for him to make an impact and for Zenit to draw level on the aggregate score. A corner whipped into the box found an unmarked Ivanovic in the six yard box who powered his header past Dorus de Vries.

Celtic were sloppy on the ball after they went 1-0 down, nearly allowing Aleksandr Kokorin in for a second if it wasn’t for his tame effort at goal.

It didn’t take long for the Russians to put themselves ahead in the tie when Celtic backed off and allowed Daler Kuzyaev to hit one from distance. The ball dipped and moved and ultimately flew past de Vries for 2-0. The Dutch ‘keeper claimed a ‘Knuckle-ball’ strike made it difficult for him. However, many will feel he could have done more as the ball went straight down the middle of the goal.

After going two down, Rodgers’ men started to pass the ball around better and came back into the game slightly. It remained at 2-0 as the Hoops got a well needed half-time break.

Second Half

The game followed a similar pattern as before the interval. Celtic continued to keep most of the ball but failed to make any impact going forward.

Tom Rogic replaced Eboue Kouassi after the break to give more attacking impetus. As Zenit were happy to sit back and looked comfortable, Rodgers looked to roll the dice once more. Just as Scott Sinclair was readying himself, the Russians put the tie beyond all doubt. As Celtic were slow to get back, the ball fell to Ivanovic who wipped in a terrific ball for Kokorin. The striker beat Mikael Lustig, who had a torrid time all night, to tap in from close range.

As Charly Musonda came on for Celtic, it was too little too late. Oliver Ntcham and Sinclair finally tested the Zenit ‘keeper but to no avail. Zenit protected their lead well, but Celtic never showed any of the attacking quality that was so strong in last week’s game.

Rodgers’ side lacked any real intensity or belief as the St.Petersburg side ran out easy winners without being overly impressive themselves.

The Rest of the Season

The Hoops’ defeat to Zenit marks another disappointing European campaign for the club, despite domestic success. Celtic remain nine points clear of chasers Rangers, but with a trip to 3rd placed Aberdeen next on the fixture list Brendan Rodgers’ lead could be as little as six points. Celtic supporters will be hoping for a positive reaction after the disappointment of Thursday evening.

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