KYOGO FURUHASHI fired Celtic into the Europa League – but the manner of their loss on to the night to AZ Alkmaar was disappointing.
The Hoops came into the second leg of their play-off tie full of confidence following their 2-0 victory in Scotland last week.
While recent performances in the league also ensured Ange Postecoglou's side were ready to get at their Dutch opponents right from kick-off.
And they certainly didn't have to wait long for the opener as they got off to a great start in the game.
With less than four minutes on the clock, Tony Ralston kicked the ball down the right wing to Liel Abada.
The Israeli star then sprinted towards the edge of the box before firing a low cross across the face of goal.
And there was the oncoming Furuhashi to send the ball into the roof of the net.
However, AZ were back on level terms just minutes later thanks to a Joe Hart howler.
JOIN SUN VEGAS: GET A FREE £10 BONUS WITH 100s OF GAMES TO PLAY AND NO DEPOSIT REQUIRED (Ts&Cs apply)
Zakaria Aboukhal was able to break through on goal after latching on to Stephen Welsh's poor header, and the Hoops keeper raced out to meet him.
However, he mistimed his tackle and the Moroccan international was able to fire the ball into an empty net.
The game continued to be really open and both sides had chances to add another goal.
But the Hoops suffered a blow when Greg Taylor suffered a shoulder injury after sliding to the ground in the box.
The left-back tried to continue but was later forced to come off after being unable to shake the pain off.
Celtic's night got even more difficult when AZ brought the aggregate scoreline back to a one-goal deficit – thanks to a poor mistake by Carl Starfelt.
Yukinari Sugawara sent a cross into the box from the right-hand side and the Swedish defender tried to make the clearance.
However, he completely mistimed the attempt and only succeeded in turning the ball into his own net.
AZ were very much in the ascendancy and put Postecoglou's side under plenty of pressure.
Sugawara continued to threaten down the right-hand side and whenever the Hoops played it short at the back, the Dutch side were quick to press them.
Shortly before half-time, Aboukhal had a great opportunity to score his team's third goal of the night.
But Hart was able to make a very good save to knock the ball out for a corner, which ultimately amounted to nothing.
Things didn't change at the start of the second half as AZ remained relentless in their pursuit of a third goal in the match.
Celtic were under the cosh for much of the opening 15 minutes and struggled to maintain possession when they did win the ball back.
However, the Hoops did end up getting hold of the ball and around the hour mark, Tom Rogic was able to have a shot at goal – his side's first chance for some time.
The Australian was then replaced by Odsonne Edouard, who in turn was able to help the visitors keep possession in the final third.
Celtic managed to create more chances and AZ didn't look nearly as dangerous as they had done up until that point.
However, the Dutch missed a great opportunity to score with around 10 minutes to go.
After getting the ball down the left-hand side, the ball was played across to the opposite side of the goal.
Ernest Poku ran on to it and had the goal in front of him, but somehow ended up firing the ball wide of the post.
It was a huge let-off for Celtic with the momentum beginning to turn against them once again.
The home crowd urged their side forward over the final 10 minutes but AZ were ultimately unable to find the breakthrough.
FREE BETS: GET OVER £2,000 IN NEW CUSTOMER DEALS
And so, despite being on the back foot for most of the match, Celtic were ultimately able to cling on to win on aggregate.
It's a great achievement for Postecoglou's men to advance to the Europa League group stage.
But the performance will have been concerning to the manager ahead of more big games in Europe in the lead-up to Christmas.
⚽ Read our Transfer news live blog for the very latest rumours, gossip and done deals
Source: Read Full Article