Even though Celtic were the second best of the two sides in their testing visit to Kazakhstan in the first leg of the third round of Champions League qualifiers, they earned themselves a crucial draw and will be heading to the home game on the front foot. Brendan Rodgers has to lead the Hoops to the group stage of the Champions League for the first time since 2013 and playing Astana away from home was always going to be a tough game who are in perfect shape right now thanks to their season starting early.
Celtic found themselves trailing thanks to a to a Yuri Logvinenko header in the 19th minute but eventually they pegged back and it was none other than Celtic’s saviour Leigh Griffiths who came up with the vital equaliser with twelve minutes remaining. Here are three things we learnt from the 1-1 draw.
Patrick Roberts- Celtic’s special charm?
Rodgers will definitely owe it to his predecessor Ronny Deila for bringing in the quality youngster from Manchester City last January on an 18-month loan. The 19-year-old was easily the best Celtic player on the pitch. A fearless dribbler and determination to bring out something out of nothing, Roberts was the X-factor for Celtic and if not for him, the Hoops couldn’t have equalised.
It was Roberts who won possession of the ball near the byline and after a brilliant run, he played a perfect ball for Griffiths who did not fail to convert it. It was not even the best of games Roberts had and still he proved to be someone who made the difference with his quality.
Due to the injury crisis at the back, Celtic found another hidden gem
Due to the ever-increasing injury crisis at the back, Rodgers had to look forward to young and inexperienced Eoghan O’Connell to do a good job in such a big game and the 20-year-old did not let his manager down. Well, the goal Celtic conceded was partly his fault but you have to point your finger on experienced Craig Gordon as well for misjudging the flight of the ball. After the goal from Astana, most young defenders would have retreated to their shells but O’Connell did the exact opposite. The Irish under-21 international grew stronger as the game went on. The 20-year-old can certainly cement himself as a major part of Celtic’s future from the quality he has already shown.
Griffiths and Dembele need more time together to gel
Scoring goals was hardly a problem for Celtic last season as Leigh Griffiths was scoring for fun. The Scotsman notched 40 goals in all competitions last season but it was a good move from Rodgers to bring in another quality young striker in Moussa Dembele who made a name for himself at Fulham even at a tender age. With two quality forwards, Celtic will definitely be playing two up front in most games this season. The chemistry between Dembele and Griffiths is yet to be developed and that was evident against Astana. Once the two understands each other’s game, Celtic will definitely set Scottish football on fire.