Rangers left empty-handed in Bern while Celtic take revenge against CFR Cluj
Glasgow suffered mixed fortunes during a rainy Thursday evening. Celtic took revenge against CFR Cluj, exorcising the demons of their Champions League qualification by beating the Romanian champions 2-0 at Celtic Park – whilst Rangers, playing away in Bern, lost against Young Boys, despite taking the lead on the stroke of half-time through Alfredo Morelos. Rangers could not protect their goal advantage and conceded two goals after the break. A sloppy Rangers defence saw Young Boys’ Christian Fassnacht scoring in the 93rd minute to ensure that all three points remain in Bern.
Both Celtic and Rangers entered half-time a goal to the good, but their fortunes moved in opposite ways as the full-time whistles went.
Celtic enjoyed a dominant first half of football. Christopher Jullien had two good chances in the space of a minute to capitalise on Celtic’s superb crossing but was first denied by Cluj goalkeeper Giedrius Arlauskis who, admittedly, made a good save to deny the Frenchman but the effort was headed straight at the Lithuanian. Moments later the second chance was headed over the bar but Celtic were just getting started.
With Celtic’s crossing from their left hand side causing Cluj problems, they finally took the lead 10 minutes later. Odsonne Eduoard gave Celtic the lead in the 20th minute from a superb Bolingoli-Mbombo cross. The Celtic man was included in the Europa League team of the week alongside former Celtic left back Kieran Tierney.
From that point onward it seemed a formality that Celtic would claim all three points, although that isn’t to say that Cluj didn’t cause Celtic problems. The return of an on-loan Fraser Forster to Celtic Park, having been frozen out of Southampton’s squad, saw the Englishman called into making a great save to ensure his side kept a clean sheet. The first save coming from a Cluj free-kick that eventually saw the ball in the back of the Celtic net only to be chalked off for offside.
The Romanians weren’t going down without a fight. As Cluj ventured into Celtic’s half following the break, Billel Omrani was dispossessed by Mohamed Elyounoussi, another player on loan from Southampton, and Celtic countered with efficiency. The ball being played down the right wing to James Forest who cut the ball back for Elyounoussi to score. The Norwegian was fortunate to find the back of the net, owing to the ball pin balling off two Cluj players and wrong-footing the goalkeeper. Fortuitous? Certainly, but Celtic’s second goal of the night put them firmly in control of the tie and with the match finishing 2-0, Celtic top of Group E with four points from two games.
On the continent, however, Rangers were not as fortunate to win the three points needed in what is one of the toughest Europa Leagues groups in recent memory. Following their 1-0 win over Dutch side Feyenoord two weeks ago, Rangers went into the game in Bern confident of capturing a positive result. In comparison to Celtic’s 4-3-3 formation, Rangers opted for a more conservative formation of 4-1-4-1, aiming to capitalise on their recent defensive solidity, having kept four clean sheets in their last five games. And for a while it looked as if Rangers would come away with at least a point, despite conceding the equaliser shortly into the second half. Rangers had a further chance to steal the points from Young Boys, but goalkeeper David von Ballmoos denied Rangers a late winner as Morelos’s shot on the edge of the box took a significant deflection, forcing a superb reactionary save from the Swiss. Both Glasgow clubs return to domestic football this weekend before European top flights pause for the international break. Celtic’s European attention turns to Lazio in three weeks’ time. I Biancocelesti travel to Celtic Park in the hopes of building on their win at home to Rennes and group E is up for grabs with Celtic sat atop their group on four points. Over in group G Rangers have tough back to back games against Porto with all of the teams sat on three points. This is a critical time for both Rangers and Celtic European campaigns with tough games looming and points needed for both sides to ensure qualification into the knockout stages.