Celtic and Manchester City share spoils after six-goal thriller

Chance of record start for Pep Guardiola is ended at Celtic Park

Moussa Dembele  scores  Celtic’s third goal during the  Champions League Group C match against Manchester City   at Celtic Park. Photograph: Michael Steele/Getty Images

Moussa Dembele scores Celtic’s third goal during the Champions League Group C match against Manchester City at Celtic Park. Photograph: Michael Steele/Getty Images

 

Celtic 3 Manchester City 3

It is probably a measure of Manchester City’s new expectations that this is the kind of result that now provokes feelings of disappointment for the new regime. It is the first time Pep Guardiola’s team have failed to win under his control. They have missed the chance to equal an English record, set by Tottenham Hotspur with 11 successive wins at the start of the 1960-61 season and they should know enough about Guardiola by now to realise it will not satisfy him merely to have contributed to a game of exhilarating drama.

City certainly showed powers of endurance given they were behind three times and, on each occasion, found an equaliser within nine minutes. On that front, City demonstrated the kind of durability that will be useful in the months ahead. Yet there was also no doubt that Celtic could be far more encouraged by their evening’s work, as the first side this season to cause City prolonged anxiety.

Moussa Dembele created all sorts of problems for the side boasting an immaculate record in England’s top division. He scored twice, either side of an own goal from the otherwise outstanding Raheem Sterling, but City came back each time. Fernanindo, Sterling and Nolito all scored and by the end the visitors were threatening to pinch a late winner.

Brendan Rodgers clearly has a lot of work to do defensively, with 10 goals conceded in Celtic’s first two Champions League matches, but his team played with incredible effort and togetherness and can be invigorated by curtailing City’s long sequence of wins.

Maybe, on the back of such a handsome run, there was a touch of complacency attached to City’s shortcomings. Celtic were quick to the ball, strong in the tackle and sensed, perhaps, that their opponents might not fully comprehend what it is like to play beneath the floodlights of Celtic Park, with the volume turned up. City looked disorientated at the back and the team in tangerine and purple – an away kit of garish horrors – will know they cannot expect to achieve their ambitions by defending this generously.

Guardiola must have been startled by their vulnerability during those moments when the home side chased down everything. Every time the ball was at Claudio Bravo’s feet, at least two players in green and white hoops advanced. Celtic were utterly determined not to let their opponents have time on the ball. It was a lung-splitting effort, but they, too, were susceptible at the back and, in fairness to City, the away team refused to wilt during the parts of the game when they were struggling to impose themselves.

Celtic were ahead after barely 90 seconds from a neatly worked free-kick routine, culminating in Erik Sviatchenko’s header flicking off Dembele’s chest inside the six-yard area. It was the first time City had been behind this season and the Premier League leaders took their time shaking their heads clear.

Fernandinho’s equaliser certainly came at a good time for the visitors and, though it was a difficult first half for them, there was at least something to be said for the way they responded to being behind.

City could also consider themselves a touch unfortunate at half-time bearing in mind Dembele was marginally offside for the opener and the nature of Celtic’s second goal, after 20 minutes of near-unremitting drama, when Sterling tried to intercept Kieran Tierney’s cross, diving in to challenge the overlapping left back only to divert the ball into his own net.

Sterling made amends eight minutes later with a stylish goal, running on to David Silva’s through ball and having the composure to feint a left-foot shot before cutting on to his right foot. There was a time when Sterling might have rushed this kind of opportunity but the change of direction deceived Tierney and gave him a better angle to turn the ball past the oncoming goalkeeper Craig Gordon.

That goal originated from Silva dispossessing Celtic’s captain, Scott Brown, in midfield and the disappointment for Rodgers was the way his team could not exert more control when they were ahead. Fernandinho intercepted Aleksandar Kolarov’s wayward shot to turn in City’s first goal and that seemed to settle them down. At the same time, the visitors continued to make life difficult for themselves in defence. Celtic did likewise and, everything put together, it made for a thrilling spectacle.

Dembele had started the game like a man in a hurry and he needed even less time at the beginning of the second half. This time, Kolarov was badly at fault, making a hash of trying to clear a cross from the left, and it was a wonderful piece of improvisation from Dembele to take advantage. The first touch came off his knee and for the second the former Fulham player threw himself at the ball, hooking in an acrobatic volley.

Again, Celtic’s jubilation was shortlived. Nine minutes later, Sterling and Silva exchanged short passes just outside the penalty area. Silva nudged the ball into Sergio Agüero’s path and when Gordon saved the striker’s diagonal shot the ball fell to Nolito to turn in the rebound.

How cruel it would have been on Celtic if they had succumbed during that late spell of pressure. Ilkay Gündogan had City’s best opportunity but Gordon saved his shot and an epic night reached its noisy climax.

(Guardian service)

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