A 2-1 win at home in Europe in the first leg of a knockout tie is one of those results where you’re never quite sure whether or not to be happy. One the one hand it was a win in our first competitive fixture of the season – a come from behind victory at that. On the other, HJK were more Motherwell than Madrid – which was just as well as anyone of a remotely higher standard might well have had the tie over and done with last night – and although they didn’t exactly have Fraser Forster sweating buckets, they did manage to score an away goal.
Two golden rules in European ties: don’t give possession away cheaply; don’t concede at home.
Nevertheless, it looked to me as if the Finns had shot their bolt a good while before the final whistle, even though they are nearly twenty games into their domestic season. They had scored their goal by that time, of course, a punch sucked just after half time following a speedy break up the right wing.
Immediately afterwards Celtic injected a bit of pace and urgency into their own game and things started to happen. In the end I thought the Hoops were worthy of more than the 2:1 scoreline but the concensus at the end was that we have better players than them and should be able to get through to the play-offs, one way or another. I’d settle for ‘another’. That 2-1 gives them as big a headache as us – do they keep it simple and wait for the defensive mistake by Celtic (the very suggestion!) or do they take more of a risk and gamble on conceding one themselves?
So sit back and relax next Wednesday and enjoy the live TV broadcast as the Hoops comfortably defend a single goal lead.
The Candid Camera moment of the night involved Hooper and Forrest as they collided in the penalty area in the second half with the bloke two rows down from me leaping up ready to claim a penalty. Had it been two players of the team that used to be Rangers and Mike McCurry refereeing then maybe.
The moaning minnies of the Laptop Loyal would also have been grinding their keyboards that wee bit harder at the sight of 52,000 inside Celtic Park last night. The only other tie to match that was in Kiev (53,000) to watch Dinamo beat Feyenoord 2:1. Next nearest were Copenhagen (14,000), Anderlecht and Maribor (both around 12,000).
Anderlecht racked up the kind of score gthat we were all hoping Celtic would achieve last night while Maribor should go through against F91 Dudelange (“The Dudes”) despite the dreaded away goal. Kiryat Shmona (Club song: M-M-M- My Shmona) of Haifa easily disposed of Azerbaijan’s Neftci by four goals, while there were more modest single goal home wins for AEL Limassol and Cluj, which is where I will probably during a large part of next week’s Celtic match.
Of the away sides, Motherwell go to Athens with the flip-flops packed after Panathinaikos gave them a lesson in European realpolitik, Helsinborg hammered Wroclaw in Poland, Basel made Molde look rusty with a 1:0 and Sheriff might as well send the deputies to Zagreb after losing at home to the Undertakers by a similar scoreline.
Last night’s results:
Dynamo Kyiv 2-1 Feyenoord
Motherwell FC 0-2 Panathinaikos FC
BATE Borisov 1-1 Debreceni VSC
Kiryat Shmona 4-0 Neftçi PFK
FC Sheriff 0-1 GNK Dinamo Zagreb
Molde FK 0-1 FC Basel
AEL Limassol FC 1-0 FK Partizan
FC København 0-0 Club Brugge KV
NK Maribor 4-1 F91 Dudelange
RSC Anderlecht 5-0 FK Ekranas
WKS Śląsk Wrocław 0-3 Helsingborgs IF
CFR 1907 Cluj 1-0 FC Slovan Liberec
Celtic FC 2-1 HJK Helsinki
Fenerbahçe SK 1-1 SC Vaslui
And finally, Esther, my brief trawl through the fascinating social culture of Finland yesterday turned up a long Finnish tradition of persons dressing in goat costume to solicit or perform for leftover food after Christmas. Historically, such a person was an older man, and the tradition refers to him as a nuuttipukki.
If ‘The Hems’ doesn’t float your boat, how about ‘The Nuuts’, short for ‘The Nuutipukkis?