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The National (Scotland)
The National (Scotland)
Graeme McGarry

Lazio 2 Celtic 0: Immobile class sinks sorry Celts in Rome

CELTIC crashed out of European football as the brilliance of Lazio legend Ciro Immobile prompted a late collapse in the Stadio Olimpico.

The Scottish champions had played well once again for long spells, but ultimately came up short once more.

There was even time for them to have their faces royally rubbed in it as they were awarded a late penalty for a shove on Oh Hyeon-gyu, only for a VAR review to overturn the referee’s decision.

Here are the talking points from Rome…


In a rousing pre-match routine, the home fans sang a version of ‘My Way’. By the end, it seemed a more fitting anthem for a dejected Celtic outfit.

It could be said that their chances of progression were lost in Glasgow against Lazio, and not in Rome. And what will frustrate Rodgers and his men is that despite losing both games, once again for long stretches they were more than a match for them.

But they lost another late goal, and ultimately another, leaving them out of Europe and out of excuses.

Lazio have been struggling of late, and under-fire manager Maurizio Sarri raised a few eyebrows with his own team selection, leaving Immobile and Celtic Park goalscorer Pedro on the bench.

They started the game well though despite their recent troubles. The home crowd were fired up, and it looked as though it might be another of those long Champions League nights for Celtic and their fans.

Lazio came close when Matteo Guendouzi swung a cross into the back post to find Felipe Anderson sneaking around the blind side of Alistair Johnston, and he should have done better than to put his header down into the ground and over the bar.

Gradually though, Celtic worked their way into the game, and passed it around comfortably to quieten the Stadio Olimpico down, and Kyogo almost got onto the end of a long pass from Johnston that was nicked around his own keeper by Gila before Gabarron smashed clear to deny the striker a tap in.

Still, Celtic got to the break without conceding for the first time in this Champions League campaign, and they might have had the lead early in the second half as Matt O’Riley won it high and played in Kyogo, his shot from the right-hand side of the box slipping just past the far post.

On the hour, Sarri had seen enough, and sent for the big guns in Immobile and Pedro, but Celtic’s pressure seemed to be giving his defenders the heebie jeebies, and Rodgers sensed a chance for Celtic to go for the kill, sending on Oh for Paulo Bernardo.

Ultimately, it would be the hosts who would get the all-important breakthrough…


Celtic’s defence had coped well with most of what Lazio had thrown at them for over an hour, but when Immobile’s number flashed up, the noise from the crowd told you that trouble may lie ahead.

So it proved, as the step up in movement and guile proved too much for Celtic to handle.

The first was a little fortuitous, as a shot from Gustaf Isaksen hit Liam Scales and fell into Immobile’s path allowing him to smash into the roof of the net.

His second was brilliantly taken though just minutes later to put the tin lid on it, Immobile outmuscling Scales and twisting Cameron Carter-Vickers inside and out before finishing low past a helpless Joe Hart.


With Luis Palma and Daizen Maeda absent, it always seemed likely that Rodgers would lean on the experience of Forrest, while Yang was in the side almost through default.

The winger had a tough opening to the game, ceding possession on a few occasions too cheaply, and he struggled to get involved at all as the half wore on.

Forrest on the other hand was looking quite dangerous, giving Lazio left back Manuel Lazarri a bit to think about with some direct running and clever feet.

The other big call for Rodgers was who to play in the midfield three alongside Callum McGregor and O’Riley. He plumped for Bernardo over David Turnbull, and he played well, setting the tone early with a block high up the pitch and then setting Forrest away after a lovely take on the turn.

Yang then wasted a brilliant chance after the interval as a deep cross from Forrest found him coming in at the back post, but he chose to try to head across the box instead of at goal, and got it all wrong.

It must have been tempting to remove him from the action, but with 32-year-old Forrest tiring, Mikey Johnston had to come on in his stead.

To be fair to Johnston, he made an immediate impact with his direct dribbling, but it would prove a futile cameo.


A lot was made in the build up to this game about the need for Celtic to keep 11 men on the pitch after red cards in their first two away Champions League matches, with Rodgers pressing home the point beforehand that the bar wasn't as high in Europe for picking up cards.

Even still, it was set lower than a snake’s belly for the caution Johnston picked up for a first half challenge on Anderson that looked to be a clean tackle.

Greg Taylor had fewer complaints about his caution, pulling back Isaksen after getting on his wrong side, but O’Riley was also a bit hard done by after easing Guendouzi out of play.

Yang was late on Adam Marusic to momentarily cause some concern, but the yellow he was given was just about right.

So, no red card excuses this time. Just that all-too familiar feeling on the road in this competition for Celtic.


It is fair to say there is little love lost between the Celtic and Lazio supports, with insulting banners being traded in the past and another on display here during the first half proclaiming: ‘The famine is over, go home f*****g potato eaters.’ Charming.

It wasn’t only barbed words that were being traded though, with the Lazio fans nearest the Celtic contingent launching flares into the massed visiting supporters, who duly picked them up and threw them back.

Thankfully, there didn’t appear to be any serious injuries, which was probably helped by the empty spaces that were present in the Celtic end in the early stages of the game, with a large group of fans having trouble getting into the ground.

It all added up to a pretty miserable matchday experience for those who had come over in the end.

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