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Celtic 0-0 FC Sion: Match Report
Published : 18 Aug 2011 22:30:22Rss feed
Celtic found Sion keeper Andris Vanins just too formidable a barrier in a goalless first-leg of their Europa League play-off clash at Parkhead.
The home side were strongly tipped to build up a lead to take to Switzerland for the second leg next week but the slick-passing visitors proved more than a match.
In a frustrating night in the east end of Glasgow, Sion's inspired number one had good saves from Charlie Mulgrew, Kris Commons and substitute Shaun Maloney to keep the tie in the balance.
The Parkhead club will certainly have to improve if they are not to find themselves out of Europe again so early in the season, but Sion showed enough to promise a tasty return game. Lennon, who raged for most of the night at the touchline, was dealt a blow when stopper Kelvin Wilson had to drop out with a leg injury.
Celtic stepped up the pressure in the early exchanges. Vanins spilled Mulgrew's cut-back to cause some panic in the visiting defence but Samaras' back-heel from 10 yards was blocked by sheer numbers.
In the 33rd minute, after Sion stopper Michael Dingsdag had been booked for fouling Commons 25 yards out, Mulgrew flighted in a curling free-kick which Vanins tipped over for a corner that eventually came to nothing. Three minutes later, to add to the sense of frustration swirling around the stadium, Celtic striker Anthony Stokes was booked by Croatian referee Marijo Strahonja for diving in the box as he went past Vanins.
In the final seconds of the first half Commons had a close-range header saved by the Sion goalkeeper after climbing high at the back post to reach a Cha Du-ri cross. Mark Wilson swapped positions with Mulgrew for the start of the second half which Commons began with a drive from distance that flew high over the bar.
Moments later, Georgios Samaras was equally lofty with his half-volley from 14 yards from another Cha cross. James Forrest replaced Commons after 56 minutes as Lennon changed tact again but with Pascal Feinduono lively and Giovanni Sio a threat with his pace, the game remained finely balanced.
Fraser Forster had to tip a Sio free-kick from distance over the bar but flapped at the resultant corner and was lucky to see the ball end up in his hands. At the other end, Vanins made his first mistake of the night when he punched a Mulgrew cross straight to Scott Brown but the Celtic skipper missed the target with his returned shot.
With his last throw of the dice Lennon sent on fans' favourite Paddy McCourt for Samaras to huge cheers, but it was Ki Sung-yueng who tested Vanins next with a low drive which the goalkeeper blocked. The Hoops players trooped off to the sound of boos from their own supporters, who will view next week's game with some trepidation.