Colin Watt with A Celtic State of Mind – 5 classic Celtic games against German opponents

Two weeks ago signalled a momentous occasion for die-hard football fans – football, not quite as we knew it, was back! The top flight German football league, known as the Bundesliga, returned on Saturday afternoon and viewers flocked in to get their football fix on BT Sport.

For those with a bit of knowledge of the German game, there were some tasty clashes to be seen. First up we had the ‘Revierderby’ between Borussia Dortmund and FC Schalke 04 in the empty Signal Iduna Park, minus the famous yellow wall. Dortmund ran out comfortable 4-0 winners and, despite the empty crowd, once the players got back into the habit of treating the contest as an important league game, the standard of football became really competitive and worth watching. One of the best games of the weekend actually came as FC Köln faced 1.FSV Mainz 05, a game in which Mainz came back from two goals behind to get a draw.

What does that have to do with A Celtic State of Mind? Well, truthfully, not a lot but what we’re going to do is use the fact that the Bundesliga is back to take a look at some of Celtic’s best performances against the top German teams. Looking at our overall record against German sides, the stats aren’t exactly great – in 24 games, we have recorded four victories, five draws and 15 defeats, but that doesn’t mean that we haven’t had some exciting and classic matches! Let’s take a look at some of Celtic’s finest moments against German opposition.

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Game 1

8 November 2018

Celtic 2 (Tierney 11, Édouard 79)
RB Leipzig 1 (Augustin 78)

Matchday 4 in the Europa League, Celtic faced RB Leipzig knowing that defeat would signal the end of their European campaign. The game in Germany was very much one-sided as the Bhoys fell to a 2-0 defeat and left Celtic three points behind the Germans going into this pivotal clash. Celtic came out the traps flying, determined not to give up their European place easily and, with just over 10 minutes gone, got their reward that their start deserved. A quick free-kick found James Forrest who drove towards the box, beating two or three Leipzig tackles before cutting the ball back across the box and into the path of Kieran Tierney. The left-back took a touch to get the ball out of his feet before arrowing a shot past Mvogo and into the bottom corner.

Celtic continued to pepper the Leipzig goal with Odsonne Edouard, Tom Rogic and Filip Benkovic amongst those coming close to doubling Celtic’s lead, before the typically Celtic sucker-punch came. A cross from the right found Jean-Kevin Augustin who had been left completely unmarked to head home past Craig Gordon and pull Leipzig level.

Completely shell-shocked, the capacity Celtic Park crowd could not anticipate what would happen next; straight from kick-off, a lovely passage of play with passes from Edouard, Rogic, Tierney, Sinclair, Christie ended with the ball landing at the feet of Odsonne Edouard, who had a gaping empty net to tap the ball home into, 66 seconds from Augustin’s header, with no other Leipzig player touching the ball, Celtic were back in front and the atmosphere in the stadium was incredible! A late scare from Kevin Kampl, whose shot rattled the bar with five minutes to go, was as close as Leipzig got to levelling the game but it was another incredible night under the Parkhead lights as Celtic’s European campaign lived to fight another day.

Game 2

20 February 2003

Celtic 3 (Lambert 36, Maloney 45, Petrov 68)
VFB Stuttgart 1 (Kurányi 27)

A classic encounter against a very good VFB Stuttgart side as part of the ‘Road to Seville’ is the next game on our list and what a game this was. Playing at home first is always seen to be a difficult obstacle to overcome and added into that was the fact that Swedish legend Henrik Larsson was set to miss both games due to a broken jaw, the task seemed close to impossible. The situation got even harder with just over a quarter of the game gone, a cross from the middle of the park found the prolific Brazilian-born German international Kevin Kuráyni, who headed past Rab Douglas and put the Germans in front.

Up against it, Celtic drove forward and finally got their reward, Jackie McNamara crossed the ball into the box, Shaun Maloney, deputising for the missing Henrik, chested the ball into the path of Paul Lambert, who arrowed a shot into the bottom corner and brought the Hoops level. Ten minutes later and the tie had turned on its head; an Alan Thompson cross caused mayhem in the Stuttgart defence with Shaun Maloney the benefaciary. Maloney slotted home past Hildebrand and scored his first European goal for Celtic. Into the secon-alf and Celtic continued to look for a third goal to try and take a comfortable lead over to Germany. With just over 20 minutes to go, that goal came from the right foot of Stiliyan Petrov. Paul Lambert slid a ball to the edge of the Stuttgart box to find the Bulgarian internationalist, who took on a shot which looked extremely impossible from almost on the goal line, past Hildebrand and giving Celtic that all important two-oal advantage to take over to Germany. An impressive performance from an under-strength Celtic side and that goal advantage would be so crucial as the Bhoys won the tie 5-4 the following week.

Game 3

16 September 1987

Celtic 2 (Walker 4, Whyte 88)
Borussia Dortmund 1 (Mill 64)

A season that will be remembered for the incredible centenary double also had this classic clash as Celtic faced Borussia Dortmund for the first time in the UEFA Cup. Celtic qualified for the UEFA Cup having finished second in the league the previous year and faced the German side Dortmund in the first round of the tournament. Murdo MacLeod returned to face his old side just months after making the move to Germany and received a well-deserved ovation from the Jungle.

With only four minutes on the clock, Celtic took the lead through European debutant Andy Walker, capitalising on some defensive errors in the Germans’ box to stab home the opening goal. Celtic dominated possession with Mark McGhee close to doubling the Celts’ lead before Roy Aitken, who was not having one of his better games in the hoops, was dispossessed on the edge of the Celtic box by Frank Mill. The West German striker evaded the Celtic tackles before firing a shot past Allen McKnight in the Celtic net. It looked like the Black and Yellow would head back to West Germany with a draw before another scramble from an Owen Archdeacon cutback found Derek Whyte with all the space of the six-yard box to poke home and give the Celts something to defend on the continent. It wasn’t to be for Celtic in the return leg with the Germans scoring twice in the last 15 minutes to win the tie 3-2 on aggregate. Many fans, though, will say it was a small blip on what was an incredible season to be a Celtic fan.

Match 4

30 September 1992

Celtic 3 (McStay 36, Creaney 38, Collins 81)
1. FC Köln 0

One of the highlights in what was a dark period to be a Celtic fan, saw the Bhoys come from two goals down after the first leg in Germany to advance into the second round of the UEFA Cup. In a game which has been claimed to be John Collins’ finest 90 minutes in a Celtic jersey, the Hoops managed to pull off a massive surprise in knocking out one of Europe’s top performers.

Two early goals from Paul McStay, volleying home on the left foot, and Gerry Creaney mere minutes later brought the tie back to life. Creaney’s goal came as he stuck a knee out to connect with a John Collins pile-driver to divert the ball past Illgner and into the back of the net. With 45 minutes of the game left, the tie was open and could have gone either way.

Celtic struggled to get their foot into the game like they had done in the first-half, indeed German international Illgner didn’t come under as much pressure as we would’ve liked. Collins and McStay continued to run the game in midfield but the breakthrough didn’t look like it was coming for the Bhoys. However, with 10 minutes to go, Collins struck, taking a throw-in from Tom Boyd and advancing past two attempted tackles. The path to goal suddenly opened and he placed his low shot beyond Illgner into the far corner of the net. Celtic prevailed and the fans celebrated loudly at full-time. This was a brief respite for Liam Brady during his troubled reign as Celtic manager, and he was full of praise for John Collins’ superb performance afterwards. The Cologne manager, Jorg Berger, chose to praise Celtic’s spirit on the night: “Celtic won because they fought to the end. They showed us what fighting is all about.”

Match 5

1 November 2016

Borussia Mönchengladbach 1 (Stindl 32)
Celtic 1 (Dembele 76)

What you notice when you look at Celtic’s visits to Germany is that when it comes to competitive games, we’ve never won. Yup, that’s right, all of our four wins against German opposition came at Celtic Park but when you look back at the highlights of this game, this is surely the closest we’ve ever come… and we’ll get to that.

Going into this game, Celtic’s performances in the Champions League had been very much hit and miss, a 7-0 defeat in the Nou Camp was followed up by a thrilling 3-3 draw at home to Manchester City.

Scott Sinclair struck a post on 23 minutes after a scuffed cross from Christian Gamboa evaded four Mönchengladbach defenders and landed fortuitously at the feet of Celtic’s new hero at the edge of the box. Eight minutes later and an unmarked Lars Stindl slotted past Craig Gordon to open the scoring for the Germans. In the second-half, André Hahn struck the same spot of the upright as Sinclair had done 40 minutes earlier, with Gordon looking on helplessly, and it seemed likely at that stage that the home side were going to stretch their lead even further.

Paddy Roberts threaded two defence-splitting passes through to Moussa Dembele as Celtic responded with intent, and the Frenchman was hauled down second time round to be awarded with a penalty. Decisive as ever, on 75 minutes, Dembele pulled the visitors back into this match… and they should have gone on to win it.

With three minutes remaining, Roberts again sliced the Mönchengladbach back-line open and sent Callum McGregor through with just the keeper to beat. McGregor, normally so composed when faced with such a proposition, squeezed the ball wide of the post.

Colin Watt

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