Celtic finally put their Champions League demons to bed last night in a game where there was arguably less pressure on the players than in the previous five group matches this season.
There was talk of the game being a “dead rubber” leading into the season’s final European night under the Celtic Park lights, but that clearly never entered Brendan Rodgers’ mind. His side played with a pride and fight that proved too powerful for Feyenoord. The Hoops may already have secured their position at the bottom of the group, but there were plenty of incentives for the home side to win this game of football last night.
Luis Palma fired Celtic ahead against the Dutch champions after 33 minutes with a first-half penalty after Liam Scales was fouled in the box. There was a feeling of inevitability, however, when Yankuba Minteh brought the Rotterdam side level with just 10 minutes left to play.
In a game that changed nothing in relation to Celtic’s European standing this season, it meant everything in restoring some sense of pride in the Celtic support and the team. There were other advantages to winning this game, Celtic’s first Champions League home victory in a decade, as they notched up two coefficient points (which will be beneficial for future qualification pathways) and around £2.4million for beating the Eredivisie champions.
So who stepped up for Celtic in winning our first Champions League game since 2017?
Joe Hart – 7
The English stopper avoided blame for both Kilmarnock goals conceded at the weekend, and had to be at the top of his game last night with Feyenoord’s forwards firing on all cylinders this season. Hart had a great first-half where he kept out Feyenoord’s talisman Santiago Gimenez on a number of occasions. He couldn’t do much to prevent Minteh’s equaliser but he commanded his area well in what was a solid performance.
Alistair Johnston – 7
Leading into this final group game, Johnston had found it tough in the Champions League with some of the star wingers in the group causing him all sorts of problems. The Canadian looked the most impressive of a lacklustre Celtic defence against Kilmarnock, and his good form continued into the challenge with the Dutch champions. The right-back was walking a tightrope after an early booking but he contributed well offensively and, whilst caught out for Minteh’s equaliser, he put in some crucial interceptions late on to see out the victory.
Stephen Welsh – 7
The performance of Nat Phillips at Rugby Park resulted in a lot of criticism, but he was still expected to keep his place in the starting XI against Feyenoord last night. With Cameron Carter-Vickers injured, Stephen Welsh just getting back to full fitness, and Gustaf Lagerbielke seemingly out of the picture, the Liverpool loanee seemed a shoo-in to play alongside Liam Scales at the heart of Celtic’s defence.
When the team was announced, the biggest surprise was the inclusion of Welsh ahead of Phillips. Despite not having played since August, Welsh turned in a solid performance. He looked incredibly comfortable on the ball alongside Scales before he was hooked late on with a knock.
Liam Scales – 7
Following his tricky night in Rome up against Ciro Immobile, Liam Scales would have gone into last night’s encounter looking to contain Mexican goal-machine, Santiago Gimenez. The Irishman returned to Champions League form with a valiant display in which he defended well, both aerially and on the ground. He also contributed to Celtic’s attacking play and won the penalty that was eventually converted by Palma to open the scoring.
Greg Taylor – 6
Much like the aforementioned Phillips, Taylor came under scrutiny on Sunday for his display at his former stomping ground. There is a reason that the Scottish internationalist has started every game this season – we have no real quality to replace him with, as Alexandro Bernabei continues to exist on the fringes of our bloated squad. Taylor was involved in a lot of Celtic’s attacking play against Feyenoord last night, but he looked a bit suspect when defending the Dutch attacks.
Matt O’Riley – 7
O’Riley has been one of the standout performers for Celtic in the Champions League this season, and would have aimed to continue that upward trajectory against Feyenoord. The Danish international wasn’t as involved in the game as we would expect for most of the match, but he popped up when it mattered as he masterfully controlled a Mikey Johnston cross-field pass before finding Lagerbielke at the back post for Celtic’s winning goal.
Tomoki Iwata – 4
The Japanese utility man had started the previous two league games and deserved his maiden Champions League start ahead of Paulo Bernardo, Odin Holm and David Turnbull. Disaster struck early for Iwata, though, as he suffered an injury and was replaced by Bernardo after just 20 minutes.
Callum McGregor – 6
McGregor may have enjoyed a more advanced role had Iwata not been injured early in the game. Instead, the captain was deployed more defensively than initially thought, and he made a tremendous block to deny Quentin Timber. The 30-year-old almost found the net late on but saw his effort crash off of the crossbar.
Mikey Johnston – 6
With Mikey Johnston not being at his best against Kilmarnock on Sunday, there was a suspicion that Brendan Rodgers could have looked to the experience of James Forrest for the visit of Feyenoord.
It was the Irish international who got the nod, and he showed some flashes of brilliance during his 70-minutes appearance before being replaced by Forrest. Johnston’s biggest contribution to the game was the cross-field pass he played to Matt O’Riley, who expertly controlled the ball before finding Lagerbielke at the back-post for Celtic’s winner.
Kyogo Furuhashi – 6
The Japanese forward passed up a few big opportunities against Lazio and would have been looking to get back on the scoresheet against the Dutch champions. Kyogo had a few chances to convert in the first-half but couldn’t find the net to break his goal-scoring drought of recent weeks. He was substituted for Oh Hyeon-gyu on 68 minutes.
Luis Palma – 7
The Honduran had already been on the scoresheet in the Champions League this season, and he was composed enough to slot Celtic ahead from the penalty spot in the first-half. The winger was unlucky not to have grabbed another as Justin Bijlow turned his effort wide.
Paulo Bernardo – 6
Paulo Bernardo looked solid from the bench in the Champions League again, as he replaced the injured Tomoki Iwata for most of the game.
Oh Hyeon-gyu – 4
The South Korean forward replaced Kyogo with just over 20 minutes to go and brought some energy and physicality to the Celtic attack.
James Forrest – 4
Forrest couldn’t get on the ball much but was always looking to get involved in his cameo on the field.
Gustaf Lagerbielke – 6
The Swede replaced Welsh late on and grabbed a dramatic late winner which will be even more important to him given his red card in the reverse fixture against Feyenoord.
Mitchell Frame – DEBUT
The 17-year-old showed no fear as he made his debut after 75 minutes. Frame had a few bright moments on the ball and can be proud of his first outing for the first-team.
JAMES MCKENZIE // Follow James HERE