Celtic 2-1 Feyenoord (UEFA Champions League Group Stages)
I’m hopping into the car at Hampden and driving the short commute to Celtic Park as I cut through Rutherglen and over the Dalmarnock Road and onto Springfield Road down the back of the Emirates Arena.
I’ve pulled up on Macbeth Street just off the London Road which is a ten minute walk to the stadium, I’m early, so phone the wife who’s on her dog walk, before starting my commute to the main event of the evening.
Celtic and Feyenoord have some history. A 1970 European Cup Final went the way of the Dutch side which is their only ‘Champions League’ success to date. Celtic who won the trophy in 1967 were gunning for their second piece of continental silverware. Swedish striker Ove Kindvall scoring an extra time winner to give the Rotterdam giants a piece of their own unique history.
Wim Jansen was in the Dutch side that day, he would eventually go on to manage Celtic whilst the likes of Henrik Larsson and Pierre van Hooijdonk would also famously play for both clubs.
I’m walking towards the Celtic Way passing the Real McCoy Pub and the 1888 bar. Men selling green and white scarves, women selling raffle tickets for £15k prize pots, there’s a Christmas tree lit up strangely in blue as I catch the stadium in the background in all its mighty.
I’m in the club shop having a browse before walking around hopelessly looking for the UEFA Office which is inside some portacabin near a load of TV trucks. Eventually I have my pass and am taken through a side gate, up via the turnstiles and into a media area that has one or two famous football faces as John Hartson walks in with what looks like a cosy Siberian style wrap around hat on his head.
After a quick cup of tea I’m off to find my seat, walking out of the South Stand to see everything glistening in green. The huge wrap around arena looking fabulous and empty ahead of the two teams last night of Champions League action this year.
The Feyenoord fans have been in the stadium for some time, singing away, there’s a slight cannabis aroma coming from somewhere as the stands slowly fill up around them in the far corner, the players out doing their warmups, back in, then out again after a light show pumps up the atmosphere ahead of you’ll never walk alone.
By now the famous Champions League music is greeted by a great roar from 60,000 plus. Magnificent spine-tingling sounds ahead of the action to start.
It’s competitive too, considering neither team have anything to play for. Celtic already out, Feyenoord confined to third and the Europa League in a group that also contains Atletico Madrid and Lazio who have qualified for the round of sixteen.
Calvin Stengs and Quinten Timber are ball carrying from midfield and the away side think they’ve taken the lead when Paixao rounds the keeper but he’s given offside.
Celtic though are game, like their younger predecessors earlier in the day, they play quickly, out from the back, are a threat down the wing and their full backs push forward, they have a corner and Welsh is wrestled down inside the box which allows crowd favourite Luis Palma to step up and score from the spot.
A deserved lead for the Bhoys at the break as Arni Slot, like Robin van Persie did in the game earlier in the day with the U19’s, substitutes three of his players early in the second half. He actually takes off their three best players which leads me to think he has one eye on the weekend but Feyenoord begin to impose themselves and one of those subs Yankubu Mintah gets on the end of a pass to smash home from close range.
Mintah on loan from Newcastle United has been lively since coming on as Celtic fans are quiet, the Feyenoord faithful singing ‘You’re not singing any more’ they are having a party in the corner, but that party is put to pay as the board goes up for injury time, Matt O’Reilly gets half a yard inside the box and he chips to the back post where Gustaf Lagerbielke scores his first Hoops goal. Fans are running onto the pitch as Born Slippy is played singing ‘lager lager lager’ as a new cult hero is born.
Some top performances in green and white as full backs Johnston and Taylor both got forward well. Young centre back Stephen Welsh besides Liam Scales, both solid whilst Callum McGregor, captain in midfield, who earlier crashed the bar with a belter, was brilliant as he always is.
Feyenoord like their youth stars earlier in the day seemed under par to me, but unlike their youth stars couldn’t turn around a match which they deserved to lose. Other then their goalkeeper, Justin Biljow who impressed with his ball playing and shot stopping, Timber and Stengs posed outfield highlights before Mintah came on whilst skipper Lutsharel Geertruida, still only 23, looks like he could be set for a big move, a right back who can probably do a bit in any position on the pitch, he himself crashed a post and was pretty solid throughout.
Celtic can now at least concentrate on domestic football and seeing off the challenge of their bitter rival Rangers when it comes to chasing down the SPL title. Feyenoord in their own battle with PSV are very much second best in the Eredivise.
There’s no question these two sides are far away of those great days of 1970… But as football clubs, with their football supporters and rich history, they’ll always be superpowers to me.
Celtic: Joe Hart, Alistair Johnston, Stephen Welsh (Gustaf Lagerbielke 75), Liam Scales, Greg Taylor, Matt O'Reilly, Tomoki Iwota (Paulo Bernardo 18), Callum McGregor, Mikey Johnston (James Forrest 68), Kyogo Furuhashi (Oh Hyeon-Gu 68), Luis Palma (Mitchell Frame 75).
Feyenoord: Justin Bijlo, Lutsharel Geertrudia, Thomas Beelan (Jaivaro Dilrosun 79), David Hancko, Quilindischy Hartman, Ramiz Zerrouki, Calvin Stengs (Mats Weiffer 54), Quinten Timber (Thomas Van Den Belt 54), Igor Paixao (Yankubu Minteh 54), Santiago Gimenez, Luka Ivanusec (Ayase Ueda 67).
8:00pm Kick Off. Wednesday 13th December 2023, Celtic Park, Glasgow (att 56,391).