The message from Brendan Rodgers is becoming louder and less subtle. For Celtic to improve at Champions League level requires substantial investment by the plc board. Serious money to sign serious players.
On Wednesday night Odsonne Edouard provided a timely vindication of the manager’s stance. Living, breathing proof of an old adage. In football you get what you paid for.
It’s four weeks since Celtic agreed to pay Paris St Germain £9million to sharp intakes of breath. The club’s biggest transfer – by some distance – they didn’t shatter the previous record to win another Scottish title. They did it for nights like this. Nights when an injection of quality might prove the difference between another season of Champions League football and cracked crests on the back pages.
Odsonne Edouard grabbed his second and Celtic’s third with a delightful chip to seal the win
Olivier Ntcham put Celtic into the lead for the first time in the match straight after the break
The French midfielder showed composure to curl in from the edge of the penalty area
Edouard got the hosts back on level terms with a smart finish just before the interval
Rosenborg had taken a shock lead early into the game through young defender Birger Meling
A sublime second half brace from the Frenchman edged out a valuable cushion for Scotland’s champions to take to Trondheim next Wednesday. An early away goal for Birger Meling had the effect of a pin bursting a bubble. In the face of significant personnel problems Celtic prevailed thanks to classy Edouard strikes in 43 and 74 minutes and a superb strike from the increasingly influential Olivier Ntcham a minute into the second half.
It barely feels like a week since Rosenborg were a club in crisis, players and supporters in a state of revolt over the sacking of Kare Ingebrigtsen after a couple of soft penalties scraped a fortunate Champions League win over Valur of Iceland.
After 15 minutes the Norwegian champions were united in celebration. Holders of a precious and needless away goal which may yet come back to haunt Scotland’s champions.
The home team were architects of their own misfortune. In echoes of last year’s meeting of these teams at the same stage of the same competition the Parkhead side entered the home first leg minus key players.
Down to the bare bones in defence with Dedryck Boyata and Mikael Lustig missing after their World Cup exploits. Weakened by a stupid red for Jozo Simunovic allied to the general, never ending malaise of Marvin Compper.
And left with one fit striker after Moussa Dembele’s obligatory hamstring strain and an injury to Leigh Griffiths.
There are Celtic supporters who find this a woeful state of affairs. A damning reflection of their club’s reluctance to lavish more of the £60million raked in since Rodgers arrived on some quality defenders. They *did* spend a huge sum on Edouard. And last night they could be glad of that much.
The Norwegians went 180 minutes without scoring against Celtic last season. With six of the same players in their starting line-up they did it after a quarter of an hour here, aided and abetted by jittery, porous defending.
Celtic: Gordon, Gamboa, Jack Hendry, Ajer, Tierney, McGregor, Brown, Ntcham, Forrest, Edouard, Sinclair;
Subs not used: Bain, Christie, Rogic, Allan, Ralston, Johnston, Eboue
Goalscorers: Edouard (43, 75), Ntcham (46)
Rosenborg: Hansen, Hedenstadt, Reginiussen, Hovland, Meling, Jensen, Lundemo, Trondsen, Helland, Bendtner, Levi;
Subs not used: Ostbo, Vilhjalmsson, Soderlund, Gersbach, Reitan, Morten Konradsen, Konradsen Ceide
Goalscorers: Meling (15)
Concern echoed around Parkhead when Jack Hendry, the £1.5million signing from Dundee, carelessly surrendered possession in the Rosenborg half.
The home team can’t say there was no warning. Emboldened by the inexperienced, makeshift nature of the home defence the black-shirted visitors prompted moments of seizure around Celtic Park with a couple of testing early balls.
The vulnerability of the home defence became undeniable when young Hendry gave the ball away to Mike Jensen. In a swift counter attack Pal Andre Helland fed the much-maligned Nicklas Bendtner in the centre.
Laying the ball calmly into the path of left back Birger Meling Craig Gordon was powerless to prevent the ball flashing low into the net from 12 yards.
For Celtic the loss of an away goal wasn’t in the script. Yet, during two seasons in charge Rodgers has preached the same message. At this level calm is a valuable attribute and Celtic badly needed it against a well-organised resolute opponent, packing their defence with bodies.
A collective howl for a penalty kick in 34 minutes was born more of hope and frustration than genuine belief. Olivier Ntcham tumbled to the deck as Vegar Hedenstad came dangerously close to a foul.
Belgian referee Bert Vertenten instantly became the lightning rod for the growing angst of the home support. Yet the replays showed he called it right.
It’s tempting to ponder how this game might have panned out had Rosenborg kept it tight until half-time. How Celtic’s support might have reacted. Tempting, but futile.
The equaliser came in 43 minutes. It was timely, clinical and game-changing.
The inclusion of Scott Sinclair was a big call for Brendan Rodgers. One which paid rich dividends when Ntcham – a huge influence for Celtic these days – fed the ball left to the Englishman. Sinclair chose cut inside a Hedenstad, a weighted centre picking out Edouard for a wonderfully composed finish from a deft first touch.
For Rosenborg the timing of the goal was awful. For Celtic it was reassuring. The first signal that the game might be on the turn.
The confirmation didn’t take long. Within a minute of the restart the game had turned on its head, transformed by a sublime strike from Olivier Ntcham.
The Frenchman’s intention was clear from the start. Crafting space on the edge of the area, he lofted an outstanding curling strike inside the left hand post of Hansen, the Rosenborg keeper helpless and comprehensively beaten.
Pal Andre Helland (left) battles for possession with Celtic forward Scott Sinclair (right)
Christian Gamboa puts striker Nicklas Bendtner under pressure as he takes aim at goal
Ntcham looks to the referee after going down under a challenge inside the penalty area
For Ntcham it was a goal to treasure. If there was any hint of regret for the former Manchester City midfielder last night it lay in the fact he didn’t score a hat-trick.
Twice in the opening 20 minutes of the second half he crashed efforts off the crossbar. The first was unintentional, a cross to the back post coming perilously close to embarassing Hansen by dropping into the net before bouncing the safety.
Celtic’s best player left Hansen flailing once more in 66 minutes, a speculative right foot shot from 20 yards once again careering off the crossbar.
So composed and organised in the opening 40 minutes Rosenborg were sailing, now, by the seat of their pants. Celtic. Had the scent of a third goal in their nostrils. The hint of a kill.
Jack Hendry could have made amends for his first half faux pas on the hour, sclaffing Edouard’s low centre wide from 10 yards when a striker would surely have buried it.
Hansen didn’t get to everything, but he was Rosenborg’s most effective performer as Celtic knocked at the door in search of a cushion to take to Trondheim in a week’s time.
Sinclair made space for a rising shot, the keeper palmed it over the bar. Kieran Tierney had a wonderful chance from a low Gamboa cross, Hansen blocked with his legs.
And then you began to wonder. If Celtic might be forced to settle for the slenderest of leads in the second leg.
A piercing through ball from James Forrest calmed the frayed nerves. From the moment Edouard went one on one with Hansen there was little doubt about what came next. The finish was exemplary, the striker simply lifting the ball into the net over the advancing keeper for 3-1.
The loss of a goal aside, Celtic’s only regret must be the failure to add a fourth when Jack Hendry flashed a McGregor free-kick against the crossbar.
There’s work to do in Norway yet.