New Glasgow Celtic Manager Neil Lennon was left searching for answers after his first test as a manager in European Football’s biggest competition.
In what should have been a relatively easy tie, the Hoops were soundly beaten 3-0 at Braga, last terms Portuguese runners up. The result in this third round qualifier for the U.E.F.A. Champions League that leaves Celtic needing four in Glasgow to go through; and worse they can’t concede any.
Celtic went a goal down on a controversial penalty as handball was given against South Korean International Ki Sung-Yeung in the 26th minute.
Alan, the Brazilian forward, slammed home the penalty. He proved a handful throughout the match.
Had Celtic maintained their composure and managed the game a 1-0 away defeat in the first leg of a European tie would have been an acceptable result. But they couldn’t.
Trouble was on the horizon. As the match wore on, the Celtic players looked tired in the heat and Braga’s fluid play eventually drew yellow cards on three of the Celtic back four.
As the second half opened the disparity between the sides was even more evident.
The introduction of another Brazilian, Matheus Nasciment, in the 64th minute, turned the game. The 28-year-old Brazilian brought some fresh legs and a bit of flair. He and Alan combined to set up Braga’s second goal from Elderson who slotted home from just in front. With 72 minutes gone Celtic was in a massive hole, 2-0.
In the dying moments Matheus curled a free kick off the defender and into the back of the net. The strike from 25 yards out assured that the Portuguese side would go to Glasgow with a 3-0 lead in the two legged tie.
Despite the post match complaints from Celtic manager Neil Lennon, his side was never really in the match. Lennon opted to play Samaras alone up top and allow his defense to absorb the Braga pressure which turned out to be a poor decision, as Celtic wilted in the heat.
Braga dominated possession throughout the match with the final figure at 68 percent vs. a measly 32 percent for Celtic. Celtic managed only one shot all night.
The return leg will feature a hostile crowd but Celtic will need divine intervention to keep their Champions League campaign alive.