Celtic were denied their first Champions League home win in 10 years by Alvaro Morata’s equaliser at Parkhead.
Brendan Rodgers’ side picked up their first point in Group E against the Spaniards, who were reduced to 10 men late on. But the Hoops gaffer will feel they deserved all three after a terrific performance, particularly in the first half.
Celtic led twice through Kyogo Furuhashi and Luis Palma, with Antoine Greizmann’s rebound from a penalty sandwiched in between. Diego Simeone’s men improved in the second half and Morata’s header earned them a draw in Glasgow. Argentine midfielder Rodrigo de Paul was sent off for the Spaniards but Celtic couldn’t capitalise despite some late pressure. The result leaves them bottom of their section, with Feyenoord’s win over Lazio putting the Dutch side top. Rodgers’ side go to Madrid for the return fixture against Atletico in a fortnight. Here's 5 talking points from Parkhead...
Celtic were pleasing on the eye all night but their first goal was a thing of beauty. When Kyogo picked up the ball wide on the right flank, Atletico Madrid didn’t look in too much danger. But two key things made the Hoops’ opener. Firstly, the Japanese striker’s run. After he released the ball to O’Riley, he feigned to run on the outside of marker Javier Galan before darting away from the Spanish defender on his inside. It was a magnificent movement from Kyogo but it still needed a perfectly weighted pass - and O’Riley didn’t disappoint with his execution. It was finished superbly and Celtic got their noses in front with a Champions League level goal.
Watching legendary Atletico Madrid gaffer Diego Simeone on the touchline at Celtic Park was almost worth the admission money alone. The Argentine boss is box-office in the dug-out. Constantly cajoling his troops, he paced up and down the technical area all night. Simeone was so animated he had to take off his big winter coat during the first half as things got heated.
As his side struggled to contain Celtic, you could feel his burning frustration and it showed in his antics. Whether it was over-exaggerated applauding, claiming for every foul or wanting opposition players booked, Simeone was part of the spectacle. At one stage, he even tried to stop his own physio from coming on to treat a Madrid player. And in the midst of an electric atmosphere and so much passion at Parkhead, you couldn’t help wondering if he looked around and thought Celtic would be the type of club he wouldn't mind managing one day.
When Reo Hatate pulled up injured after just five minutes it would have been a major blow to Brendan Rodgers and the Celtic support. And as young Portuguese midfielder was given the call by his manager over the more established David Turnbull, plenty inside the stadium would have wondered how the 21-year-old might handle it. But in the heat of a breathless Champions League encounter, Bernardo stood up to the test and proved his worth.
The kid is only on loan from Benfica and last night was his big moment on the European stage. Playing in the advanced position within Celtic’s midfield three, he used his intelligence and didn’t try anything fancy. His passing was simple but hugely effective in a terrific first half for Rodgers’ side. Out of possession he tried to stop Atletico Madrid skipper Koke from dictating and put in an impressive defensive shift. If Hatate is out for a period of time, Bernardo showed last night that he could be an able deputy.
After being blown away by Celtic in the opening 45 minutes, Simeone changed things at half-time and it allowed the La Liga outfit to get more of a grip on the game. He made two substitutions and one of them, Marcos Llorente, had a huge impact. The Spanish international caused Celtic far more problems than what Saul Niguez had done in the first half. The attacking midfielder provided the cross for Alvaro Morata’s equaliser and wasn’t afraid to have a pop at Joe Hart’s goal himself. But crucially, as well as Llorente’s introduction, Atletico’s talisman Antoine Griezmann was given more of a free role after the break. He was given the freedom to come deeper off Morata and affect the game, knowing Llorente was willing to get forward in support of the strikers. Griezmann is a class act and he showed it in the second period here where he was hugely influential in getting Atletico back in the game. The tweaks from the visitors later forced Celtic into shifting to a back three as it became more of a tactical battle.
It’s difficult to know what Celtic have to do to win a Champions League home game. That’s a decade now since it last happened but gaffer Rodgers must be wondering how they haven’t managed it in their last two games. It was heartbreak against Lazio last time out - having a goal chalked off then conceding late to lose against the Italians - and it was a similar hard luck story here. Atletico Madrid have been one of the Champions League’s elite sides in recent years, reaching two finals in the last 10 years. But Celtic put them to the sword in the first half here and deserved to be at least two goals in front. If they’d have won it, there would have been no smash and grab feel about it. It wasn’t a backs-against-the-wall performance. Far from it. Playing Rodgers’ brand of football they took the game to Simeone’s men and for long spells looked like they’d come out on top. But just like against Lazio, they couldn’t get over the line.