Legia Warsaw dent Celtic’s Champions League hopes with massive first leg win
Scottish champions Celtic were embarrassed 4-1 by Legia Warsaw in the first leg of their Champions League qualifier after a miserable display in Poland on Wednesday night that saw two missed penalties and a red card.
There were chaotic scenes at the end of this turbulent contest inside the Pepsi Arena with the home supporters delirious while the Celtic players argued among themselves.
This match may have been part of their pre-season but nobody would have expected such a calamitous performance and the scoreline should have been worse after skipper Ivica Vrdoljak fluffed two second-half spot-kicks, as well as some lacklustre finishing failing to take advantage of a team reduced to 10 after Efe Ambrose’s sending off before the break.
Former Wolves boss and Manchester United defender Henning Berg, overseeing the Polish champions, endured a rocky start to the evening as he watched his opponents rip open his midfield as Callum McGregor cut in from the right to fire in a deflected long-range blast to open the scoring on just eight minutes.
It proved to be the high point of the evening for the boys in dark green and their defence showed early signs of frailty two minutes later when star of the evening Miroslav Radovic drilled the ball through Fraser Forster’s legs after slack defending by Adam Matthews.
Kris Commons blazed over to show some spark for Celtic but Warsaw took the lead as Radovic made it a double when he scooped over the line from a headed knock-down by Ondrej Duda (36).
Disaster struck just before the interval though when Ambrose was shown the red card for sliding in clumsily on Michal Kucharczyk on the edge of the box and although they survived until the half-time whistle, their composure appeared to be slowly deserting them.
There was another let-off just before the hour, as a stuttering Vrdoljak failed from the spot following Charlie Mulgrew’s late tackle on Ondrej Duda.
With seven minutes remaining, it appeared the visitors might actually hold on for an honourable defeat by the single goal, but Michal Zyro nodded in a clever third and substitute Jakub Kosecki smashed in a fourth to pile on the agony.
Sandwiched between these two late goals, the hosts could even afford to show more charity from 12 yards with keeper Forster pushing away Vrdoljak’s penalty. Legia Warsaw will head to Murrayfield in buoyant mood for next week’s second leg, with Celtic needing to desperately improve at the back and in front of goal to avoid dropping into the Europa League play-off, although they will know that their Polish trip could have been much worse.