Celtic were given a scare by Maribor in Slovenia in the first leg of their Champions League playoff, though the Scottish champions escaped with a 1-1 draw. With an away goal to take back to the return leg at Celtic Park, the Bhoys won't be too disappointed with the outcome.
Maribor's early strategy of sitting deep and allowing Celtic time on the ball backfired badly after just 6 minutes, when Callum McGregor followed up Jo Inge Berget's initial shot with a prod past the Slovenians' goalkeeper Jasmin Handanovič. The hosts had conceded an early away goal, and had a big mountain to climb.
However, they stayed patient, and were rewarded with an equalizer from nowhere less than 10 minutes later. Some terrible Celtic defending allowed Željko Filipović to play a cutting pass straight through the middle, before Damjan Bohar rolled the ball into the bottom corner of Craig Gordon's goal.
Despite the setback, Celtic remained in the ascendency. Only a vital intervention from Maribor defender Marko Šuler prevented Anthony Stokes latching onto the end of Emilio Izaguirre's dangerous cross in the 19th minute, shortly before the Slovenians cleared a Charlie Mulgrew header off their goalline.
The Scottish visitors were a threat from set-pieces throughout, and would have equalized on a subsequent corner had Virgil van Dijk's header not been accidentally blocked by teammate Stefan Johansen. Despite the visitors dominating for the majority of the half, the game remained deadlocked at the break.
The second half began with Maribor applying sustained pressure for the first time in the match. Their best chance fell to Agim Ibraimi just short of the hour after a sloppy giveaway from Izaguirre, though the striker's header was palmed away by Celtic goalkeeper Gordon before the offside flag prevented Tavares from tucking the ball home.
Eventually Celtic woke up, and created a string of half-chances on the Maribor goal. Arguably the best came when Johansen dribbled through on goal inside the final 20 minutes, only for Handanovič to pluck the ball from underneath his feet.
With the final whistle drawing ever closer, Maribor were once again on top. Celtic manager Ronny Deila responded with a couple of defensive substitutions. The visitors' box was bombarded by crosses, though they held onto a 1-1 draw.
With an away goal to take back to Celtic Park, the visitors certainly won't be disappointed. But after an impressive second half showing, Maribor too will believe they have what it takes to snatch victory in the second leg.
Maribor: Handanovič; Viler, Šuler, Rajčevič, Stojanovič; Bohar (Sallallich 79'), Derviševič Mertelj (81'), Filipović, Vršič (Mendy 73'); Ibraimi, Tavares.
Goals: McGregor (6').
Celtic: Gordon; Izaguirre, van Dijk, Denayer, Lustig; Berget (Ambrose 73'), Johansen, Kayal (Biton 87'), Mulgrew, McGregor; Stokes (Griffiths 80').
Goals: Bohar (14').
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