Celtic have left themselves with a severely difficult task to qualify for the Champions League group stage, with a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Kazakhstan champions Shakhter Karagandy. Throughout the match, Celtic made hard work of the game, and have left their hopes of a second successive season in the group stages in doubt.
In the build up to the match, Shakhter Karagandy sacrificed a sheep in a good luck ritual, however in the opening 10 minutes, it looked as if the Kazakhstan team would be like a lamb to the slaughter. Celtic seemed comfortable in possession with good chances falling to Van Dijk and Mouyokolo, both summer signings for Neil Lennon's men.
Shakhter made the breakthrough on the 12 minute mark, however the goal was as much down to Celtic's woeful defending as opposed to any real attacking intent. A long throw came into the box and Celtic's defence were caught ball-watching. Fraser Forster inexplicably decided to stay on his line, rather than simply claiming the ball leaving Finonchenko with the simplest of headers to open the scoring.
After the goal, Shakhter enjoyed a decent amount of possession, however it was Celtic's turn to have a go, with Kris Commons 25 yard effort crashing back off of the crossbar. Celtic looked the better team for the remainder of the first half, however their defending continued to deteriorate and several half chances were gifted to the home side.
The second half started brightly for Celtic with a great chance falling to Izaguirre but the full back blazed the ball high into the Kazakhstan sky. Celtic, throughout the match were lacking a killer touch, and strikers Anthony Stokes, and Amido Balde will have every right to be frustrated, having been forced to kick their heels on the bench throughout. Samaras, despite a lively start, never looked like being Celtic's answer to the departed Gary Hooper.
Celtic were forced to regret their misfiring forward line, when another catastrophe in the Celtic back line, lead to Shahkter's second goal. Mouyokolo done well to block a shot from Finonchenko, but Vinicius floated the ball back into the box, where Khizhnichenko was allowed to head the ball home completely unchallenged, with the Celtic defence seemingly still in their hotel.
Celtic applied some pressure, but could not find the away goal that would have changed the complexion of the tie. Shahkter Karagandy looked a well organised side, but with all due respect, are a team Celtic should be beating. The Glasgow side lacked any sense of urgency, passion and ideas and will go into the return leg in Glasgow needing to score at least two goals without conceding, which with their defensive display tonight, will be easier said than done.