Udinese 1-1 Celtic

Antonio Di Natale levelled for Udinese on the stroke of half-time
Antonio Di Natale levelled for Udinese on the stroke of half-time

Celtic failed to reach the last 32 of the Europa League despite a spirited draw at Serie A high-flyers Udinese.

Gary Hooper opened the scoring inside 30 minutes with a close-range tap-in that was cancelled out on the stroke of half-time by Antonio Di Natale.

Celtic keeper Fraser Forster kept the visitors in the tie with a fine string of second-half saves and Celtic's Cha Du-Ri was denied by the woodwork.

A late claim for handball in the Udinese penalty area was waved away.

The draw sends Udinese through to the knockout stages as runners-up behind Group I winners Atletico Madrid, who ended their campaign with a 3-1 win against French outfit Rennes.

Scott Brown started for the first time since recovering from an ankle injury and, with Glenn Loovens ruled out with a hamstring injury, Victor Wanyama was moved back into defence. Midfielder Ki Sung-yueng also replaced striker Anthony Stokes, leaving Gary Hooper as the lone frontman.

Meanwhile, Udinese boss Francesco Guidolin fielded a strong side with top-scorer Di Natale leading the line.

Lennon takes positives from Europa campaign

Celtic enjoyed an early spell of possession and James Forrest tried his luck from distance in the first five minutes with a shot that failed to test Udinese keeper Samir Handanovic.

A slack back-pass from Brown left Celtic keeper Forster in no-man's land as Di Natale powered down on goal, but the Italy international was far too casual with his flick on and the ball drifted wide.

With 23 minutes played, Hooper had a wonderful opportunity when Samaras played him through on the right-hand side of the Udinese penalty area but the Englishman struck past the post from six yards.

Forster was called into action when Di Natale powered in a right-footed effort from the edge of the Celtic box that the keeper parried wide.

Shortly before the half-hour mark, Hooper scored an unlikely goal after Samaras crossed from the left, the ball rebounded off Udinese defender Joel Ekstrand before the striker tapped in from close range.

Celtic's Gary Hooper in action against Udinese
Hooper missed a good chance shortly before opening the scoring

Thierry Doubai warmed the hands of Forster with a curling effort as half-time approached, then another Samaras run at the other end fizzled out with Hooper waiting on the penalty spot for the through-ball.

Then on the stroke of half-time, Di Natale struck a blow to Scottish hopes, leaving Forster no chance with a clinical volley from close range after Celtic failed to clear their lines.

Kwadwo Asamoah should have done better with a long-range effort that sailed horrendously wide of the Celtic goal in the 52nd minute, before Di Natale's low drive was blocked on the six-yard line by Daniel Majstorovic.

The hosts pressed for a winner and gave Celtic further scares as the match entered the final 20 minutes, Di Natale sending a good chance over the bar and Asamoah striking the woodwork.

At the other end, Cha hit the post with an 18-yard volley before being booked for a challenge on Pablo Armero.

With 10 minutes remaining, Forster kept Di Natale out with a fine double-save as the Italians continued to hit Celtic on the counter-attack, and in the dying minutes the travelling fans were on their feet claiming a penalty for handball, but the referee was not persuaded.

A succession of corners for Celtic in the final minute of added time failed to produce the winner that Neil Lennon's men required to reach the next round.

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