Europa League - Round of 32 - 1st Leg
Celtic1Zenit St Petersburg0

Europa League: Celtic 1-0 Zenit St Petersburg

Celtic midfielder Callum McGregor scores against Zenit
Celtic take a vital 1-0 lead to Russia for the second leg against Zenit after Callum McGregor's excellent finish

Callum McGregor's second-half strike delivered a deserved victory for Celtic in the first leg of their Europa League last-32 tie with Zenit St Petersburg.

The home side dominated play but were ruing a series of missed opportunities until the midfielder's decisive finish.

Substitute Charly Musonda played a big role, setting up the chance, which McGregor lashed high into the net.

The victory was Celtic's first win at home in 12 European matches outside the qualifying phase.

This was a significant test for the Scottish champions after a fairly punishing Champions League group stage, which saw them concede 18 goals as they finished behind Paris St-Germain and Bayern Munich.

Manager Brendan Rodgers acknowledged their status as underdogs in this tie, yet Celtic finished the first leg full of belief they can now go further in Europe.

Rodgers made some critical selection decisions, changing from his normal system and dropping Scott Sinclair for McGregor, with Eboue Kouassi also starting.

Those calls seemed inspired from the off, with Kieran Tierney, McGregor and Moussa Dembele immediately looking sharp and threatening.

The home side came close to an early lead when Dembele capitalised on a defensive error to play in Olivier Ntcham. The Frenchman clipped towards goal, but the ball crept agonisingly wide.

Celtic Park responded. It was more like European nights of the past as the crowd roared their approval at a performance bursting with assertiveness and ambition.

Another defensive lapse by the Russians allowed Kouassi to feed McGregor, who shot from the edge of the box, but his effort was straight at Andrei Lunev in goal.

The visitors had shown nothing but nerves and rustiness to that point - playing their first game after a lengthy winter break - but they still came very close to scoring the opening goal.

Celtic goalkeeper Dorus de Vries did well to block Anton Zabolotny's close-range effort. Yet de Vries had little else to do in the match.

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To score Celtic's winning goal against Zenit 'was unbelievable' - Callum McGregor

That scare did little to dampen Celtic's approach. They piled forward but crucially never looked overexposed to a counter-attack. This was a mature and effective display.

Everything was executed at pace, meaning there was never any respite for the Russian side, who appeared subdued following their extended break.

McGregor was prominent in the best of Celtic's work, linking superbly and racing from deep into spaces beyond Dembele. On one occasion, that dynamism carried him to the touchline behind the defence. He flashed the ball across the six-yard line, but neither Dembele nor Tierney could apply the finishing touch.

Celtic were dominant, looking bright and vibrant, and all their play lacked was a goal. Zenit were fortunate not to lose Daler Kuzyayev after he dragged McGregor to the ground soon after being booked, with the Russians often willing to commit a foul to halt Celtic's progress.

In the second half, Zenit sat deep trying to stifle the home side's threat. The pressure remained, but Celtic failed to truly test Lunev's goal as the clock ticked on.

Zenit manager Roberto Mancini looked increasingly happy to leave with a 0-0 scoreline. Rodgers, on the other hand, knew he needed a goal after his team had played so impressively, and he sent on Musonda in search of a winner.

The intervention worked. Musonda took Dembele's ball on the run and clipped it perfectly across the goal to McGregor, who took a touch before volleying home emphatically to send Celtic Park wild.

Musonda proved the key with a moment of quality but McGregor's finish and performance throughout were magnificent and justly rewarded.

Line-ups

Celtic

  • 24de Vries
  • 23LustigBooked at 85mins
  • 5Simunovic
  • 35Ajer
  • 49Forrest
  • 88KouassiBooked at 73minsSubstituted forMusondaat 73'minutes
  • 8BrownBooked at 83mins
  • 21NtchamBooked at 56mins
  • 63Tierney
  • 42McGregor
  • 10DembeleBooked at 84minsSubstituted forEdouardat 84'minutes

Substitutes

  • 4Hendry
  • 11Sinclair
  • 18Rogic
  • 22Edouard
  • 29Bain
  • 59Miller
  • 67Musonda

Zenit St Petersburg

  • 99Lunev
  • 19SmolnikovBooked at 76mins
  • 23Mevlja
  • 30Mammana
  • 4CriscitoBooked at 64mins
  • 21Erokhin
  • 5ParedesBooked at 83mins
  • 14KuzyaevBooked at 36minsSubstituted forKranevitterat 62'minutesBooked at 87mins
  • 10RigoniSubstituted forDriussiat 62'minutes
  • 29Zabolotny
  • 9Kokorin

Substitutes

  • 1Lodygin
  • 3Terentjev
  • 7Poloz
  • 8Kranevitter
  • 11Driussi
  • 18Zhirkov
  • 60Ivanovic
Referee:
Damir Skomina
Attendance:
56,743

Match Stats

Home TeamCelticAway TeamZenit St Petersburg
Possession
Home59%
Away41%
Shots
Home11
Away5
Shots on Target
Home3
Away2
Corners
Home8
Away3
Fouls
Home17
Away14

Live Text

Match ends, Celtic 1, Zenit St Petersburg 0.

Full Time

Second Half ends, Celtic 1, Zenit St Petersburg 0.

Foul by Odsonne Edouard (Celtic).

Andrey Lunev (Zenit St Petersburg) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Odsonne Edouard (Celtic).

Miha Mevlja (Zenit St Petersburg) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Odsonne Edouard (Celtic) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Foul by Miha Mevlja (Zenit St Petersburg).

Olivier Ntcham (Celtic) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Igor Smolnikov (Zenit St Petersburg).

Booking

Matías Kranevitter (Zenit St Petersburg) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

Scott Brown (Celtic) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Matías Kranevitter (Zenit St Petersburg).

Booking

Mikael Lustig (Celtic) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

Foul by Mikael Lustig (Celtic).

Sebastián Driussi (Zenit St Petersburg) wins a free kick on the left wing.

Substitution

Substitution, Celtic. Odsonne Edouard replaces Moussa Dembele.

Booking

Moussa Dembele (Celtic) is shown the yellow card.

Booking

Scott Brown (Celtic) is shown the yellow card.

Booking

Leandro Paredes (Zenit St Petersburg) is shown the yellow card.

Foul by Scott Brown (Celtic).

Leandro Paredes (Zenit St Petersburg) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Goal!

Goal! Celtic 1, Zenit St Petersburg 0. Callum McGregor (Celtic) right footed shot from the right side of the six yard box to the top left corner. Assisted by Charly Musonda.

Booking

Igor Smolnikov (Zenit St Petersburg) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

Charly Musonda (Celtic) wins a free kick on the left wing.

Foul by Igor Smolnikov (Zenit St Petersburg).

Offside, Celtic. Kieran Tierney tries a through ball, but James Forrest is caught offside.

Corner, Zenit St Petersburg. Conceded by Kristoffer Ajer.

Substitution

Substitution, Celtic. Charly Musonda replaces Eboue Kouassi.

Booking

Eboue Kouassi (Celtic) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

Foul by Eboue Kouassi (Celtic).

Igor Smolnikov (Zenit St Petersburg) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Foul by Jozo Simunovic (Celtic).

Andrey Lunev (Zenit St Petersburg) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Corner, Celtic. Conceded by Aleksandr Kokorin.

Foul by Callum McGregor (Celtic).

Aleksandr Erokhin (Zenit St Petersburg) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Attempt missed. Leandro Paredes (Zenit St Petersburg) right footed shot from outside the box misses to the right.

Foul by James Forrest (Celtic).

Domenico Criscito (Zenit St Petersburg) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

goal

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