Belfast Telegraph

Blues bravehearts let down by missile throwing idiots: Bottle and coin throwing incidents will mean costly Celtic defeat for Linfield

By Graham Luney

Linfield's heroic defensive performance in restricting Celtic to a 2-0 lead in their Champions League qualifier at Windsor Park last night was overshadowed by missile throwing incidents which will land the club a hefty fine from Uefa.

Coins and a bottle were hurled at Leigh Griffiths as he attempted to take a corner in the second half.

The striker also enraged the Blues fans by tying a Celtic scarf around the goalpost at the end of the game and one pitch invader was led away by security as police formed a line between rival fans.

Griffiths was booked by Spanish referee Alejandro Hernandez for taking his time during the corner incident and Hoops boss Brendan Rodgers, who substituted the former Hibs frontman, expressed his dismay at the incident.

"Whether it's a coin or a bottle or whatever, it shouldn't happen," said Rodgers who watched first half goals from Scott Sinclair and Tom Rogic give his side a healthy lead going to the second leg at Parkhead on Wednesday night.

"Players go on to the field and it should be a safe environment for them."

Linfield boss David Healy rapped what he called the 'media frenzy' around the game for stoking the atmosphere.

Rodgers added: “You want the passion from the stands to stay in there. But if you take that away from it, it was a good evening. You sometimes get these scenes throughout the country, not just here but other places as well.

“Obviously it’s not what you wanted to see. The game was played in good spirit, in the main. So it’s not ideally what you would like to see. I thought it was strange him getting booked for it. But like I say, the talk is more really on the football for us. The scoreline was okay, it could have been better but it gives us the advantage for the second leg.”

Celtic, citing security fears, turned down their ticket allocation for the game but around 250 of their supporters were accommodated in the Kop Stand.

Linfield boss David Healy said he didn’t see the missile-throwing but he hinted that the media frenzy round the fixture had contributed to the hostile atmosphere. “I didn’t see that,” said Healy when asked about the missiles aimed at Griffiths.

“I was watching the game. I don’t think it was always going to happen, a lot of people in the media were making a big deal out of the game so when it happens people aren’t surprised by it but Linfield have made giant strides over the years to cut the abuse out but you can get incidents in Old Firm games or Manchester derbies or games where there is a ferocious red-hot atmosphere.

“Our fans back me and the players through thick and thin and hopefully they continue to do that throughout the season.”

And Northern Ireland’s record goalscorer joked: “We have a daunting task coming up on Wednesday and after what happened tonight I’ll probably need a tin hat and armoured suit but that’s why you’re manager of a great club like Linfield.”

Celtic skipper Scott Brown was reluctant to dwell on the unsavoury incidents. “We don’t worry about that, we just concentrate on what’s happening on the park,” said Brown.

“That’s football, we have been to Tynecastle and Ibrox and things like that happen. I got a few pound coins and came away with a profit. Back at Celtic Park we will have a bigger pitch with the fans behind us.”

Linfield issued a statement praising the conduct of the overwhelming majority of their supporters but added: “The club will be reviewing our own footage and investigating an incident that took place during the match where a number of objects were thrown onto the pitch.

“We are obviously very disappointed that a small number of people chose not to respect the club’s wishes.

“Linfield FC strongly condemns these actions and will be taking all necessary steps to identify any individual who was engaged in this activity. The club takes the safety of fans, players and officials extremely seriously and there will be serious and lasting consequences for anyone involved.”

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