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Celtic's Champions League dream ends in controversy in Sweden with Malmo defeat

Malmo 2-0 Celtic (Malmo win 4-3 on aggregate)

By Ronnie Esplin

Celtic's Champions League hopes ended amid controversy as a 2-0 defeat by Malmo at the Swedbank Stadion put the Swedish side through to the group stages on a 4-3 aggregate victory.

Leading 3-2 from the first leg of their play-off clash in Glasgow, the visitors fell behind to a goal from skipper Markus Rosenberg who was banned for the first leg.

However, just before the interval, Parkhead midfielder Nir Bitton had the ball in the net from a corner only for Serbian referee Milorad Mazic to award a foul to the home side.

It appeared a harsh decision and there was more woe in the 54th minute when Malmo grabbed their second goal with a header from substitute Felipe Carvalho which Hoops defender Dedryck Boyata could only divert over the line.

Celtic manager Ronny Deila had passed up on two chances to qualify for European football's elite club competition last season and yet another failure is set to cost the club upwards of £15m.

That will be partially offset by the Europa League into which the Scottish champions will fall, although the Norwegian's reputation will take a dent.

It did not need to be this way. Former Celtic loan player Jo Inge Berget had made the return game in Sweden more fraught than it ought to have been with the second of his two goals scored in the last seconds at Celtic Park.

With no goals conceded in their last nine qualifying home games and having overturned a 2-0 first-leg deficit against Salzburg in the previous qualifier to win 3-2 on aggregate, confidence was high in the Malmo ranks.

The match started and continued at breakneck pace.

In the 20th minute, Celtic defender Virgil van Dijk, linked with a £10m move to Southampton, was booked after kicking the ball away on his way back from a Hoops attack.

Three minutes later, there was much more for the Dutchman and the visitors to worry about when Rosenberg leapt the highest to knock in Yoshimar Yotun's corner with his shoulder, with Celtic goalkeeper Craig Gordon unable to get to the ball.

Griffiths then picked up a yellow card along with Vladimir Rodic, after Anton Tinnerholm went to the ground claiming foul play with his knee by the Hoops striker, backed up by television replays.

Moments later came the match's most controversial moment. Malmo defender Kari Arnason appeared to handle Stuart Armstrong's corner before Bitton turned and hooked the ball into the net - only for referee Mazic to signal an infringement in the home side's favour.

There was hardly time to draw breath.

Seconds before the interval, Gordon made a great save from Nikola Djurdjic's drive after the Celtic defence had been opened up and the Scottish champions went in at the break both relieved and frustrated.

Kris Commons replaced Armstrong at half-time while Carvalho came on for Rasmus Bengtsson.

Only a minute had elapsed before Rosenberg fired wide from 14 yards, Celtic defender Boyata then getting himself booked for a foul on Berget.

Gordon made a fine double save, first from Rodic and then from Rosenberg.

However, the Swedish side's second goal was only seconds away, coming when Rodic's cross was met by the head of Carvalho, with Boyata appearing to get the last touch amid some chaos in the defence.

Bitton then entered the book for a foul on Djurdjic and in the 72nd minute he was replaced by Nadir Ciftci, as Deila looked for another way back into the tie, while also protecting his midfielder from a possible second card.

Gary Mackay-Steven then came on for James Forrest, but Celtic could not get themselves back into the tie and will now have to content themselves with Europa League football again.

Malmo: Wiland, Tinnerholm, Arnason, Bengtsson (Carvalho 46), Yotun, Rodic (Rakip 82), Lewicki, Adu, Berget (Mehmeti 90), Rosenberg, Djurdjic.

Subs Not Used: Fredrik Andersson, Molins, Eikrem, Vindheim.

Booked: Rodic, Carvalho, Tinnerholm, Rosenberg.

Goals: Rosenberg 23, Boyata 55 og.

Celtic: Gordon, Janko, Boyata, van Dijk, Mulgrew, Brown, Bitton (Ciftci 72), Forrest (Mackay-Steven 79), Johansen, Armstrong (Commons 46), Griffiths.

Subs Not Used: Bailly,Izaguirre,Ambrose,Rogic.

Booked: van Dijk,Griffiths,Boyata,Bitton,Commons,Johansen.

Man of the match: Markus Rosenberg

Referee: Milorad Mazic (Serbia).

Belfast Telegraph


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