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Forrest fires for Hoops as Arsenal seal Tierney fee

CFR Cluj 1 Celtic 1

Super Hoop: Celtic’s James Forrest hits the target last night
Super Hoop: Celtic’s James Forrest hits the target last night

By Andy Newport

Celtic overcame a first-half scare in Transylvania as they kept their Champions League bid on track with a valuable 1-1 draw against Cluj.

The Romanians drew first blood when Mario Rondon slotted home before the half-hour, but Neil Lennon's team now return to Glasgow packing a vital away goal after James Forrest quickly cancelled out the opener.

Dan Petrescu's team were certainly a step up from what the Scottish champions have faced so far in Europe this term, but progress to the play-off round is now within reach as long as there are no slip-ups at Parkhead next Tuesday.

It also emerged last night that Celtic and Arsenal had agreed a Scottish transfer record fee of £25m for Scotland left-back Kieran Tierney.

The Premier League club had already had two bids rejected by the Scottish champions but a deal has been struck for the 22-year-old.

When asked about Tierney, former Northern Ireland international Lennon said after the game: "I don't know anything. I've said the last few days it wouldn't surprise me (if Arsenal came back in for the player). I don't have any confirmation of that at all."

Asked if he would like to reinvest any funds from the proposed Tierney deal, he replied: "I hope so. If he goes, he goes with everyone's best wishes. He's an outstanding talent and a great kid."

On the draw, the Lurgan man added: "It's a great result. Obviously, the away goal's priceless.

"We looked really dangerous. They scored a great goal on the counter-attack. Our reaction to the goal was superb.

"James Forrest is a big game player. He's come up again with a really important goal tonight.

"We've got home advantage and need to make that count. Defensively we're still a work in progress. We're making steady progress."

Cluj were determined to make the most of their home advantage but, as they poured forward, it left plenty of space for Celtic to respond in kind.

The only surprise was that the end-to-end action did not produce a goal until the 28th minute.

Odsonne Edouard tested Giedrius Arlauskis early, while Cluj then threatened as Andrei Burca headed over.

But just as Cluj looked like their early tempo was beginning to wane, Celtic switched off and Petrescu's team capitalised.

Breaking from a Celtic corner, Ciprian Deac chose the right moment to release Rondon in beyond the sleeping Boli Bolingoli-Mbombo, with the Venezuelan sliding a composed finish through Scott Bain's legs.

Forrest, however, fired the Parkhead side level nine minutes later. After a quick one-two with right-back Hatem Abd Elhamed, he shifted the ball from his right foot to left before driving in the equaliser with a kiss off the post.

Bain stopped Cluj regaining the lead with a reflex stop from Rondon just after half-time but the second period failed to skip along with the same snap.

Bain looked shaky late on as he spilled an Alexandru Paun strike but George Tcudean could only find the top of the net with his overhead attempt on the rebound to leave Celtic in the driving seat ahead of the second leg.

Belfast Telegraph


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