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There is usually a predictable rhythm to away trips following Celtic. It begins at the airport (most often Stansted in my case) where I start hearing a few more Glaswegian accents than I’m used to down south. Then I arrive in some foreign city and watch in amusement as the city of my childhood seems to take it over for 24 hours. And then there’s the game which is normally a source of disappointment and, occasionally, humiliation (eg Gibraltar). But not this trip!

It started as usual on our flight to Cologne on Monday night. Every Bierkeller we visited had more than a few hoops in it, even a Jazz Club seemed to have its fair share. The atmosphere really cranked up when we got to Rheydt (where the Celtic Fanzone was) on Tuesday afternoon. I was enjoying the usual party atmosphere when It became time to go to the game. I got on the shuttle bus with no confidence that this game would be any different from most of my previous sixteen European  away games. They had comfortably beaten us two weeks ago without Hazard and Raphael, both of whom were now fit. And we had lost KT, Toure, Simunovic and Griffiths.

Borussia Park is an excellent stadium, helped by being bathed in green. The home fans were noisy at times though not as consistently so as the fans in Malmo or Be’er Sheva but they still generated a good atmosphere. The Celtic fans though were a different class tonight with pretty much non stop singing.

Our mood was helped by a good team performance. At Parkhead their keeper didn’t have to make a single save. Tonight we hit the post (we all thought it was going in), their keeper had a couple of saves and McGregor missed a chance to win it for us. If only we’d had Griffiths running on to that ball!! Yes BMG had their chances,with a particular flurry coming half way through the second half, but we dominated the ball for long periods. Despite the referee! From our corner of the ground he seemed to be giving us nothing and frustration was high. He was partly forgiven though after the penalty and red card!

There were many outstanding performances but Brown was a class above everybody else on the pitch. He was imperious at times and held the midfield together, often directing other players, winning tackles and passing well. Armstrong played well and it was Gamboa’s best game for us. Sinclair is our best forward at the moment and always looked dangerous. And what about Izzy?! You could be picky and say he was caught out at their goal but he played like he’d never been out of the team. Credit also to Moussa for his calmness at the penalty.

When the draw was made for the group stages I genuinely thought we’d get no points. And here we are with two after four games. Bring on the Barca!

HOWARD GILBERT


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