Dembele at double as Celtic check Man City charge
Manchester City failed to win for the first time under Pep Guardiola as Moussa Dembele-inspired Celtic claimed a 3-3 draw in a pulsating Champions League encounter on Wednesday.
City had won their first 10 games of the season and were bidding to equal Tottenham Hotspur’s English record of 11 successive victories at the start of a campaign from 1960.
But instead they had to come from behind three times at a raucous Celtic Park as Brendan Rodgers’s side partially atoned for their 7-0 battering by Barcelona with a superbly committed display.
“There are always elements we can improve on, but I thought the players were brilliant,” Celtic manager Rodgers told BT Sport.
“To put on that level of performance against a team of that quality, I thought it was magnificent. That will give us confidence moving forward.”
Dembele’s close-range opener put the Scottish champions ahead in the third minute and after Fernandinho swiftly levelled, Raheem Sterling’s own goal restored the hosts’ advantage.
Sterling, Rodgers’s former protege at Liverpool, equalised and although Dembele’s smart volley put Celtic in front again, Nolito earned Guardiola’s men a share of the spoils.
“I’m happy with the reaction from the players. It’s not easy to score three goals away,” Guardiola said.
“I don’t know how many the chances they had after the third goal. We should have won it.
“It’s OK. It’s one point, we didn’t lose. You always learn.”
City fall two points below Group C leaders Barcelona ahead of their double-header with Guardiola’s former club starting next month, while Celtic are a point above bottom club Borussia Moenchengladbach.
After their humbling by Barcelona, Rodgers had vowed Celtic would be less “passive” than at Camp Nou and his players heeded his call with an all-out assault on the City rearguard.
Swirling rain and the roars of the Celtic faithful turned Parkhead into a cauldron and within three minutes of kick-off the bewildered visitors were behind.
– Kolarov blunder –
Ex-City winger Scott Sinclair’s free-kick was volleyed across goal by the unmarked James Forrest and centre-back Erik Sviatchenko’s flying header struck Dembele’s chest and bounced into the net.
Dembele, the 20-year-old French striker signed from Fulham in June, looked to have been offside, but the goal stood and City were behind for the first time this season.
After Claudio Bravo had been obliged to parry a close-range Dembele effort, City levelled in the 12th minute when Fernandinho brilliantly controlled Aleksandar Kolarov’s shot and found the bottom-right corner.
The teams exchanged chances, Celtic midfielder Tom Rogic bending a free-kick just wide and Nolito curling a shot straight at Craig Gordon, before the home side re-took the lead.
Driving at City’s retreating back four, Rogic found overlapping left-back Kieran Tierney, whose cross was deflected in at the near post by the sliding Sterling for a cruel own goal.
But back came City again and after Sergio Aguero had seen a header bounce across the face of goal, Sterling atoned with a stylish 28th-minute equaliser.
After robbing Scott Brown, David Silva had the ball knocked back to him by Aguero and freed Sterling, whose feint sent Gordon to ground and allowed him to tuck the ball away with his right foot.
Belatedly, City were in the ascendancy and twice before half-time they went close to going ahead through Nicolas Otamendi and Ilkay Gundogan.
Celtic, however, needed just two minutes to move in front again in the second half.
Kolarov completely miscued his attempt to clear Tierney’s cross and Dembele neatly controlled the ball on his thigh before hooking home an acrobatic volley for his 19th goal of 2016.
But after Nolito and Gundogan had been denied by Gordon, City drew level again eight minutes later, Nolito tucking the ball in after Aguero, released by Silva, had been thwarted by Gordon.
City finished the stronger of the two sides, Fernandinho sending a 20-yard effort whistling narrowly over and Gordon repelling Gundogan’s shot, but Celtic held on for a boisterously celebrated point.