Celtic battle back to draw with Rennes in Europa League
Rennes (France) (AFP) –
Ryan Christie scored a second-half penalty as Celtic kicked off their Europa League group-stage campaign with a battling 1-1 draw away to French Cup holders Rennes in a heated encounter on Thursday.
Christie's 59th-minute spot-kick cancelled out M'Baye Niang's penalty which had given Rennes the lead in the first half in Brittany in the Group E game.
The Scottish champions finished with 10 men as substitute Vakoun Issouf Bayo was sent off for two yellow cards in quick succession in injury time, but the result gives them a platform on which to build before their next match at home to CFR Cluj, who shocked Lazio 2-1 on Thursday.
Neil Lennon's team were eager to show that they could compete with top-level opposition in Europe after their disappointing exit from the Champions League in the third qualifying round.
There have been numerous changes to the Rennes squad since their domestic cup success last season, but they are currently second in Ligue 1 behind only Paris Saint-Germain, who they beat at home last month.
Rennes also defeated Arsenal at Roazhon Park in this competition last season, although they were eventually eliminated over two legs by the London side in the last 16.
Mohamed Elyounoussi, the Norwegian winger on loan from Southampton, was inches away from connecting with a low ball across the face of the Rennes goal 20 minutes in but the home side soon began to threaten.
The Brazilian winger Raphinha, a 21 million-euro ($23.2 million) buy from Sporting Lisbon just before the transfer deadline, produced a fine save from Fraser Forster from a curling effort just after the half-hour mark, and the hosts then won a penalty.
The bustling Niang was bundled over by Kristoffer Ajer in the area before stepping up to convert from 12 yards on 38 minutes.
Celtic came back after the interval though and won a penalty of their own when James Forrest was fouled by Damien Da Silva, and Christie made no mistake.
Things spilled over at the death as Bayo was booked for a challenge on Da Silva which led to the Rennes captain going off on a stretcher.
That left the hosts to finish the match with 10 men as they had already made three changes, but Bayo then caught goalkeeper Edouard Mendy with a boot to the face moments later and was shown a second yellow.
While the Rennes fans greeted the final whistle with loud boos, the travelling support celebrated the point and will now hope to exact revenge on Cluj, the same team who knocked them out in Champions League qualifying.
© 2019 AFP