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Dublin: 19 °C Saturday 8 August, 2020
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Celtic battle to victory over Liverpool at a sold-out Aviva Stadium

The Scottish champions earned a 1-0 win against the Redmen in this afternoon’s Dublin Decider.

Anthony Stokes and Steven Gerrard.
Anthony Stokes and Steven Gerrard.
Image: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Updated 20.01

AN UNDER-STRENGTH CELTIC team held out for a 1-0 win over Liverpool in the Dublin Decider at Lansdowne Road this afternoon.

Amido Balde’s first half goal was enough to earn victory for the Hoops who rode their luck at times as Liverpool were unable to convert a rake of goal chances.

It may have been a pre-season friendly but after tickets sold out in under an hour, fans packed out Ireland’s national stadium to see the Merseysiders take on the Scottish champions.

As You’ll Never Walk Alone rang out around Dublin 4, the teams emerged and, with Luis Suarez  not travelling and Daniel Sturridge only making the bench, new signing Iago Aspas was tasked with leading the line for the Redmen.

Celtic, meanwhile, already up and running in the Scottish Premiership, started with a number of fringe players but had Ireland international Anthony Stokes in attack.

Liverpool dominated possession early on but, against the run of play,  it was the Hoops who took athe lead after 12 minutes. Portuguese striker Balde, signed from Vitoria de Guimaraes, picked up a through-pass, stepped inside Andre Wisdom far too easily and found the back of the net despite a deflection off Simon Mignolet.

It was all Liverpool just after the goal and they were close to responding on three occasions. Stewart Downing was crowded out out by the Celtic defence, then stand-in goalkeeper Lukasz Zaluska had to make smart saves from Coutinho and Downing, who stepped in from the right and attempted to pick out the top corner.

Right full-back Glen Johnson got himself in an advanced position on 20 minutes and, tried his luck but again Celtic’s Polish stopper was up to the test.

Coutinho looked lively, as did news signing Aspas. Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard received a warm reception upon taking corners but was resigned to a couple of pop shots in the opening 45 minutes.

The physical presence of Balde up front was proving to be outlet for Celtic and he caused the partnership of Kolo Toure and Wisdom some discomfort.

It was far from a dirty game but the first yellow card arrived on 44 minutes and was shown to the only Irishman on the field. Anthony Stokes, frustrated at losing the ball in the centre of the park, put in a heavy challenge on Coutinho and received a caution.

The 25-year-old followed his booking up with a first meaningful attempt on goal – a glancing header from Emilio Izaguirre, which Mignolet showed good hands to hold onto.

Celtic’s Aimbo Balde celebrates with Dylan McGeouch after scoring. Credit: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Daniel Sturridge, back fit after an ankle injury sustained against Ireland back in May, replaced Aspas while Celtic brought in Fraizer Forster between the sticks and Mikeal Lustig was withdrawn for youngster Darnel Fisher at half-time.

Sturridge and Coutinho got their wires crossed after fine play by Downing on the right flank with neither able to side-foot the inviting cross home.

Liverpool then had the ball in the back of the net on 54 minutes when Toure latched onto a free-kick delivery from Gerrard to beat Forster but the goal was ruled out for offside.

Coutinho was swtiched into a more central role when Jordan Henderson came on for Joe Allen as Liverpool looked to find an equaliser and he fired narrowly wide from the 20 yards out soon after.

17-year-old Jordan Ibe was introduced for the closing minutes and he came close and Sturridge got his angles wrong with a lob over the head of Forster before drilling a strike just outside the post before the final whistle went.

Liverpool: Mignolet, Enrique, Wisdom, Toure, Johnson, Lucas, Gerrard, Allen (Henderson 58), Downing (Ibe 72), Aspas (Sturridge 45), Coutinho.
Celtic:  Zaluska (Forster 45); Matthews, Lustig (Fisher 45), Mouyokolo, Izaguirre (Findlay 65); McGeouch, Kayal (George 85), Irvine, Stokes; Balde (Atajic 69), Watt (Henderson 85).

Watch Balde’s goal:

YouTube credit; AllGoalsVideo

First published at 19.02

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Ben Blake

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