Celtic 0 Hamburg 0
Celtic’s Europa League hopes hang by a thread after tonight’s goalless draw at Hamburg.
Hoops’ striker Scott McDonald missed two glaring chances as the visitors edged an open first half.
The Parkhead side, though, had goalkeeper Lukasz Zaluska to thank for a series of fine saves throughout an entertaining game which could have gone either way.
However, despite an encouraging performance overall, Celtic remain at the bottom of the table on two points, five behind second-placed Hamburg with two Group C games remaining.
Tony Mowbray’s men need to beat Hapoel Tel Aviv at home and Rapid Vienna away while hoping the Bundesliga side lose both their remaining games. It is an unlikely scenario.
Moreover, the 3,000 or so Hoops fans, bolstered in numbers by supporters of Hamburg’s city rivals, St Pauli, had travelled once more in hope having seen their side win just one of their last 25 European away ties, a 2-0 victory at Dinamo Moscow in this season’s Champions League third qualifying round.
The home side forced two quick corners, before Zaluska conceded a third when he saved from Hamburg striker Marcus Berg’s angled shot.
However, the visitors survived and went on to have the edge for the rest of an open first half.
Moments later, Barry Robson’s shot from the edge of the box was deflected over the bar but the Parkhead side were unable to capitalise on their corner.
But in the 17th minute the visitors should have taken the lead when a surging run by Georgios Samaras ended when the Greek striker slipped the ball to the unmarked McDonald.
The Australia international was only 10 yards out but his curled attempt was parried wide by Hamburg keeper Frank Rost.
After Celtic defender Glenn Loovens carelessly gave possession away to Marcell Jansen in midfield, Zaluska needed to save from the German international’s long-range shot.
Jansen tried from distance again, this time his left-footed drive speeding a yard wide.
In the 33rd minute Celtic missed another great opportunity to forge ahead when midfielder Aiden McGeady played in McDonald with a clever pass which split the home side’s defence.
However, Rost was quickly out to block the former Motherwell striker’s drive before gathering at the second attempt.
Three minutes after the break, following Dennis Aogo’s free-kick whipped in from the right, Zaluska looked to have made a good fingertip save from Joris Mathijsen’s close-range header but Spanish referee Carlos Velasco Carballo awarded a goal-kick.
In the 52nd minute, as Hamburg stepped up the pace, the keeper got a good hand to Eljero Elia’s 25-yard drive, with captain Gary Caldwell clearing to thwart Pitroipa, who was waiting to pounce on the loose ball.
Referee Carballo then ignored loud penalty claims from the home fans when the ball struck Celtic defender Daniel Fox – television evidence proving inconclusive exactly where.
Elia shot wide as Celtic struggled to hold out an increasingly rampant Bundesliga side, before McDonald and McGeady were replaced by Marc-Antoine Fortune and Lee Naylor in the 58th minute as Mowbray reshuffled his side with left-back Fox moving to midfield.
As Celtic broke for the first time with purpose in the second half, Landry N’Guemo set up Samaras but his shot from the edge of the box was too tame to worry Rost.
A finely-balanced game continued apace and in the 73rd minute Zaluska made another fine save, this time from Hamburg defender David Rozehnal’s point-blank header, after Aogo had fired in a corner from the right.
Niall McGinn replaced Robson two minutes later as Celtic pushed hard but a nervy ending to the game refused to produce a winner and the Parkhead side now need a football miracle to qualify.