By Lyall Thomas
Last Updated: 13/07/16 12:20am
Celtic suffered a shock 1-0 defeat to Gibraltarian semi-professional side Lincoln Red Imps in the Champions League second qualifying round first-leg.
Lee Casciaro – the 34-year-old Gibraltar international forward – scored the only goal three minutes into the second-half when he got the better of Efe Ambrose and beat Craig Gordon from close range.
Striker Leigh Griffiths twice hit the bar for Celtic – his second attempt from a free-kick that should have been fired in by Nir Bitton from the rebound.
It was Celtic’s first competitive match under Brendan Rodgers and his side appeared to struggle in the heat and on a plastic pitch that disrupted the away side’s efforts to keep control of the ball and play a passing game.
The first half was technically goalless, but new signing Moussa Dembele headed home a Scott Brown free-kick that was undeservedly chalked off for a foul on the Imps goalkeeper.
But Celtic were lucky to keep 11 men on the pitch after Ambrose received just a booking for a high and dangerous tackle on the eventual goalscorer Casciaro.
Dembele forced an excellent save from Lincoln ‘keeper Raul Navas just before the break, when he controlled and shot quickly from distance.
Ambrose should have done more to halt the tricky Casciaro on the edge of the box on 48 minutes, allowing the veteran to wrong-foot him and pick his spot beyond Gordon.
And Antonio Calderon almost made it two nil just moments later when he broke into the box on the right-hand side and fired a shot just wide of the far post.
Griffiths rattled the goal-frame first on 58 minutes when he was found unmarked from 12 yards and fired a shot that deflected off a defender and against the underside of the bar.
‘No embarrassment’ for Rodgers
Brendan Rodgers claimed there was “no embarrassment” in Celtic losing to part-time Lincoln Red Imps
And after substitute Stuart Armstrong fluffed another chance high over the bar from inside the area, Griffiths was just inches away from an equaliser with a long-range set-piece that thundered off the woodwork and fell to Bitton, who was easily tackled from six-yards out.
Substitute Nadir Ciftci twice went close before the end, forcing a save from Navas from close range before missing the target with a header in stoppage-time to ensure Rodgers begins his competitive reign as Celtic boss with a defeat.