Leigh Griffiths headed in with three minutes left against Rosenborg to give a wasteful Celtic their first European group stage home win in 11 games.
Brendan Rodgers’ hosts were blunt for much of this Europa League contest, Odsonne Edouard, Tom Rogic and Mikey Johnston all spurning chances.
But substitute Griffiths was deadly, racing into the box and nodding home.
It was the Scottish champions’ first group triumph since beating Astra of Romania in 2014.
And it was Celtic’s second win over Rosenborg this season, having beaten them at Celtic Park in the Champions League qualifiers before being knocked out by AEK Athens.
Celtic now travel to face Red Bull Salzburg, who beat RB Leipzig 3-2 on Thursday, in their second Group B fixture.
Familiar forward bails Celtic out
When Rosenborg came to Glasgow in July, they departed after a 3-1 defeat that could have been heavier. Since then, they have had a renaissance, playing 10 and winning nine while scoring 24 goals.
They had a promising beginning on Thursday – Issam Jebali got booked for simulation in the penalty area when Mikael Lustig’s challenge might have led to an altogether different outcome – but after 20 minutes or so Celtic pushed them back and took ownership of the game.
The outstanding Kieran Tierney led the charge up the left but, for all their possession, Celtic couldn’t carve out many chances. Rogic had a shot saved by Andre Hansen, who then jumped to his feet to push Edouard’s follow-up on to a post.
Edouard – only one goal in seven games now – should have scored. Rodgers went with the Frenchman from the start, but it was a familiar Scot who bailed him out at the finish.
That miss came not long before the break. Not long after it, Rogic went through and had options left and right but chose his own road – the wrong one – and blasted straight at Hansen.
In an effort to inject pace and tempo, the kind of relentless energy Celtic at their best play with, Rodgers brought on Scott Sinclair for Rogic and Johnston for James Forrest, but that didn’t do the trick either.
Celtic were unconvincing. They had a chance, created, inevitably, by Tierney, but Johnston scooped it over from close range.
Then, just when the faithful’s frustration was beginning to turn into resignation, Griffiths, from a nod down by Dedryck Boyata, nipped in to put a downward header past Hansen.
That was the Scotland striker’s 101st goal for Celtic. Maybe it was the one that makes him first-choice again too.
‘Celtic still awaiting thunderclap display’ – analysis
After a poor performance against St Mirren on Friday, there was supposed to be a response from Celtic here, a thunderclap showing that reminded everybody of their threat.
It didn’t come, but the bottom line was enough on the night. Against the fourth seed in their group, they had to win. Thanks to Griffiths, they did. Just.
Celtic are excellent when their tempo is high and their runners are relentless. Only in tiny pockets did they bear a passing resemblance to their better selves. Griffiths, not for the first time, was the difference.
He’s had to be patient. He’s had multi-million pound French strikers ahead of him in the pecking order. He’s had to listen to his manager talking publicly about the things he needs to do to start the big games. Griffiths soaked up all of that and when he was needed, he delivered.
Griffiths may not be worth the £19.7m Lyon paid Celtic for Moussa Dembele, or the record fee the Scottish champions forked out for Edouard, but he was the only one with the solution last night.
- Rodgers registered his second group stage win with Celtic in European competition (D3 L8), ending a run of four successive defeats
- Excluding qualifiers, Celtic didn’t allow a single shot on target against them in European competition for the first time since September 2008 against Aalborg BK
- Celtic’s last eight goals in the Europa League have been scored by Scottish players – of their previous 28, only six came from Scots
- Rosenborg have conceded at least once in each of their 25 Europa League games