Celtic U19 2-2 Villa U19: NextGen hopes alive despite Celtic comeback
Villa were stung by a second-half Celtic fightback as this all-British NextGen Series encounter finished 2-2.
The boys in claret and blue made a flying start at Firhill Stadium with Jordan Graham and Michael Drennan giving them a two-goal lead.
But the hosts came roaring back and managed to snatch a share of the spoils thanks to a Daniel Devine own goal and a Patrik Twardzik strike.
Although Tony McAndrew's team will be gutted not to have held on for a maximum haul, they still have a good chance of achieving qualification for the knockout stages.
Villa have four points from their four matches and there will be a lot riding on their next Group 4 fixture against PSV Eindhoven at Villa Park on Wednesday November 7.
The visitors made three changes from the side that won 2-1 against Celtic on home soil last month.
Jordan Lyden, Brad Lewis and Charlie Ward came into the starting XI in place of Derrick Williams, Malcolm Melvin and Callum Robinson.
Both sides went into this clash knowing a victory would give their chances of reaching the last 16 a significant boost.
The contest began in similar fashion to the reverse fixture with Villa surging into a two-goal first-half lead.
Neither side threatened in the early stages, although Celtic forward Bahrudin Atajic did breach Villa's backline before failing in his attempt to take the ball round Hill.
The deadlock was broken on 24 minutes when Lewis received possession down the left flank and crossed towards Graham on the edge of the six-yard box.
Graham headed back across goal and his effort went in off the far post to give him his first NextGen Series goal.
Then, on 40 minutes, the England U17 winger turned provider for Drennan.
Samir Carruthers picked out Graham on the right hand side with as superb cross-field pass and, after getting the ball under control, he crossed to Drennan who rose to power a header past keeper Glenn Daniels.
Much like last month's meeting, Celtic found themselves trailing at the break but made a strong start to the second period.
There was a glaring miss from Stuart Findlay who headed over from close range after meeting Bahrudin Atajic's corner, while Joseph Chalmers also had a chance but miscued from a Darnel Fisher cross.
Their pressure finally paid off, though, on 53 minutes when Devine headed Twardzik's cross into his own net.
And on 72 minutes the Bhoys found themselves on level terms.
Chalmers received possession on the half-way line and made a burst forward down the left.
He swung in a cross and Twardzik was well positioned to head home Celtic's second.
Both teams pressed for a winner and Villa had the ball in the net for a third time during stoppage time through Jack Grealish.
He pounced from close range after Celtic failed to deal with a corner but the referee spotted an infringement and ruled out the effort.
CELTIC: Daniels, Fisher, Chalmers, Fraser, Findlay, Irvine, P.Twardzik, Kidd, Atajic, Johnstone, Lindsay. Subs: Miller, Hart, McNally, McMullan, Kirwan [for Johnstone, 85], McManus, Henderson.
VILLA: Hill, Bateman, Lewis, Lyden, Devine, Watkins-Clark, Graham, Ward, Drennan, Carruthers, Grealish. Subs: Barton [for Carruthers, 86], Barrett, Crowley, Dempsey, Strain, Calder, Cowans.
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