Tony Mowbray's first competitive match in charge of Celtic ended in disaster as he watched his side lose the first leg of a crucial third round UEFA Champions League qualifier 1-0 at home to Dynamo Moscow.
Celtic had kept a clean sheet in their four pre-season games but it took Dynamo just seven minutes to break down the Hoops' defence when Alexander Korobin prodded home past Artur Boruc to give the Russians a vital away goal to take into next week's second leg in Moscow. Mowbray handed Celtic Park debuts to summer signings Marc-Antoine Fortune and Landry Nguemo but neither impressed against the Russian Premier League side.
The Hoops had looked good in their pre-season games against Egyptian champions Al-Ahly and Tottenham Hotspur as they won the Wembley Cup. But this counted for nothing as the Russians, who are half-way through their domestic season, showed their superior match fitness as they didn't give the new-look Celtic a chance to settle in possession.
Mowbray, who left West Brom earlier this summer to take over at the Scottish giants who he had previously played for, said he believed that they were still in with a chance of overhauling the Russians.
"I believe we have the quality to go there and cause them problems," Mowbray said. "We will wait and see if we can take some of our chances when they come next week." Dynamo manager Andrey Kobelev doesn't think the tie is over either. "The match was very hard for us and Celtic are a very good team who are always playing in the Champions League. "We can't relax as it's important to win both legs," said the Russian.
It took just four minutes for Dynamo to test Boruc in goal when Australian Luke Wilkshire tried his luck from distance with a rising shot which the keeper did well to turn out for a corner. It was a taste of things to come as Andrey Kobelev's men were able to defend in numbers and use their pace to break quickly on the counter-attack.
Kokorin put Dynamo ahead in the seventh minute. Alexander Kerzhakov easily beat his former Sevilla teammate Andreas Hinkel for pace down the left to whip in a low cross which Gary Caldwell failed to deal with and Kokorin poked underneath Boruc to give Dynamo the lead.
As Dynamo continued to dominate Dmitry Kombarov found identical twin brother Kirill at the back post with a cross from the left but he sent his shot just wide under pressure from Lee Naylor. Kerzhakov was next to waste a chance after cutting in from the left before weakly curling a shot straight at Boruc. Up front Celtic failed to make any real impact with new signing Fortune missing several opportunities in the box.
With 26 minutes gone some good wing work saw Aiden McGeady whip in a cross to the back post for the French striker but he sent his volley into the ground and Vladimir Denisov easily gathered. Just seconds later Shaun Maloney broke clear down the left and sent a low ball into the box which Fortune should have buried but it hit off his shin and slid inches wide of the post. Strike partner Scott McDonald wasn't doing any better and the Australian curled his only real chance of the half straight to the keeper after beating Vladimir Granat in the box.
Celtic started the second-half with more purpose and McDonald nearly equalised after just a minute. The Socceroos striker beat the keeper as he connected with Maloney's deep cross from the left but Denis Kolodin cleared his effort off the line. But Dynamo began to enjoy more possession as the half wore on and Mowbray changed his forward line with Georgios Samaras and Chris Killen replacing McDonald and Fortune while Daniel Fox made his competitive debut.
It took until the 80th minute for Celtic to have another meaningful effort when New Zealand international Killen knocked down Naylor's cross for Maloney but the Scotland international blasted over. Substitute Fedor Smolov could have sealed the win for Dynamo as he skilfully beat Naylor in the box but Boruc rushed out to block his shot and clear the danger.
With just minutes remaining Samaras should have equalised but he sent his shot from a Caldwell cross straight at Denisov.