THE applause was warm, more than affectionate.
The tension of a crucial Champions League tie was momentarily dissipated by Celtic fans paying tribute to Aiden McGeady as the Irish internationalist came on as a substitute after an hour of the Group G match on Wednesday night. "It was unbelievable, I was not expecting that. It was brilliant. I probably got a better reception than when I played here," he said with a smile.
McGeady, who left Celtic for £10m in August 2010, was suffering from a knee knock so was not considered for a starting place, but clearly enjoyed his time back on familiar territory. "The atmosphere was unbelievable," he added. "When I was sitting on the bench, a lot of the players next to me were saying the same thing, despite the result."
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The 26-year-old was blunt on the changes that have been effected at Celtic since he left. "The team now is probably – not more workmanlike – but they probably play for each other a bit more. When I left, we were in a bit of a transition phase after [Tony] Mowbray left and Lenny took over. Lenny has done a great job with the team. With the resources he has, to qualify for the last 16, to go through two qualifying phases as well, you take your hat off to them."
He was more cautious about Celtic's chances of advancing further in the competition. "I am not 100% sure about that," he said. "Any team that has 10 points deserves to go through, but at times, Celtic have been lucky. In the Barca game they rode their luck a little bit but overall deserved to go through. Now it is about the luck of the draw. They could get a really, really top team in the next round but then they beat Barcelona here, so they can do anything."
While McGeady could still look on the bright side of life despite his team's exit from the competition, Spartak's Marek Suchy insists German referee Dr Felix Brych was duped into awarding Celtic's match-winning penalty.
The Czech defender was judged to have pushed Georgios Samaras in the box, but Suchy claims that the decision should have gone the other way.
"The referee wrongly awarded a penalty," said Suchy. "I made a move towards the ball and the Celtic player jumped into me. It was a clear free kick the other way, but he didn't see it. We have a good team and should have won the match."