Celtic won 3-2 against Athletic Bilbao in James Forrest’s testimonial match on a spectacular night of football. The game was especially notable because Brendan Rodgers returned to Parkhead, completing his successful homecoming.
The James Forrest’s Epic Night
The night was a significant event for 32-year-old Forrest, who made his top-tier debut for the Hoops in 2009, marking his significant contributions to the club over his career. The versatile forward, with his impressive tally of 101 goals and 22 trophies, has placed himself among Celtic’s legends. A 21-year tenure with the club, Forrest is hailed by many as a one-club man, which added to the aura of the night.
The Course of the Match
Celtic was defeated inside the first two minutes of the game due to a stunning start. An erroneous ball from Reo Hatate was intercepted by Bilbao’s youthful star, Unai Gomez, whose long-range strike sailed past Celtic keeper Benjamin Siegrist. Hatate, on the other hand, redeemed himself by equalising just before halftime, but Bilbao replied swiftly, with Iker Muniain restoring their lead.
Rodgers executed a radical manoeuvre at the interval, replacing the entire team except Forrest. This decision saw a shift in the game’s dynamics. Alexandro Bernabei, a second-half substitute, crafted a remarkable team goal, levelling the scores. This momentum was carried forward by David Turnbull, whose brilliant effort turned the game around, placing Celtic in the lead.
Rodgers’s Warm Welcome and Forrest’s Standing Ovation
Brendan Rodgers’ return to Parkhead after his controversial move to Leicester was warmly hailed by the home supporters. His dramatic strategic revisions were critical to Celtic’s comeback. In addition, upon his substitution in the 49th minute, Forrest received a standing ovation in acknowledgment of his loyalty and tremendous service to the club.
A Night of Debuts and Returns
Cameron Carter-Vickers made an impressive comeback from knee surgery, while Maik Nawrocki and Kwon Hyeok-kyu made their Parkhead debuts. All three players delivered strong performances, giving depth to Celtic’s triumph.
A Win for Charity and the Fans
Approximately 42,000 fans filled Celtic Park to honour Forrest and celebrate Rodgers’s return. Notably, a sizable amount of the match’s revenues have been pledged to two charities, Kilbryde Hospice and Celtic FC Foundation. Celtic won not only for themselves, but also for the community they represent.
The Celtic-Bilbao game was a thrilling match with a number of twists and turns that had the fans on their toes. The game was a fitting tribute to Forrest and marked the beginning of a new chapter in Celtic’s journey under Rodgers’ guidance.