Celtic's Leigh Griffiths, Target Of Crowd Projectiles, Charged By UEFA

UEFA’s response to a heated Celtic-Linfield Champions League qualifier in Belfast has left many baffled.

Is UEFA blaming the victim?

Celtic seem to think so — at least with regards to the governing body’s response to crowd trouble during and after Celtic’s Champions League qualifier against Linfield FC in Belfast last week.

Media reports describe Hoops officials as “stunned and astonished” after UEFA leveled charges of “improper conduct” against the club and “provocation” against striker Leigh Griffiths following the heated first leg of the tie.

The second leg will be played on Wednesday, and UEFA will hold a hearing on the charges against Celtic, as well as those made against Linfield over the behavior of supporters, the following day.

As we told you last week, trouble was not unexpected given the history of the two clubs. With Celtic founded by Irish Catholic immigrants in Glasgow and Linfield a historically Protestant club in Northern Ireland, there were sure to be tensions on and off the pitch, and the match was almost a subplot in the much larger story of politics and religion in the U.K. and Ireland.

Though Linfield’s home ground, Windsor Park, was hardly full for the contest — due in part to the fact that Celtic refused its ticket allocation over security concerns — there were enough people in attendance on both sides of the divide (some 300 Hoops fans turned up anyway and were cordoned off in the Kop end of the ground) to stir up a combustible mix.

Linfield supporters targeted Celtic players with projectiles, including coins, lighters and batteries, throughout the match. Hoops skipper Scott Brown joked that he made a profit on the day, having picked up a £1 coin thrown at him.

The situation reached its nadir in the second half when Celtic striker Leigh Griffiths had a whiskey bottle thrown at him as he attempted to take a corner. When Griffiths walked toward Spanish refereee Alejandro Hernandez to show him what had been thrown, the player was shown a yellow card (apparently for time-wasting).

Griffiths responded to the Linfield supporters with a hand gesture referencing either Celtic’s six Scottish league titles in a row or the 5-1 scoreline of the last Old Firm match at the Ibrox…or maybe both.

Leigh Griffiths

Griffiths gestures in response to Linfield supporters. Photo: @CelticReporter9 | Twitter

Celtic players were shown five yellow cards on the day, including one given to midfielder Stuart Armstrong for going after his Linfield counterpart Paul Smyth following a vicious challenge by the latter. The number of cards is cited in the “improper conduct” charges brought by UEFA.

Griffiths’ charge of “provocation” stems from something he did after the final whistle. As Celtic supporters celebrated in the Kop end after the match, Griffiths walked over to the goal closest to their section and tied a Celtic scarf to one of the posts.

This reportedly led to a pitch invasion on the part of Linfield supporters, for which the Belfast club have also been charged by UEFA.

With 60,000 expected at Celtic Park on Wednesday for the second leg of this combustible tie, including 1,500 traveling supporters for Linfield, more fireworks are sure to follow. 

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