Ipswich Town 2-1 Crewe Alexandra: Celina brilliance just about enough to see Blues home

Bersant Celina celebrate his wonder goal just before half-time.

Bersant Celina celebrate his wonder goal just before half-time. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

An outrageous Bersant Celina goal was ultimately the difference as Ipswich Town snuck past basement boys Crewe. 

The sublime strike from the Kosovo international put the hosts two up just before the break, as he expertly plucked a long ball out of the sky before instantly turning to chip the visiting goalkeeper. It was a goal befitting a much higher level of football than League One. 

But, despite being in control at the interval after Celina's strike and an early own goal, Paul Cook’s men allowed their struggling hosts back into the game as Chris Long struck on 73 minutes to inject a dose of the jitters into both the team and supporters. 

Bersant Celina chips in the ball to take Town into a 2-0 lead.

Bersant Celina chips in the ball to take Town into a 2-0 lead. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

Town had missed chances by the time they conceded, notably through Macauley Bonne’s effort, which flew over the top following clever work from Celina and substitute Kyle Edwards. 

They ultimately held on to win, though, despite Crewe pressure. 

The success leaves Town 11th in League One, seven points off the play-offs, heading into cup games against Arsenal Under 21s (Papa John’s Trophy) and Barrow (FA Cup). 

Their next League One game is at Charlton on December 7. 

Dave Richards is beaten by Bersant Celina as Town take a 2-0 lead.

Dave Richards is beaten by Bersant Celina as Town take a 2-0 lead. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

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Cook made one change to his side for this game, bringing Sone Aluko back into the side in the place of Lee Evans, after the wideman had missed the midweek loss to Rotherham following the unexpected passing of his father. 

And the game couldn’t have started any better for the former Reading man as, after linking up with Janoi Donacien down the right flank, he skipped away from his man and kept the ball alive along the byline, before finding the opposite corner and running away to celebrate as he was mobbed by his team-mates. Sadly, it ultimately went down as an own goal.  

Crewe won’t want to see the goal back, as both Zac Williams and Rio Adebisi allowed Aluko to skip past them far too easily, before the ball deflected in off of Luke Offord’s foot, but the early strike had given the Blues the perfect start in a game they simply needed to win. 

Ipswich had the better of both possession and territory but weren’t able to test goalkeeper Dave Richards any further, before Christian Walton needed to be alert to danger to get something on a rocket of a shot from Chris Long, which flew over the top of the bar.  

Bersant Celina celebrates his goal just before the break with a lift from teammate Sone Aluko.

Bersant Celina celebrates his goal just before the break with a lift from teammate Sone Aluko. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

Oliver Finney then shot over the top of the bar, after Janoi Donacien had received a little bit of treatment, with the Blues beginning to feel a little bit of pressure as the physical presence of Crewe forwards Chris Porter and Chris Long won a succession of knockdown headers in dangerous positions. 

Town did maintain something of a threat, though, with Bailey Clements getting on the end of a clever move down the left flank and Conor Chapin then ending a second period of pressure with an excellent, driven cross which just about evaded Macauley Bonne.  

The Blues ended the opening period on the attack but unable to land on some loose balls in the box before Sam Morsy’s low shot was blocked away by the Crewe goalkeeper and Conor Chaplin somehow heading the rebound wide of an empty net. The Ipswich attacker will have been relieved to have seen the assistant referee’s flag already up for offside. 

Then a moment of sublime quality. Celina is likely the only player on the pitch for the Blues who would have tried this audacious effort, let alone finish it. A long ball forward was taken out of the air with a sublime first tough and then, following the slightest of glances to catch the goalkeeper of his line, launched an unstoppable chip which left Richards scrabbling backwards before watching it hit the back of his net. 

Outrageous. 

Sone Aluko celebrates his early goal to give Town a 1-0 lead.

Sone Aluko celebrates his early goal to give Town a 1-0 lead. Sadly, it ultimately went down as an own goal - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

The moment of brilliance had put the Blues two up at the break but, such is the game of football, the hosts were only a Crewe goal away from feeling a few nerves. 

Porter’s header was saved easily enough by Walton at the start of the second period, before Bonne had a threatening moment himself as he cut inside and shot just wide of the far post. 

Toto Nsiala needed to sweep up trouble as Crewe looked to break, with Clements just about holding the visitors up before the centre back swooped in, before Aluko threatened again for the Blues with a volley which he watched from the sky to his foot, before shooting just wide. 

Nsiala then headed over the top, as he climbed well to reach Celina’s corner, before Paul Cook introduced Kyle Edwards and Lee Evans in place of Chaplin and Aluko. 

It should have been 3-0 within minutes of their introduction, as Edwards’ clever ball freed Celina in space in the box. The Kosovan, though, opted not to shoot and instead put a pinpoint pass on the foot of Bonne. Sadly, though, the striker thumped his effort over the top of the bar, with much of the goal to aim at. 

Town players celebrate with Sone Aluko after his early goal had given them a 1-0 lead.

Town players celebrate with Sone Aluko after his early goal had given them a 1-0 lead. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

Then, the goal many inside Portman Road would have feared. Mikael Mandron, the former Colchester striker, picked up the ball on the edge of the box and fired a shot through traffic, which Long swung a leg at and helped turn past Walton. 

The home of the Blues was hushed before trying to lift their sides with chants of ‘come on Ipswich’ rang out from the North Stand, at a time when nerves were creeping in a little.  

The visitors introduced former Ipswich youngster Ben Knight from the bench for the final five minutes, but Crewe weren’t able to force a leveller despite stretching an Ipswich side lacking authority. 

Thankfully, though, Celina’s moment of brilliance proved to be enough. 

Ipswich Town: Walton; Donacien, Nsiala, Edmundson, Clements; Morsy, Fraser; Aluko (Evans, 66), Chaplin (Edwards, 66), Celina; Bonne.

Subs: Hladky, Burgess, Vincent-Young, Harper, Pigott

Crewe Alexandra: Richards; Kashket (Mandron, 56), Sass-Davies, Offord, Williams, Adebisi; Lowery, Finney, Griffiths (Knight, 85); Long, Porter

Subs: Jaaskelainen, Thomas, Gomes, Lundstram, Woodthorpe

Att: 18,883 (225 Crewe fans)

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