CELTIC 1 FERENCVAROS 2
BLUNDER Bhoys Celtic flopped out of the Champions League this evening in an error-strewn x-certificate performance against a Hungarian side who have not reached the elite stages for 25 years.
It was a third successive European exit at Parkhead in a year for Neil Lennon’s side and questions will be asked following a dreadful display that lacked ingenuity, thrust and finishing power.
Ferencvaros followed the Romanian of Cluj and the Danes of FC Copenhagen in managing to overcome the Hoops in the east end of Glasgow and there can be no excuses for an appalling showing.
Celtic missed the attacking leadership skills of the injured Odsonne Edouard, but that cannot be given as a reason for this dismal defeat.
Hatem Abd Elhamed, brought in for Jeremie Frimpong to add experience to the side, was the man who gifted the visitors their passage to the next stage.
The Israeli defender made a complete mess of a clearance out of the Ferencvaros defence in the 75th minute with the Hoops in the ascendency.
He could have attacked the ball, but, bewilderingly, allowed it to kick up in front of him and that was all dangerman Nguen Tokmac to seize onto the ball.
He raced towards the goal with Elhamed chasing after him to force him into a corner. Keeper Vasilis Barkas raced out and didn’t look too clever when the forward squeezed the ball under him and into the net for the winning goal.
It was mistake following mistake and Celtic can now count the cost of £30million-plus being removed from the coffers.
Celtic’s lack of guile and penetration in the first-half was obvious as they struggled to break down the Hungarian defence. Neil Lennon’s men bossed possession, but rarely threatened to claim a breakthrough strike in the opening 45 minutes.
They had been stunned in the seventh minute when the visitors scored a goal from outside the box by David Siger that raged low past the helpless Visailis Barkas.
Ferencvaros snapped on to a loose pass from Callum McGregor just outside their penalty box to speed into attack where Scott Brown was forced to concede a corner-kick on the left-wing. The deadball effort wasn’t cleared and eventually fell to the feet of Siger who teed up a shot from 25 yards and sizzled a low drive into the net.
It was the worst possible start for the Scots against a team who were content to leave three up front and were happy to hit on the break. A goal to the good, their game plan was perfectly set up.
The Hoops huffed and puffed, but there was a lack of cutting edge when the ball was worked into danger areas and keeper Denes Dibusz was rarely asked to make a save.
Lennon’s men started with fire and fervour and the Hungarian shotstopper had to look lively to paw away a left-footed 20-yard effort from James Forrest.
After the setback of the Ferncvaros goal, Celtic tried to respond swiftly and Ryan Christie had a shot from a Greg Taylor left-wing cross deflected wide of the keeper’s right-hand post.
Five minutes later, Olivier Ntcham also missed the target with a low drive from the edge of the box as the Hoops desperately tried to claw their way into the game.
Christie did hit the leveller in the 53rd minute after some superb lead-up play, with Mohamed Elyounoussi figuring largely, and his drive took a slight deflection on its way into the net.
Three minutes later, the Hoops hit the bar when Ntcham got on the end of an Elhamed cross and the Norwegian international had the ball in the net shortly afterwards, but the Dutch referee rued offside in an extremely close call.
That was the story of Celtic’s night. Little went right and it was a difficult result to accept.
TEAM: Barkas; Elhamed (sub: Frimpong 78), Ajer, Jullien, Taylor; Brown, McGregor, Ntcham; Christie, Elyounoussi, Forrest (sub: Ajeti 78).