DAME FORTUNE positively snarled in the direction of Celtic as they lost in heartbreaking fashion to the Italians at Parkhead tonight.

In the 81st minute, Luis Palma had what he – and most of the rocking stadium – thought was a superb second goal for Brendan Rodgers’ men.

The celebrations were cut short, though, when VAR showed the merest touch from Daizen Maeda on a pass from Alistair Johnston had put the Honduran in an offside position.

No-one noticed as Palma, a second-half substitute for Yang Hyun-jun, skipped inside from the left, took the ball to his right and fired a whiplash drive low in at the near post.

Parkhead was in bedlam as players and fans celebrated what they believed would be the side’s first home win at this elite level in 10 years.

However, the arena fell silent as the effort was wiped out. And it got worse in the sixth minute of stoppage-time when Pedro headed in what proved to be the winner.

It was a sickening finale to an encounter in which Celtic had put in so much endeavour, effort and no little skill.

The Hoops opened the scoring in the 12th minute following a breathtaking, sweeping movement which included 20-odd passes as play was switched across the pitch before Johnston rolled the ball to Meada, playing on the right with Yang on the opposite flank.

The Japanese speedster moved menacingly infield, knocked a pass to Matt O’Riley who first-timed a superb ball into the tracks of Kyogo Furuhashi.

The Italian rearguard had been sliced open with swift and intricate movement and the striker wasn’t going to miss as he waited for the split-second moment of impact before slotting the ball under the exposed keeper.

It had been a long time coming for the prolific hitman, but it had been well worth the wait as almost 60,000 fans almost took the roof off the stand as they acclaimed the strike.

The Serie A outfit were rattled for a moment, but they battled to regain their composure.

Reo Hatate could testify to their combative qualities as he took an elbow full on the face from Elseid Hysaj. Amazingly, the Lazio player got away with the brutal offence that merely brought a word of censure from Lithuanian referee Donates Rumsas.

The match official wasn’t quite so lenient when he booked Nat Phillips for a nothing challenge on the half-time whistle. It was a decision that baffled many onlookers, including the bewildered on-loan Liverpool defender.

In the 26th minute, Joe Hart pulled off a brilliant diving save at his  left as he pushed away a drive from Cyro Immobile. It was a superb stop from the keeper, but it was then noticed the linesman had flagged for offside.

Three minutes later, the Hoops No.1 was beaten as the Italians snatched an equaliser after the hosts failed to deal properly with a right-wing corner-kick.

Mateus Vecino managed to knock a header goalwards that had Hart scrambling to his right. The veteran shotstopper got a hand to paw the ball away, but, unfortunately, it had just crossed the line.

It was obviously just going to be one of those nights for the hosts.

In the 59th minute, Rodgers’ side almost went ahead for a second time when Hatate and O’Riley worked a clever free-kick about 25 yards out that allowed the Japanese midfielder the opportunity to have a pop at goal.

Keeper Ivan Provedal dived full-length to his left to push the effort away, Maeda latched onto the rebound to set up Johnston, but, alas, he lacked composure just when it was needed most and waywardly fired the ball off target.

In the 62nd minute, there was massive applause as long-time absentee Cameron Carter-Vickers came on for Phillips while Palma replaced Yang at the same time.

Ten minutes later, Portuguese playmaker Paulo Bernardo took over from the tiring Hatate while Oh Hyeon-gyu became the fourth replacement when he came on for Kyogo late on.

Carter-Vickers was welcomed back to action after a seven-game absence in the 74th minute when he was booted on the forehead by a reckless and dangerous boot from Taty Castellano who was yellow-carded for his efforts.

Palma did everything right in the 81st minute, but the finest of margins and rank bad luck wiped out what looked like a magnificent and memorable strike for the Hoops.

And, in the fading moments of added-on time, Carter-Vickers was robbed of the ball, it was worked right and when the angled cross came in at the far post, Pedro was unguarded to cushion a header away from the stranded Hart into the far corner.

Football can be a cruel game at times.

Tonight in the east end of Glasgow was such an occasion.

TEAM: Hart; Johnston, Phillips (sub: Carter-Vickers 62), Scales, Taylor; O’Riley, McGregor, Hatate (sub: Bernardo 72); Yang (sub: Palma 62), Kyogo (sub: Oh 86), Maeda.


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