CELTIC 1 SHAKHTAR DONETSK 1
CELTIC toppled out of Europe after another frustrating night in the Champions League when their lack of a killer instinct was cruelly exposed and brutally exploited.
They were eliminated from the Champions League with a miserable two points from a possible 15 and there is not even the cushion of the Europa League as a consolation.
It’s been one helluva learning curve for Ange Postecoglou’s players.
The team are still waiting for a home win in the group stages of the top level tournament at Parkhead in nine agonising years and they blew the ideal opportunity on this occasion after Giorgos Giakoumakis had given them the interval lead.
DREAM OVER…Ange Postecoglou can’t hide the disappointment.
But some remarkably slack play was seized upon as the opponents scored the leveller through dangerman Mykhaylo Mudryk in a breakaway only 21 seconds after Matt O’Riley had fluffed yet another free-kick.
Postecoglou will be wondering why his players posed no threat whatsoever from a battery of deadball kicks. Every single one of them was squandered in bewildering and unacceptable repetitive fashion. It didn’t matter who was taking the kick, none brought danger to the Ukrainian defence.
So, it’s all over and it’s a massive disappointment after expectation levels had risen so high.
There is no getting away from the fact, though, that some in green and white did not meet the challenge. There were way too many off the pace and this can only be viewed as a missed opportunity.
And yet it could have been so different.
Celtic Park had erupted in joy and relief in the 34th minute as Giakoumakis put the Hoops ahead – and scored their first home goal in the Champions League in this campaign.
SIT-DOWN STRIKER…Giorgos Giakoumakis prods the ball into the Ukrainians’ net from close range.
HAPPY DAZE…Giakoumakis acknowledges the cheers of the Celtic fans.
The Greek powerhouse snapped onto a ricochet off a defender from a Liel Abada close-range drive. As the ball spun in his direction the striker fired a left-foot drive past the stranded Anatoyli Trubin.
Credit must go to Moritz Jenz for an excellent pass to Sead Haksabanovic on the left to send the Montengero international scamerping clear. His ball into the danger zone was hit first-time by Abada before being diverted in front of Giakoumakis who applied the killer touch.
And the fired-up frontman tried his luck again six minutes later when some clever interpassing from Matt O’Riley and Reo Hatate set him free and he elected to thump in a right-foot 25-yarder.
It was heading for the right-hand corner of the net until the keeper somersaulted across his goal to get both hands to the ball to push it away for a corner-kick.
The Ukrainians, though, were worthy opponents and they proved they got mix skill with steel as they went about their business. It was clear they knew how to handle themselves.
SAVED…Joe Hart denies Shaktar Donetsk dangerman Mykhaylo Mudryk.
There was a scare for the Hoops three minutes from the interval when a through ball from Lassina Traore caught the defence napping for a split-second.
That was all the pacy Mudryk needed to run in behind and snap onto the pass. Joe Hart, thankfully, was alert to the threat and was quickly off his line to block the close-range drive from the lightning-swift attacker and the ball bounced clear.
Chances were few and far between in the first 45 minutes and Trebin wasn’t tested as O’Riley and Giakoumakis sent efforts off target.
Nine minutes into the second-half, Shakhtar got the equaliser from the anticipated source, Mudryk.
O’Riley’s free-kick was too easily cleared, it fell to Hatate who was wayward with a pass and that was all rutheless rivals needed to set their speed machine clear.
Mudryk raced at a bamboozled Josip Juranovic, dragged the ball to his right as Cameron Carter-Vickers arrived too late on the scene. And then the youngster produced a pulverising drive of unerring accuracy that thundered high past the helpless Hart into the roof of the net.
Celtic look flattened for about five minutes or so before they managed to clear their heads. In truth, though, they should have gone 2-1 down in the 72nd minute when Danylo Sikan had an extraordinary miss after being set up by Mudryk.
WHAT A SITTER…Danylo Sikan misses an open goal from six yards.
The forward only had to roll the ball over the line from eight yards, but somehow contrived to miss the target altogether. The Hoops were let off the hook in that moment.
Kyogo had been disappointing for most of the evening and he capped a forgettable performance in the 63rd minute when he had a dreadful miss after being set free by Giakoumakis.
He was in on the keeper, but could only tamely hit the ball straight at the relieved Trubin. It should have been a goal and he knew it.
MISSED OPPORTUNITY…Kyogo Furuhashi hits the ball straight at a relieved keeper.
Two minutes later, he was removed from the action along with Abada and Halsabanovic and Abada with James Forrest, Daizen Maeda and and Aaron Mooy being introduced.
David Turnbull came on for Hatate in the 84th minute and the nearest to a Hoops winner came two minutes from the end when O’Riley swept a drive wide of the right-hand post.
As the ball bounced towards oblivion it took Celtic’s European hopes for this season with it.
TEAM: Hart; Juranovic, Carter-Vickers, Jenz, Taylor; Haksabanovic (sub: Maeda 65), O’Riley, Hatate (sub: Turnbull 84); Abada (sub: Forrest 65), Giakoumakis, Kyogo (sub: Mooy 65).