CELTIC 2 RB LEIPZIG 1
CELTIC battled and scrapped all the way to give themselves a Europa League lifeline after 14 of the most dramatic seconds ever witnessed at Parkhead this evening.
It looked as though all of their good work had gone for nothing when RB Leipzig equalised in the 77th minute following Kieran Tierney’s 11th-minute opener.
The packed stadium, treated to a spectacular light show leading up to kick-off, was silenced as they stared disbelievingly as the Germans celebrated a simple leveller.
Remarkably, though, the Hoops were back in front a mere 14 seconds later with a swift and breathtaking exchanges of passes on the left and Odsonne Edouard, who was another Celt who fought for 90 minutes, lashed the ball home from close range for the winner.
The place erupted as Brendan Rodgers’ men held on for three crucial points to go level on six with the Bundesliga team while RB Salzburg moved onto 12 points after a success over Rosenborg in Trondheim.
It was another special night under the lights in the east end of Glasgow for a set of players who refused to roll over against robust opponents who had previously suffered only two defeats this season – to Borussia Dortmund in the league and the Austrians in Europe.
And what a start to such a memorable occasion. The breakthrough goal came in the 11th minute after the Germans had attempted to dictate the pace right from kick-off.
The Hoops took time to settle and then opened the scoring after some quick thinking from Callum McGregor and some improvisation from James Forrest, so sorely missed in the 2-0 defeat in Germany a fortnight ago.
The midfielder took a quick free-kick to the winger on the right who took a touch and weaved his way into the danger area. He twisted inside and then turned outside to bamboozle the backtracking rearguard.
He slid over a cross from the right which swept away from Scott Sinclair and Edouard, but fell into the tracks of Tierney, rampaging forward in support of his attack.
The left-back didn’t break stride as he took a touch and then thumped in a low shot beyond the sprawling Yvon Mvogo, the first goal the Swiss keeper has lost in over nine hours of football.
It was also the seventh goal for KT in his 151st appearance for the club.
There was an instant response from the big-spending Bundesliga outfit when Craig Gordon had to react with lightning reflexes and immense courage to get down well to hold a right-wing cross with Jean-Kevin Augustin thundering in.
Spanish referee Xavier Estrada was not impressed with the challenge from the Leipzig attacker and produced a yellow card.
Celtic should have doubled their advantage in the 20th minute, but Tom Rogic passed up an opportunity he normally leaves nestling in the back of the net.
Sinclair and Tireney combined in a sweeping movement on the left and the defender teed up the Aussie coming in from just outside the box. The fans held their breath in anticipation, but on this occasion the playmaker harmlessly sent his shot spinning over the crossbar.
A minute after the restart Leipzig emphasised their intentions when Bruma sent in a stinging drive that was well held by Gordon.
In the 73rd minute, though, Edouard could have claimed the goal that might have flattened the visitors. Forrest sent in the Frenchman with a deft pass and he made space after displaying quick feet, but his finishing shot from an angle clipped off the keeper’s right boot and went past for a corner-kick.
It looked as though it might prove costly when Leipzig equalised in the 77th minute with a ridiculously simple effort. Konrad Laimer swung in a ball from the right to the far post and Mikael Lustig lost Jean-Kevin Augustin who was allowed a free header smack in front of goal and he planted an effort wide of the helpless Gordon.
Celtic could have folded, but instead they rolled up their sleeves and decided to rectify the situation. And they did it with a certain amount of style.
With a flourish straight from kick-off, Tierney sent a pass to Sinclair who played in the forceful Ryan Christie who timed his run into the box to absolute perfection.
The Highlander kept his composure before gliding a pass across goal and Edouard, as he had threatened all night, was there to apply the finishing touch.
Celtic held on to get three points, but were given a scare when Kevin Kampl rattled the crossbar four minutes from the end.
On this occasion, though, fortune favoured the brave and the fight for a place in Europe next year is still on.
It was another night for heroes and Brendan’s Bhoys responded magnificently.
TEAM: Gordon; Lustig, Boyata, Benkovic, Tierney; McGregor, Christie; Forrest (sub: Mulumbu 83), Rogic, Sinclair (sub: Ajer 89); Edouard.