CELTIC 0 B MONCHENGLADBACH 2
TWO catastrophic errors from Kolo Toure have left Celtic’s Champions League hopes in tatters.
The veteran Ivory Coast defender gifted the Bundesliga side a two-goal advantage at Parkhead tonight and it will take a mighty effort from Brendan Rodgers’ men to turn the situation on its head.
Toure looked the saddest individual on the field at the end and he didn’t need anyone to tell him his calamitous defending had cost the Hoops three precious points and the likelihood of European football beyond the turn of the year.
He blundered in the 57th minute when he attempted to allow the ball to run out of play for a goal-kick. He reckoned without the concerted aand determined effort of Andre Hahn, though.
The German refused to give it up and managed to get a boot to the ball to hook it back to skipper Lars Stindl who could hardly believe his good fortune.
He struck his shot first time and it flew through the legs of Erik Sviatchenko and then the legs of Craig Gordon to silence the sell-out crowd – with, of course, the exception of the 3,500 travelling support,
It was a hammer blow for the Scottish champions who had been struggling to equal the eagerness, vitally and all-round strength of their opponents almost straight from the kick-off.
And Toure made a complete mess of it again in the 77th minute when he got caught in possession after dithering with the ball at his feet.
Hahn took the ball off the 35-year-old defender, pushed it forward and raced into the box before toe-poking an effort high into the net past the exposed and helpless Gordon.
Celtic paid a heavy price for two shambolic moments from an experienced campaigner who should have known so much better in both situations.
Alas, there can be little doubt the better team on the night were rewarded with the victory. Goalkeeper Jan Sommer might have expected an onslaught, but his evening was restricted to some catching practice with the Hoops unable to get into their stride.
Credit the Germans for going into every challenge with verve and gusto and, unfortunately, they managed to win most of the 50/50 balls which will be a concern for manager Rodgers who has now seen his side drop seven points out of a possible nine in Group C after the 7-0 defeat from Barcelona and the 3-3 draw with Manchester City.
Tonight was also Celtic’s first defeat at Parkhead this year which just about told its own story on an evening where there was very little to enthuse over.
Scott Sinclair had the ideal opportunity to give the Hoops the advantage at the interval, admittedly against the run of play.
The Germans were slick and organised as they broke up the sporadic forays into attack from their opponents and set their own plays in motion.
They managed to isolate Moussa Dembele up front and, starved of service, he was forced to race around and search for scraps.
Gordon was on hand to make two excellent saves, but, with just a minute to go to half-time, the champions’ best opportunity fell to Sinclair, normally so deadly in these situations.
Tom Rogic, with breathtaking awareness and accuracy, picked out the left-sided attacker with a sublime ball inside the German defender and into his tracks.
The fans in Celtic Park held their breath as Sinclair sped down upon the stranded Sommer, but, inexplicably, blazed the ball wildly off target from the angle.
A goal at that stage could have turned the game on its head. It wasn’t to be, though, and the Germans heaved a collective sigh of relief.
Munchengladbach set out to silence the home fans and they managed to do that within the opening 10 minutes with some fine pressing play and clever movement up front.
Gordon had to make a superb save from a low drive from Ibrahima Toure as he swooped to his left and then whipped the rebound away from the toes of the inrushing Hahn.
He also had to react with lightning reflexes to beat away a drive from Jonas Hofmann as his defenders went awol.
It won’t be a game that will be well remembered by the Celtic manager, players or supporters.
Too many players didn’t show up to be counted and it was no surprise when the lacklustre Nir Bitton was hauled off in the 63rd minute to be replaced by Callum McGregor.
Fingers could be pointed at others, too. Europe looks like a job too far for this present Celtic team which is still being knitted together.
Of course, there is a domestic treble up for grabs and the little matter of a League Cup semi-final at Hampden on Sunday.
If the players want to atone for an awful European mishap then they have the ideal opportunity to do so.
TEAM: Gordon; Lustig, Toure, Sviatchenko, Tierney; Brown, Bitton (sub: McGregor 63); Forrest (sub: Roberts 73), Rogic (sub: Griffiths 71), Sinclair; Dembele.