FERENCVAROS 2 CELTIC 3
CELTIC battled in Budapest for the triumph that will ensure European football for the club in the new year.
Goals from Kyogo Furuhashi, Filipe Jota and Liel Abada earned Ange Posetcoglou’s men a well-deserved victory over Ferencvaros this evening.
As ever, though, the Hoops had to do it the hard way after allowing the home side the opportunity to claim a second goal in the 86th minute to ensure a nerve-shredding finale to a pulsating encounter.
While the Parkhead men were achieving their second successive win over the Hungarians following last month’s 2-0 win in Glasgow, Bayer Leverkusen were romping to a 4-0 win over Real Betis in Germany.
THUMBS UP…a positive message from Ange Postecoglou to his players in Budapest.
With two games in Europa league Group G still to play, the Bundesliga outfit have 10 points, the Spaniards seven, Celtic six and the Hungarians still waiting to get on the board with their European adventure over for another season.
For the Hoops, though, there is at least the certainty of European football in the newly-formed Conference trophy.
It took the Hoops only three minutes to take the lead when Abada seized on a moment of hesitancy from a home defender to send a pass inside to Kyogo.
The Japanese striker summed up the situation in an instant as he shaped to hit the ball with his right, chopped inside away from two defenders and rifled a low left-foot drive past keeper Adam Bogdan from 12 yards.
BREAKTHROUGH…Kyogo Furuhashi leaves keeper Adam Bogdan helpless with a deadly finish.
It was just the start boss Postecoglou had demanded from his players in a confrontation in which he was convinced the Hoops could take all three points.
However, the advantage only lasted eight minutes when the Hungarians equalised with a freak goal that left Joe Hart totally helpless.
On this occasion, Abada was the culprit when he surrendered possession on the right with a slack ball inside. The home side latched onto the misplaced pass, switched wings and Zubkovic was allowed the opportunity to race in from the wing.
He tried his luck with a right-foot drive and the effort took a wicked deflection off the challenging Josip Juranovic and looped high over the head of the stranded Hoops keeper and into the far corner of the net.
It was a blow to the visitors and offered energy to Ferencvaros, but Hart exacted his revenge in the 23rd minute when he played a major role in Postecoglou’s side regaining the upper hand.
IT TAKES TWO…Kyogo Furuhashi and Liel Abada celebrate the opening strike.
The former England international netminder made a smart save low to his left to repel a raid from the Hungarians and turned defence into attack with a quick release to Callum McGregor.
The captain, in turn, wasted no time in firing a low pass to Filipe Jota on the left and the Portuguese flanker took off at speed towards Bogdan’s goal.
With opponents desperately trying to get back, the on-loan Benfica raider cut inside onto his right foot and thumped a vicious drive goalwards. It appeared to take a slight nick off a defender, but it looked netbound in any case as it squeezed behind the stretching keeper and his right-hand post.
LAST POST…keeper Adam Bogdan is left helpless as Filipe Jota’s drive hits the net.
GREEN FOR GO…Filipe Jota celebrates his brilliant strike.
And the Hoops had a glorious opportunity to score a Goal of the Century contender five minutes later after a bewildering passage of play with the ball shifting from player to player at breakneck pace until it was presented in front of David Turnbull.
Alas, the Scotland international midfielder, who had been performing well, lost his composure at the vital moment and waywardly walloped the ball high over the crossbar and into the crowd.
Postecoglou’s frustration on the touchline was immediately evident as he held his head in his hands.
But the Greek-Australian gaffer was a lot happier just before the hour mark when Abada zipped in the third and ultimately winning goal.
It was a brilliant, sweeping passing move that carved open the Ferencavros back lot as Turnbull won the ball and passed inside to McGregor who moved it on to Kyogo. He held on to the ball for a moment before sliding the perfect pass in front of the Israel winger and he finished with a low angled drive wide of the sprawling Bogdan.
The second-half had started at a fast and furious pace with both sides hitting the crossbar within three minutes of each other. The dangerous Topmac played a swift one-two on the edge of the box and first-timed the return high past Hart, but the ball clattered off the woodwork and ricocheted to safety.
IN WITH A SHOUT…Ange Postecoglou gives his players instructions from the touchline.
Then it was Ralston’s turn at the other end when he directed a Turnbull free-kick high past the rival No.1, but he, too, could only look on in frustration as his effort hit the bar.
In the 58th minute, Turnbull sent Kyogo scampering clear and he neatly clipped an attempt over the head of the exposed Bogdan. The ball was heading for the back of the net until a Ferencvaros defender raced back to hook it clear.
A minute later, Abada struck to claim the third and then it was all about Celtic keeping cool and not allowing their opponents back into the contest.
In the 70th minute, Postecoglou replaced goalscorers Kyogo, Abada and Jota with Giorgos Giakoumakis, James Forrest and Mikey Johnston to revitalise his line-up.
Seven minutes later, Bitton, who had been excellent, was forced to come off with James McCarthy taking his anchorman role.
In the 86th minute, Ferencvaros grabbed a lifeline when the Hoops defence was slow to come out to meet Uzuni as he took aim from 20 yards.
His arcing effort swept away from Hart at his left-hand side to find the net. The keeper showed his displeasure with his dozy defenders in no uncertain fashion. Quite right, too.
Liam Scales came on one minute from the end of the regulation 90 minutes for Stephen Welsh before the game went into four minutes of overtime.
It was all about game management for Celtic at that stage and they cleverly saw it thrugh to the end.
Now all eyes are on Leverkusen in the quest to make sure of a place in the Europa League later stages.
TEAM: Hart; Ralston, Carter-Vickers, Welsh (sub: Scales 89), Juranovic; Bitton (sub: McCarthy 77) McGregor, Turnbull; Abada (sub: Forrest 70), Kyogo (sub: Giakoumakis 70), Jota (sub: Johnston 70).