LAZIO 2 CELTIC 0
CELTIC failed yet again to respond to the challenge at the highest level and there will be no European football at Parkhead after Christmas yet again.
Brendan Rodgers’ men went into the encounter at the Olimpico Stadium knowing a victory was an absolute must if they had a chance of keeping their remote hopes alive.
Instead, they produced another shot-shy performance and were undone by the Italians for the second successive game by a late, late show.
In Glasgow, it was a stoppage-time header from Pedro that sent them crashing to defeat. In Rome, it was a double strike from substitute Ciro Immobile in the last eight minutes that rendered next month’s final Group E match against Feyenoord meaningless.
It was another brutal lesson for Rodgers and his players who have picked up a mere point from a possible 15 in a campaign to forget.
AGONY AND ECSTASY…the story of Celtic’s evening in Rome as Joe Hart lies beaten after Ciro Immobile nets the opener for Lazio in the 82nd minute.
The Hoops displayed a lot of patience in the first-half as they took the sting out of the Italians’ approach and looked to hit on the break.
Kyogo Furuhashi sent in a range-finder from just outside the box in the fifth minute, but Ivan Provedel got got down swiftly to his right to make a comfortable save.
In the 16th minute, the speedy Japanese hitman threatened again when he raced onto a clever through pass from Alistair Johnston, but the danger was cleared by Patric as his keeper flapped.
The Serie A outfit carved open a good chance in the tenth minute when Matteo Guendouzi caught Johnston napping with a ball to the back post, but Felipe Anderson’s header flew waywardly off target.
Throughout the first-half, there was a lot of industry from James Forrest on the left, but Yang Hyun-jun was virtually anoymous on the opposite flank.
The South Korean had been well placed to receive a pass from Paulo Bernardo in an excellent Celtic surge forward, but the Portuguese midfielder was too slow in parting with the ball and the opportunity was lost.
Greg Taylor was first to go into the book of Turkish referee Haile Meta after a silly challenge on Gustav Isaken in the 27th minute.
Johnston can count himself unlucky to also have a yellow card flashed at him following what looked like a solid challenge on Luis Alberto.
As the half wore on, the home fans were growing restless and the hosts were reduced to firing in long-range shots that failed to trouble Joe Hart.
Three minutes after the interval, O’Riley and Kyogo combined in a quick thrust that saw the striker whip a low drive just wide of the right-hand post with the keeper scrambling across his line.
Four minutes later, Yang contrived to miss what looked like a brilliant opening when he actually headed CLEAR from a superb position.
Forrest, Bernardo and Taylor combined on the left before the full-back sent over an inch-perfect cross. The winger was racing in at the far post and it looked for a split-second that the opening strike beckoned, but he completely misjudged his header and the ball flew away from the target.
Possibly he was trying to pick out Kyogo in front of goal, but at this level and with so few opportunities being presented, he really should have been attempting to get something between the posts.
Just after the hour mark, Rodgers made his first change when he took off Forrest to put on Mikey Johnston.
The Hoops were attempting to come more into the contest in an attacking sense, but little was originating from O’Riley who looked cumbersome in thought and action. The midfielder has had some eye-catching performances this term. Alas, this was not one of them.
In the 70th minute, Bernardo departed the proceedings with Oh Hyeon-gyu coming on to partner Kyogo up front.
The Japanese ace was a willing worker, as always, but the pace caught up with him which led to the hosts scoring the opening goal in the 82nd minute.
Kyogo was robbed of the ball as he failed to see Callum McGregor in space on his left. Lazio broke forward at speed and Guendouzi fed a pass to Isaksen on the right.
He cut in to try a left-foot shot from just inside the box. It deflected off Liam Scales, his defensive sidekick Cameron Carter-Vickers was just a shade slow to react and that was all Immobile required to sneak in and fire past the helpless Hart.
Three minutes later, the veteran hitman repeated the feat when he turned the USA World Cup defender in the box before slotting low past the exposed Hoops netminder.
A minute later, Yang came off to be replaced by David Turnbull. There would have been many who would have questioned why the change hadn’t been made a lot earlier.
In stoppage-time, the referee awarded Celtic a penalty-kick which may have given the visitors at least a crumb of comfort on a cold night in the Italian capital.
VAR instructed the match official to review the incident after Oh had been pushed in the back by Patric. No-one was unduly surprised when the ref bucked the trend to return to the pitch and cancel the award.
That miserable moment perfectly summed up Celtic’s wretched Champions League campaign this season.
TEAM: Hart; Johnston, Carter-Vickers, Scales, Taylor; Bernardo (sub: Oh 70), McGregor, O’Riley; Yang (sub: Turnbull 86), Kyogo, Forrest (sub: M Johnston 61).