RB LEIPZIG 2 CELTIC 0
TWO dreadful errors in the space of only four first-half minutes piled the pressure on Celtic against the Bundesliga outfit at a packed and noisy RB Arena this evening.
Brendan Rodgers’ men looked to be in reasonable shape after the opening half-hour in the Europa League Group B confrontation – and then the roof collapsed on them.
RB Leipzig seized the initiative in the 31st minute as they capitalised on a careless moment of lack of concentration from Eboue Kouassi after a simple throw-in on the right. The ball was pitched into the box and the Ivorian took a fresh-air swipe at the cross.
His blunder threw Dedryck Boyata and caught him off guard. Brazilian striker Metheus Cunha pounced to accept the unexpected gift with a deadly finish that zipped beyond the helpless Craig Gordon.
In the 35th minute, the keeper was fishing the ball out of his net again after a quickfire second goal from the home side.
Cristian Gamboa, making a rare start, was far too hasty as he dived into a tackle on the right and was left on his rear end as Kevin Kampl raced clear.
His ball into the box was diverted by the boot of the unfortunate Kouassi onto Olivier Ntcham and it dropped perfectly for Portuguese hitman Armindo Bruma to fire beyond Gordon.
The Hoops were hanging on at this stage and only some good defensive work from Gamboa and Gordon prevented the Germans scoring again four minutes before the interval.
Kampl, dangerous throughout, had his first shot blocked by the Costa Rican defender and his follow-up effort was also parried to safety by the keeper.
Rodgers’ men, without several key players, struggled to get up the pitch, but RB Leipzig had a scare in the seventh minute when Lewis Morgan released Odsonne Edouard with a neat ball and the Frenchman shifted the ball excellently to open up an opportunity.
Unfortunately, his finishing effort swept just wide of the far post with the home shotstopper beaten.
Gamboa, who finished the first-half limping, was replaced by Mikael Lustig for the start of the second period.
Scott Sinclair also came on for the largely ineffective Morgan in the 70th minute and, worryingly, Jozo Simunovic was stretchered off 16 minutes from the end with Jack Hendry as his replacement.
RB Leipzig came close to extending their lead in the 54th minute when Konrad Laimer took advantage of some slack play by McGregor to drive forward, but his low drive kissed the outside of Gordon’s right-hand upright on its way past.
Ten minutes later, the keeper made a superb save to touch a wicked low shot from Jean-Kevin Augustin onto the same upright.
There were only a couple of moments for optimism for the wonderful away support near the end when Tierney set up McGregor, but his left-foot sizzler thundered over the crossbar and, later on, Ntcham had a low effort booted to safety by the keeper.
So, Celtic’s misery continues and there appears no sign to the end of their travel sickness.
All eyes are now on Murrayfield on Sunday and the Betfred League Cup semi-final against Hearts. Hoops gaffer Rodgers now has to rally his troops for a vital encounter.
TEAM: Gordon; Gamboa (sub: Lustig 46), Simunovic (sub: Hendry 74), Boyata, Tierney; Ntcham, Kouassi; Morgan (sub: Sinclair 70), McGregor, Christie; Edouard.