RB LEIPZIG 3 CELTIC 1
CELTIC went from The Great Escape to The Great Giveaway in the space of three defining minutes as they toppled to defeat in the Red Bull Arena this evening.
Ange Postecoglou’s side had levelled two minutes after the break through Filipe Jota and were hoping to use the goal as a springboard to their first win in Champions League Group F in Leipzig.
The Bundesliga club celebrated a stunning strike from Dominik Szoboszial in the 61st minute when his sizzling right-foot drive from 20 yards left Joe Hart hopelessly beaten.
No-one from the visiting team complained and Norwegian referee Espen Eskas pointed to the centre circle.
MOMENTS FROM HORROR…Joe Hart passes the ball out of defence.
PICK IT OUT…Joe Hart is left standing as Andre Silva slots in RB Leipzig’s second goal after the keeper’s badly-judged pass had been intercepted.
Eagled-eyed observers at VAR, however, had spotted an RB Leipzig player in an offside position had obscured the view of the keeper and the effort was disallowed.
Celtic breathed a massive sigh of relief – and then presented a second goal to the hosts only a few moments later.
Hart made his only mistake of the evening, but it was a howler and it gift-wrapped the advantage back to the Germans.
The experienced 75 times-capped England international passed out straight to Szoboszial who could hardly believe his good fortune.
He immediately rolled a pass in front of Andre Silva and the Portuguese forward stuck the ball past the stunned Hart.
Observers keep reminding us that football at this level is a steep learning curve. To some of the Celtic players it must feel as though they have been dropped out of a plane 5,000 feet up without a parachute.
GROUNDED…Joe Hart is helpless as Christopher Nkunku prepares to slide the ball past Josip Juranovic for the opening goal.
It didn’t end well for the Hoops when Marco Rose’s side netted a ridiculously easy third goal when a long diagonal pass from Christopher Nkunku on the left was knocked across goal and Silva was left completely unmarked at the back post to turn the ball past the exposed Hart.
It capped a bad night for the visitors who had gone in at the interval a goal down, minus their skipper Callum McGregor and with a few problems to address.
Postecoglou had to replace his influential midfielder in the 37th minute with new Bhoy Oliver Abidgaard during an incident-packed first-half.
The unfortunate McGregor appeared to sustain the injury when he took a heavy touch that gifted possession to the Bundesliga outfit who sped up the park to take full advantage and score the opening goal in the 27th minute.
The Hoops captain toiled to keep pace with the breakaway and a pass forward saw Nkunku race away from Josip Juranovic, sidestep the sprawling Hart and slide a low ball into the net from an angle.
PAIN GAME…Callum McGregor comes off worse after a clash with defender Kevin Kampl as Matt O’Riley looks on.
It was a disastrous moment for the visitors who had earlier survived the threat of the much-vaunted French striker who had zipped onto a through ball with Juranovic and Moritz Jenz left in his slipstream.
He drew Hart from his goal before neatly chipping him for what the home side and their fans were convinced was the breakthrough goal in the 18th minute.
The effort was ruled out by UEFA after studying VAR, but it had been a close call. Just like the one later in the game that also went the way of the visitors. Technically, both goals were rightly disallowed.
The match was played at a hectic, frantic pace and Postecoglou’s men also had their chances, most notably a header from Kyogo Furuhashi in the 24th minute.
BRAVE BHOY…Kyogo Furuhashi fires in a header as he avoids a high boot from an RB Leipzig defender.
Stephen Welsh, who had an accomplished 90-plus minutes, got the move in motion with a pass to Juranovic on the right who swiftly transferred it in front of the galloping Daizen Maeda.
He whipped over a superb cross and his Japanese international team-mate timed his run and leap to perfection to thump in a header from eight yards.
It looked to be hurtling high into the net until substitute keeper Janis Blaswich, who had replaced the injured Peter Gulaksi in the 13th minute, threw himself full-length to his left to claw the ball to safety.
Celtic had better luck in the 47th minute as they drew level when Reo Hatate sent Kyogo racing into the danger zone with an astute and crisp through ball.
The pacy frontman waited until precisely the right moment to roll the ball into the path of Jota and he maintained his composure to glide the ball low into the net.
PORTUGUESE GLEE…Filipe Jota slides the ball home for Celtic’s equaliser.
HAIL THE HERO…Filipe Jota accepts the acclaim of the delighted Celtic support.
In the 57th minute, the Hoops survived when the hosts passed their way through the defence to leave Szoboszial with a clear shooting chance. Hart closed down the angle and forced his rival to hit the ball across goal and his effort hit the far post and was eventually scrambled to safety.
However, after the hosts were presented with their second goal it provoked Postecoglou to throw on Sead Haksabanovic and James Forrest for Maeda and O’Riley in the 75th minute.
Five minutes after their third goal, James McCarthy and Giorgos Giakoumakis replaced Hatate and Kyogo.
SEE YOU IN GLASGOW ON TUESDAY…Ange Postecoglou and Marco Rose embrace at the end of the match.
By that time, alas, the result was never in doubt and the Hoops are still looking for their first win in Group F.
They could get their wish on Tuesday when RB Leipzig visit Parkhead.
But they are going to have to improve on this performance.
Jenz was often sloppy with his passes and Abildgaard, admittedly without too much first-team football in the past few months, will have to improve. He looked slow and cumbersome on this performance.
It’s back to the drawing board for the manager.
TEAM: Hart; Juranovic, Welsh, Jenz, Taylor; O’Riley (sub: Forrest 75), McGregor (sub: Abildgaard 37), Hatate (sub: McCarthy 82); Maeda (sub: Haksabanovic 75), Kyogo (sub: Giakoumakis 82), Jota.