REAL MADRID 5 CELTIC 1
AMID the misery, mishaps and mediocrity in Madrid this evening there was one moment of magic.
It was a mere consolation as Celtic, bereft of key players such as captain Callum McGregor and his stand-in Cameron Carter-Vickers, were swept away in the Bernabeu.
With the Hoops trailing 5-0, Filipe Jota, a 63rd minute substitute, produced something for the travelling fans to enjoy with six minutes to go.
The Portuguese winger had been brought down by Lucas Velazquez just five yards outside the box and he elected to take the free-kick himself.
MOMENT OF MAGIC…Filipe Jota’s free-kick soars high into the Real Madrid net.
FREEWAY TO SUCCESS…Filipe Jota shows his joy.
After 84 minutes of torture, mistakes, misplaced passes and a missed penalty-kick, Jota stepped up to sweep an impeccable drive over the wall and high into the right-hand corner of Thibaut Courtois’ net.
It was one little gem that shone through in a landslide of agony and gloom in the Spanish capital.
It was a Champions League campaign to forget, there were a few pluses, but, unfortunately, they were heavily outweighed by the minuses.
Six games, no wins, four defeats, two draws, 15 goals conceded and four scored and no place in the Europa League.
Lots of lessons being dished out in brutal fashion along the road of discovery.
The first-half was a tale of three penalty-kicks – and the Hoops were three-time losers.
HIT…Luka Modric sends Joe Hart the wrong way to open the scoring with his penalty-kick.
HIT…Rodrygo fires in his award with Joe Hart heading in the opposite direction.
MISS…Josip Juranovic fluffs his kick with keeper Thibaut Courtois diving to his right to deny the Celt.
The hosts converted their two spot-kicks and Josip Juranovic blew the opportunity to throw his side a lifeline when his effort was saved by Courtois.
Dame Fortune positively snarled at Ange Postecoglou’s men and that was emphasised as early as the fifth minute when the reigning European champions were handed a penalty in their first sortie into the visitors’ danger zone.
Referee Stephanie Frappart was swift to point to the spot when she adjudged Moritz Jenz had handled a shot from Marco Asensio.
It was obviously a complete accident with the German defender slipping at the moment of impact, but, harsh or not, the match official gave the kick and Luka Modric duly got the opening goal.
The little Croatian midfielder sent Joe Hart the wrong way as he tucked his attempt nonchalantly into the corner. It was a pity his international team-mate Juranovic couldn’t do likewise with his effort later in the first-half.
COLLISION COURSE…Joe Hart and Carl Starfelt fail to prevent Vinicius Junior netting the fourth goal.
Celtic tried to regain some sort of composure after such a hammer blow and there was a flash of inspiration when Jenz and Reo Hatate combined to send Daizen Maeda hurtling down the left.
He whipped over an inviting cross, but, alas, Kyogo Furuhashi couldn’t make clean contact as he slid in and he diverted the ball off target.
Four minutes later, Hatate thumped one over the bar, but fate intervened for a second time in the 19th minute when Real were awarded a second penalty-kick.
This time Matt O’Riley was adjudged to have handled a close-range drive from Rodrygo. The effort struck the Englishman on the elbow and the ref waved play on.
The dreaded VAR then stepped in and she was instructed to look at the monitor. No-one had any doubts about what would happen next. The whistler pointed to the spot again and this time Rodrygo took the kick.
Unfortunately, Hart went the wrong way again and the Hoops were two goals adrift.
BY THE RIGHT…Filipe Jota hammers his free-kick over the wall and past Thibaut Courtois.
In fact, it could have been three within 60 seconds, but Vincius Junior blazed wildly over the bar from 12 yards with just the keeper to beat.
Hatate set up Kyogo in the 29th minute, but his shot was punched away by Courtois. And the skyscraper shotstopper staged an action replay when he fisted a Hatate 20-yarder to safety.
And he did even better when he denied Juranovic from the spot in the 33rd minute after Abada had been decked by Ferland Mendy.
The Croatian international, who experienced a torrid evening, hit his shot too close to the keeper and the giant Belgian managed to get across his goal to his right to beat the ball away.
Six minutes after the interval, Real netted a third when they were allowed to waltz through the Hoops midfield and defence before Asensio drilled a drive past Hart from the edge of the box. The player enjoyed the freedom of Madrid with no visiting player anywhere near him.
It was clear Celtic were struggling all over the pitch and Juranovic, Mooy and Greg Taylor, in particular, appeared to be chasing white ghosts. Carl Starfelt put in a spirited effort after being out for two months, but it was clear he was not matchfit. He stuck to his task, though.
O’Riley and Hatate tried hard, but against quality opposition Celtic needed that little bit extra.
BETTER LATE THAN NEVER…Matt O’Riley congratulates Filipe Jota on his goal in Madrid.
Just after the hour mark, Hart and Starfelt failed to cut out a Fedrico Valverde right-wing cross and Vinicuis Junior tapped it home.
In the 63rd minute, Postecoglou made some long-awaited changes when he took off Mooy, Abada, Maeda and Kyogo and put on David Turnbull, Jota, Sead Haksabanovic and Giogos Giakoumakis.
The Greek was presented with a chance within 60 seconds, but, unfortunetly, blasted it straight at the grateful Courtois.
Valverde showed him how it was done in the 71st minute when once again a disintegrating team gave him too much time and space to shoot low past the helpless Hart.
Oliver Abildgaard was then sent on for Hatate in the 82nd minute when it was clear the Japanese midfielder had nothing left in the tank.
Then came Jota’s piece of soccer sorcery to at least prove Celtic could score a goal against the European champions.
TEAM: Hart; Juranovic, Jenz, Starfelt, Taylor; Mooy (sub: Turnbull 63), O’Riley, Hatate (sub: Abildgaard 82); Abada (sub: Jota 63), Kyogo (sub: Giakoumakis 63), Maeda (sub: Haksabanovic 63).