CALLUM McGREGOR must have felt as though he had stepped into a time warp in Rome last night.
Heading towards the 82nd minute, it was goalless in the Champions League encounter with Lazio at the Stadio Olimpico and the visitors had possession.
The ball was worked to Kyogo Furuhashi in the middle of the pitch with McGregor crying out for a pass as he advanced into space on the left side.
For a flickering moment, it looked as though a genuine opportunity could be carved open. Instead, the Japanese striker lost possession, the hosts surged forward and Ciro Immobile latched onto a rebound in the box as Cameron Carter-Vickers hesitated for a fatal split-second and the veteran frontman lashed an effort beyond the unguarded Joe Hart.
DELIGHT AND DESPAIR…Ciro Immobile races away in delight as Joe Hart is beaten at Lazio’s late opening goal.
Three minutes later, the veteran hitman repeats the feat and it’s all over for Celtic, their fourth loss in five games in Group E.
With the other match ending in a draw, there will be no European football for the Hoops after Christmas yet again and next month’s final game against Feyenoord has been rendered meaningless.
It’s been yet another brutal voyage of discovery for McGregor and his team-mates and the skipper said: “It’s a bit of the same old story where we don’t take our chances and we get hit on the sucker punch and then the second one kills the game.
“It’s tough to take because we are well in the games and controlling the flow and, to be honest, at some point we have to win that.
“You get done by good quality and I’ve been saying this throughout that you’re playing against top players and Immobile scores two good striker’s goals.
“At some point we have to win the game, it’s good having control, but at some point we have to open up and we can feel that.”
The midfielder, speaking to Celtic TV, continued: “The last 10 minutes before their goal, we were growing in confidence and gaining chances. We were unlucky one of them didn’t fall and it’s been the story of the campaign a little bit.
“It’s fine margins and there’s probably a bit of physicality at this level, as well. We do well for 60 to 65 minutes and when the game opens up we need to get to grips and take control again.
KYOGO WOE…Celtic’s Japanese striker reflects on another missed opportunity.
“That comes from experience, but that’s been the difference that when teams have had their moments in games they have scored.
“In the main, we are on top and we have to take our chances and impose ourselves on the game because that’s what teams at this level do to you, they take their chances and score and we saw that again.”
McGregor, who produced another fine display in the Italian capital to no avail, believes there is still something to play for when Feyenoord visit a fortnight today.
The Scotland international midfielder added: “It’s massively important because we feel like we deserve it and we deserve more than one point.
“We want to finish off at home with the crowd behind us and try and give them a little bit of hope for maybe next season in the competition.
“There’s definitely lots to play for and when you pull on a Celtic jersey you’re always playing for everything, so will go into last game doing everything to make them proud.”