Leverkusen 3 – 2 Celtic

Joy turned to despair for Celtic as two late goals earned Bayer Leverkusen a 3-2 win in Germany and condemned the visitors to a group-stage exit in the Europa League.

With 10 minutes remaining, Celtic were on course for a stunning shock victory thanks to a Josip Juranovic penalty and Jota’s classy finish either side of half-time, until disaster struck to drop them into the Europa Conference League.

First Robert Andrich fired in his second of the night, having earlier opened the scoring from a corner, to bring them level from Amine Adli’s lay-off before a fine 20-yard volley from Moussa Diaby turned the game on its head and brought Celtic’s hopes of progression crashing down, while sealing top spot in the group for the hosts.

The Bhoys will still qualify for the Conference League knockout stages as they are guaranteed to finish above bottom side Ferencvaros, but they will now host Betis in a fortnight knowing their Europa League campaign is destined to finish in the group stages whatever happens.

Celtic’s Europa League dream ended by Leverkusen

Image:
Robert Andrich (right) celebrates after scoring for Bayer Leverkusen vs Celtic

The Germans signalled their intent in the 10th minute when Andrich headed over from a Florian Wirtz corner.

Celtic were looking reasonably comfortable in the early stages, although Cameron Carter-Vickers had to make a vital clearance from inside his own six-yard box when former Hoops right-back Jeremie Frimpong darted into the box and drilled a dangerous low ball across the face of goal in the 12th minute.

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Team news

  • Celtic made one change to the side that defeated St Johnstone in last weekend’s Premier Sports Cup semi-final, with Hampden goal hero James Forrest coming in for his first start in more than three months in place of Liel Abada.

The visitors failed to heed the warning from Leverkusen’s earlier corner, and they fell behind in the 16th minute when Andrich got in front of Stephen Welsh to head in another Wirtz delivery.

Celtic had a rare foray forward in the 35th minute which resulted in David Turnbull threading a through ball in behind for Kyogo Furuhashi but the offside flag was raised as the Japanese attacker burst into the box and fired a low angled shot just behind the far post.

Josip Juranovic celebrates after scoring a penalty for Celtic vs Bayer Leverkusen
Image:
Josip Juranovic celebrates after scoring a penalty for Celtic vs Bayer Leverkusen

Having been pegged back for long periods of the match, the visitors got themselves level in the 39th minute with a penalty awarded following a VAR review after Leverkusen goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky clattered recklessly into Kyogo while trying to defend a cross into the box from Jota.

Hradecky was booked and Juranovic produced an outrageously nonchalant finish as he chipped a Panenka-style spot-kick in off the underside of the crossbar.

Juranovic was fortunate to get away with a lapse in the 44th minute when he gave the ball away cheaply just outside his area allowing Moussa Diaby to fire a powerful angled half-volley off the junction of post and bar before Wirtz sent the rebound crashing against the opposite post.

Celtic had another major let-off eight minutes after the break when Joe Hart made a brilliant double save to deny Diaby and then Amine Adli.

Jota wheels away after complete Celtic's comeback with a brilliant counter-attack strike
Image:
Jota wheels away after scoring Celtic’s second goal with a brilliant counter-attack strike

Remarkably, Celtic took the lead in the 56th minute when Jota drilled in a clinical low angled shot from just inside the box after being teed up by Kyogo following some brilliant play by Forrest and Nir Bitton.

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Hart made a couple of saves to deny Adli as the Scots started to believe they might be closing in on their first victory in Germany.

But Andrich dashed their hopes in the 82nd minute when he drilled a low shot through the legs of Hart from 12 yards out after being set up by substitute Nadiem Amiri.

Robert Andrich hauled Leverkusen level eight minutes from time with his second of the night
Image:
Robert Andrich hauled Leverkusen level eight minutes from time with his second of the night

The hosts claimed victory in the 87th minute when Diaby volleyed home after being picked out by a chipped pass from Wirtz.

Leverkusen late-show stuns Celtic – Match stats

  • Bayer Leverkusen have never lost a home UEFA Europa League group stage match in 15 previous games (W12 D3) – the most of any side without losing in the competition’s history.
  • Celtic have scored 2+ goals in each of their last four away games in the UEFA Europa League, however they’ve gone on to win just one of those matches (L3), beating Ferencvárosi TC 3-2 at the start of the month.
  • Celtic have conceded at least once in 26 of their 28 away UEFA Europa League games, conceding in each of their last 11 such matches in the competition, since a 1-0 win in Rosenborg back in November 2018.
  • Florian Wirtz has been directly involved in ten goals in 13 UEFA Europa League appearances for Bayer Leverkusen (5 goals, 5 assists).
  • Robert Andrich has scored three goals in his last three appearances for Bayer Leverkusen in all competitions, more than he netted in his first nine appearances for the club this season (2).
  • Celtic’s Josip Juranovic has had two attempts on goal in this season’s UEFA Europa League campaign, both penalties which he converted.
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What’s next?

Celtic are at home to Aberdeen in the Scottish Premiership on Sunday; kick-off at 3pm.

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For over 8 years, Dave has been working in mainstream media and sports betting.

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