Celtic relinquish yet another lead away in Europe

Celtic disappointingly exited the Europa League tonight after throwing away a lead they had worked so hard to build inside a disastrous final ten minutes in Germany.

Bayer Leverkusen took the lead at the BayArena 16 minutes in to the contest when midfielder Robert Andrich, who had a running battle with Anthony Ralston all evening, lost the Celtic right back and met an in swinging corner with a bullet header leaving Joe Hart with no chance in the Celtic goal.

Robert Andrich of Bayer 04 Leverkusen celebrates with teammate Jonathan Tah after scoring their side’s first goal during the UEFA Europa League group G match between Bayer Leverkusen and Celtic FC at BayArena on November 25, 2021 (Photo by Lukas Schulze/Getty Images)

On the 40th minute Celtic were handed a way back into the tie when Leverkusen’s Finnish goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky wiped Kyogo Furuhashi out with a ‘Superman’ punch in the box. It was a stonewall penalty and after viewing the incident again on the pitchside monitor, the referee agreed. Josip Juranovic, back on penalty duty, maintained his 100% record from the spot in a Celtic shirt by netting an audacious Peneka penalty which found the net via the inside of the crossbar.

Josip Juranovic of Celtic celebrates with teammate Jota after scoring their side’s first goal from the penalty spot during the UEFA Europa League group G match between Bayer Leverkusen and Celtic FC at BayArena on November 25, 2021  (Photo by Lukas Schulze/Getty Images)

Celtic fans in the stadium were then left in wonderland 10 minutes into the second half when Jota netted a superb curling effort after a fantastic breakaway from the visitors. At this point I said to a friend that we will now see if we have learned our lesson from squandering leads in previous away matches in Europe. The answer looked for a while like we had, but ultimately it was glaringly obvious that we hadn’t.

Celtic fans enjoy the pre match atmosphere prior to the UEFA Europa League group G match between Bayer Leverkusen and Celtic FC at BayArena on November 25, 2021 in Leverkusen, Germany. (Photo by Lukas Schulze/Getty Images)

Soft goals in the last 10 minutes from Robert Andrich and Moussa Diaby meant all Celtic’s hard work had been undone. It was bitterly disappointing to throw away a chance to claim a historic away win in Germany and when Andrich scored his second you did feel that chance may have gone.

However, what really frustrated me was the fact that we couldn’t even hold on to claim a vital point which would have set up an electric battle against Real Betis in the final group game at Celtic Park and gave us a chance of progressing in the competition.

: A fan holds a flare prior to the UEFA Europa League group G match between Bayer Leverkusen and Celtic FC at BayArena on November 25, 2021 in Leverkusen, Germany. (Photo by Lukas Schulze/Getty Images)

Since Ange took over in the summer we have had six away games in Europe. In four of them against Midtjylland, AZ Alkmaar, Real Betis and now Bayer Leverkusen we have taken the lead in the match only to end up being defeated in them all although obviously the Midtjylland one was in extra time. That’s a very worrying record and something that we will have to take a serious look at and investigate why this is happening repeatedly. We then need to learn from our mistakes going forward.

Personally I felt the main factor that condemned us to defeat tonight was when we made so many substitutions inside a four minute spell. Bitton for McCarthy was because of injury but replacing the 3 up top, who were causing Leverkusen so much problems, pretty much in one foul swoop was a huge error for me. As a team we seemed to lose all momentum and fluidity. John Hartson in commentary even mentioned how difficult it is to come on to such a high tempo game and acclimatise quickly.

Jota of Celtic scores their side’s second goal during the UEFA Europa League group G match between Bayer Leverkusen and Celtic FC at BayArena on November 25, 2021. (Photo by Lukas Schulze/Getty Images)

It was from that point onwards that Celtic started to look really disjointed and were getting pinned further and further back. Although the subs were giving their all you could clearly notice they were struggling with the pace of the game.

Regarding comments from Davie Provan on Go Radio last night, i stated in an earlier article that Celtic fans aren’t giving Ange Postecoglou an easy ride and if they felt the Celtic manager made mistakes they would call it out and that’s what I’m going to do here. Making so many substitutions at once was an error. It changed the game and put us at a disadvantage.

Celtic players applaud the fans following the UEFA Europa League group G match between Bayer Leverkusen and Celtic FC at BayArena on November 25, 2021. (Photo by Lukas Schulze/Getty Images)

Let’s hope going forward the management team will look at some of the mistakes that have repeatedly happened in Europe this season, especially away from home, and put plans in place to rectify them. We have proved we are more than capable of taking on big teams on the continent and going toe to toe with them. We just need to become a lot more streetwise and learn how to make all our hard work count.

Conall McGinty

About Author

Hailing from Cushendall in the North of Ireland my formative years were spent watching Celtic during our barren spell through the 90's which meant I have appreciated our recent trophy-laden spell even more. Favourite matches home and away I've attended has to be beating Man Utd 1-0 at Celtic Park and being with my 2 brothers watching us beat Lazio 2-1 in Rome. Best away day experience? Has to be Munich with friends from Coatbridge...what a few days!

1 Comment

  1. At this stage in the teams development we have no right to be going to Leverkusen and beating them. The team was guilty of giving easily impressed people hope. Their fault not the teams. Why we are losing doesn’t need rubbish like an enquiry . We don’t have good enough players yet. There it is. How are you proposing holding the lead against these teams? Play more defensively with bad defenders? Yeah that’ll work…..not.

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