Moussa Diaby capped a dramatic late fightback by snatching a 3-2 victory to put Bayer Leverkusen in the last 16 of the Europa League and knock Celtic out.
Leverkusen knew they would be guaranteed to win Group G by securing all three points at the BayArena on Thursday and Robert Andrich’s header gave them an early lead.
The Hoops fought back brilliantly, Josip Juranovic equalising with a cheeky first-half Panenka penalty and Jota sending the travelling fans into raptures when he put them in front after the break.
Celtic were unable to hold on, though, as Andrich levelled and Diaby won it with a fine late volley after 87 minutes to send the Bundesliga side through and consign the Hoops to the Europa Conference League.
Celtic failed to heed the warning after Andrich nodded off target early on, as the midfielder rose to plant a powerful header beyond Joe Hart from another whipped Florian Wirtz corner 16 minutes in.
The Hoops took that setback on the chin and they were level courtesy of an audacious dinked spot-kick from Juranovic that went in off the crossbar after goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky clattered into Kyogo Furuhashi, referee Anastasios Sidiropoulos pointing to the spot after checking the pitchside monitor.
Juranovic was fortunate when Diaby struck the left post and Wirtz rattled the other upright after the full-back had given the ball away deep inside his own half.
Hart came to Celtic’s rescue early in the second half when he denied Diaby before springing to his feet to scramble back and smother the ball as Amine Adli was about to tuck into an empty net.
The former England goalkeeper’s brilliant ball to James Forrest then started a devastating counter-attack that ended with the Hoops taking the lead, Jota finding the far corner with a first-time left-foot finish after Kyogo set him up.
An inspired Hart kept out another Adli strike with his feet with Celtic under pressure, but the forward cut the ball back for Andrich to level eight minutes from time.
Diaby delivered the killer blow to the Glasgow side, firing home with a clinical left-foot volley before David Turnbull was unable to keep Celtic’s qualification hopes alive when Hradecky saved deep into stoppage time.
What’s next? Leverkusen march on, heartbreak for Hoops
It appeared the battle to qualify would go down to the wire when Celtic led in the closing stages, but the group will stay as it is.
Real Betis travel to Celtic Park in a fortnight knowing they will finish second and face a play-off, with Leverkusen assured of top spot and Ange Postecoglo’s men heading into the Conference League.
Andrich a constant menace
Midfielder Andrich was the scourge of Celtic, making them pay for slack defending from a corner and finishing superbly to equalise.
He could have had a hat-trick, but a double from his five attempts was decisive.
Harsh on Hart
Defeat was especially harsh on Hart, who denied Leverkusen time and again. The ex-Manchester City keeper’s double save from Diaby and Adli was outstanding.
Key Opta facts:
– Bayer Leverkusen have never lost a home 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 two-plus goals in each of their last four away games in the Europa League, however they have gone on to win just one of those matches (L3).
– Wirtz has been directly involved in 10 goals in 13 Europa League appearances for Leverkusen (five goals, five assists).
– Andrich has scored three goals in his last three appearances for Leverkusen in all competitions, more than he netted in his first nine appearances for the club this season (two).
– Juranovic has had two attempts on goal in this season’s Europa League campaign, both penalties that he converted.
Celtic take on Aberdeen in the Scottish Premier League on Sunday, when Leverkusen face a trip to RB Leipzig.
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