Good afternoon from a crisp evening at BayArena. I’m Girvane Bila and welcome to Matchday Five of the Europa League where Bayer Leverkusen play Celtic this evening. The German side is in touching distance from qualifying to the last-16, a win tonight will put them there. The Bhoys must win to stand a chance in progressing on their Europa League journey.
Here are the lineups:
In the reverse fixture, Celtic was dispatched by Leverkusen 4–0 with goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky producing a man of the match performance. Since then, the Group G leaders saw a difficult run of five games without a win. This was followed by two wins and a draw in their next three games. A much-needed boost for Die Werkself.
Celtic however, has been in magnificent form since the heavy defeat. Five wins in six see Celtic now enter a pivotal game with morale extremely high.
The Hoops currently sit third in the group, just one point behind Real Betis, but a victory would ensure they are at least still fighting for last-32 qualification in their final match at home against the Spanish side next month. The task tonight is simple, win. Easier said than done, as The Hoops have not won in their last 12 appearances in Germany. Can they make history?
Kyogo Furuhashi goes into the match after a dazzling display in their 3-2 away win over Hungarian side Ferencvaros. The same is for Jota who won last month’s SPFL Player of the Month, so they are the ones to watch.
Gerardo Seoane’s talisman Patrik Schick will miss the game due to a ligament injury. He is Leverkusen’s leading scorer with eight goals in nine games. This sees him replaced by Amine Adli.
Today’s central story is Celtic’s James Forrest. His Hampden heroics has seen him earn a first start since August. He scored the only goal in the League Cup semi-final win against St Johnstone. He is preferred to Liel Abada, who is relegated to the bench.
1 – Here we go! We kick off in an electric atmosphere here at BayArena.
2 – The first threat comes from a man that Celtic are very familiar with. Jeremie Frimpong bursts through the defence but fails to provide a cross into the box as the ball goes out for a goal kick.
5 – Leverkusen gets their first corner of the game. Yet, it fails to land onto any of their heads. The ball is played to Florin Wirtz but amounts to nothing.
9 – Frimpong again causes issues for the Celtic full-backs and he plays it to Diaby who dummies it to Andrich. His shot gets deflected and it is out for a corner. Andrich is found in the corner but cannot guide the header.
11 – Great play from Frimpong who fizzes in a cross that sees it defended well by defender Cameron Carter-Vickers. Frimpong looks determined to have a great game.
14 – Celtic finally have the ball and are enjoying their spell of possession before the ball is given away and sets up a counter-attack for Leverkusen. Carter-Vickers again to the rescue.
15 – GOAL! This goal was coming, it has been all Leverkusen. Andrich scores a well-directed header from Florian Wirtz’s outswinging corner and leaves Joe Hart helpless on his line. His second in three games, leaving Celtic with an urgent response.
18 – It looked like they had one too. Kyogo can’t get a shot away and the away side works the ball out to James Forrest, but the winger’s low cross is dealt with. There is an argument Kyogo could have lobbed Hradecky.
21 – Better intensity from the visitors. Anthony Ralston finds James Forrest on the right with a good pass, but the Scotland winger’s cross is again cut away.
24 – Kyogo’s chance will come. David Turnbull finds him, however, it is just too far ahead of the Japanese forward.
29 – The danger is coming from the right-hand side of Leverkusen. Frimpong has laid a marker and it looks like no one can challenge him. Leverkusen’s attacking play looks brilliant so far.
32 – A late challenge on Turnbull from Matias Palacios sees the referee hand out the first booking of the game. More to come? Let’s hope not.
35 – Kyogo made a brilliant run but latched onto the shot desperately as Jota tried to redirect it in. The linesman put his flag up and Celtic’s striker appeared way offside.
37 – Jota worked it onto his right foot and curls it towards Kyogo who Hradecky takes out. Kyogo is down and while he is being assessed, the referee has been asked to check the incident by the VAR officials for a potential penalty.
38 – VAR check over and it’s a penalty! Referee Anastasios Sidiropoulos has pointed to the spot and booked the Leverkusen skipper for hitting Kyogo. Much to the home fans’ dismay, Josip Juranovic has a chance to give The Hoops a much-needed goal.
40 – GOAL! The definition of composure is shown by Josip Juranovic who pulls the Panenka off the underside of the bar. Celtic have grown into the game and an audacious chip by Juranovic puts them level. 1-1.
43 – Juranovic almost went from hero to zero. He gives the ball away and winger Moussa Diaby crashes the post. Wirtz is on hand for the rebound but he also hits the post, this time on the other side.
45 – Half-Time – What a last five minutes we’ve just seen. Celtic were given a lifeline that was sensationally put away by Juranovic, followed by Leverkusen hitting the post twice. All to play for is an understatement, these two are hungry to prevail.
46 – The second half is underway at the BayArena and we have a game on our hands. Leverkusen will certainly not take prisoners and produce a performance as they did at Celtic Park. Celtic will want to keep their momentum going after their equaliser from the penalty spot.
50 – Leverkusen is still attacking down Celtic’s right. Though, they have seemed to have countered the attacks with bodies around the right side.
53 – Vintage Joe Hart! Diaby sees his effort saved by his legs and follows that by springing himself to stop Adli from slotting the rebound. Magnificent from the Englishman.
55 – GOAL! It’s the danger man Jota, with a great finish into the corner. Hart key at both ends with an extraordinary pass to James Forrest. What follows is superb one-touch play, Frimpong nearly cut it out. But he slips, Kyogo tees up Jota who hits it first time wonderfully into the bottom right corner. Superb from the away side and they lead 2-1.
60 – Jota gallops away as Celtic look to break once more. He does well to hold up the ball and gets a foul for his hard work as he is shoved by Andrich.
63 – Juranovic again with another terrible pass and Wirtz is free, who found Diaby. However, Bitton slides in with a perfect tackle. Celtic let off the hook again.
67 – Kyogo was put through and Hradecky has to gamble which pays off. He shows magnificent anticipation to come off his line and sweep things up.
69 – Yellow Card and it’s trouble for Celtic. Carter-Vickers loses sight of Wirtz and has held him back. Referee Anastasios Sidiropoulos has no choice to caution the central defender and he will miss matchday six against Betis.
70 – Nil Bitton has gone down with substitutes Mikey Johnston and Liel Abada stripped and ready to come on in the meantime. James Forrest and potential match-winner Jota make way.
72 – Joe Hart. At it again. This time, it’s more straightforward as Adli drills one at him. The Celtic keeper parries over before easily gathering a header from the resulting corner.
75 – Nir Bitton is down again. His night is over. James McCarthy is on to replace the midfielder. Albian Ajeti also comes on, the striker is on for Kyogo. Leverkusen have also brought on Nadiem Amiri and Daley Sinkgraven for Paulinho and Piero Hincapie.
78 – Ajeti is involved instantly, he’s storming down on goal with possibilities right and left. He finds Mikey Johnston on the left, but the winger fails to get an effort away.
81 – GOAL! It’s Andrich again. Wirtz plays a great pass across to substitute Amiri. Amiri’s header finds Andrich who strikes it fiercely past Hart, through his legs. 2-2 and a goal that sees Leverkusen believe once again.
84 – Celtic have to be careful with their approach now. Attack and they are wide open. Defend and they allow Leverkusen to mount pressure. A defeat sees the Bhoys crash out of Group G.
86 – GOAL! Is that the goal that breaks Celtic hearts? Leverkusen is now 3-2 up. Amiri again finds Wirtz who lofts a lovely ball into the air for Diaby, who volleys it past a helpless Hart. That may do it for Die Werkself, the last 16 is just minutes away.
89 – Into the final minute of regular time and if Celtic do not grab a goal soon, their journey in the Europa League is over with a defeat approaching on German soil. Speaking of Germans, their golden boy Florian Wirtz comes off for Edmond Tapsoba.
91 – Leverkusen have a corner but they will surely eat the clock now, frustrating Celtic even more. They can’t get a kick of the ball.
93 – Celtic are searching for an equaliser but Abada’s pass to Carter-Vickers is intercepted. Celtic have given it all they got but it looks like it’s over.
96 – Ralston’s cross is glorious. It finds Turnbull who gets a touch but it’s remarkably saved by Hradecky. Celtic have a corner and it’s their last chance. Hart is up and rises…he can’t get a touch and the corner is dealt with.
Full-Time – The game is over! Ange Postecoglou’s men are out of the Europa League. Bayer Leverkusen advance to the last-16 after a nail-biting game which saw Diaby break Scottish hearts again.
That result sums up Celtic as a team. They can score goals but also concede plenty. In a game where they needed to defend consistently throughout, they were completely undone by a high-quality Leverkusen side at the end. The goal by Jota may have come too early, as the game was still open to shifting in favour of the opposition. A lesson there, perhaps, for the Conference League, when it comes to defending.
Celtic face Aberdeen this Sunday while Bayer Leverkusen travels to Leipzig for what could be an entertaining game between them and Jessie Marsch’s RB Leipzig at the Red Bull Arena, on Sunday afternoon.
That’s it from me, Girvane Bila. Hope enjoyed what was truly a thrilling encounter at the BayArena. Celtic did all they could in Germany. But in the end, they fail to win on their 13th attempt. Moussa Diaby broke Scottish hearts yet again and his winner sends Leverkusen through to the knockout phase.