Celtic are still without a point in Europa League Group G as Bayer Leverkusen produced an impressive display to come away with a 4-0 victory at Parkhead on Thursday night.
The German side, who sit second in the Bundesliga, raced into a two-goal lead at the break as Piero Hincapie’s opener (25) following a slip by David Turnbull was added to by the exciting teenage prospect Florian Wirtz 10 minutes later as the visitors pounced on another mistake from Anthony Ralston.
Kyogo Furuhashi had seen two presentable opportunities pass him by with the game level as Lukas Hradecky kept out his effort while a piece of last-ditch defending from Jonathan Tah prevented a certain goal inside the opening minutes, but Leverkusen’s superiority and class eventually told.
Referee Marco Di Bello awarded them a second-half penalty when he adjudged Cameron Carter-Vickers to have handled from Paulinho’s shot with Lucas Alario tucking home the ensuing spot-kick (58) and there was still time for substitute Amine Adli to complete a routine victory with an emphatic finish in stoppage time (90 4).
The result means Celtic already find themselves in a difficult position to reach the Europa League knockout stages after two defeats in Group G, as Postecoglou turns his focus towards a huge Scottish Premiership encounter away to Aberdeen on Sunday, live on Sky Sports.
Celtic: Hart (7), Ralston (7), Starfelt (5), Carter-Vickers (5), McGregor (5), Rogic (6), Turnbull (5), Abada (6), Montgomery (6), Jota (6), Furuhashi (6).
Subs: Giakoumakis (n/a), Bitton (6), Ajeti (n/a), McCarthy (6).
Bayer Leverkusen: Hradecky (9), Frimpong (7), Tah (8), Hincapie (7), Bakker (7), Aranguiz (6), Demirbay (6), Diaby (7), Wirtz (8), Paulinho (7), Alario (7).
Subs: Retsos (n/a), Amiri (6), Schick (6), Adli (7), Bellarabi (7).
Man of the match: Lukas Hradecky.
Celtic’s rebuilding work laid bare
Postecoglou’s side have now won only two of their last eight games in all competitions, including a 4-3 defeat by Real Betis in their in their Group G match.
Celtic are in sixth place in the cinch Premiership, six points behind leaders Rangers and return to league duty at Aberdeen on Sunday and will be boosted by aspects of their performance and by having some key players back.
There was a lot of speculation around which of the Celtic players recovering from injury would start the game.
Hoops fans in a packed and noisy Parkhead were delighted to see the return of captain Callum McGregor and striker Furushashi with Greek striker Giorgos Giakoumakis, yet to make his debut, on the bench.
Celtic team news
Ange Postecoglou made three changes to his Celtic team and there was a huge boost with the return of Kyogo Furuhashi. He joined captain Callum McGregor and Adam Montgomery in the starting XI.
Josip Juranovic, James McCarthy and Albian Ajeti dropped out from the side which drew 1-1 with Dundee United.
Former Celtic right-back Jeremie Frimpong was in the Bundesliga side but striker Patrik Schick, who scored a double – including a wonder goal – for Czech Republic at Hampden Park in their opening Euro 2020 game, was among the substitutes.
The game burst into action. Within a couple of minutes Leverkusen striker Alario had the ball was in the back of the Celtic net after keeper Joe Hart had spilled a shot from Wirtz, only to be ruled offside.
Seconds later at the other end, Furuhashi sped into the box and rounded keeper Lukas Hradecky and set himself to stroke the ball into the empty goal but was robbed at the last second by defender Jonathan Tah before Hradecky made saves from Furuhashi and defender Carl Starfelt.
Hart had to be smart a close-range effort from Moussa Diaby but he had little chance when the German side took the lead.
Turnbull slipped near the byline which allowed Mitchell Bakker to cut the ball back for Hincapie to sweep the ball in from 16 yards despite the efforts of young left-back Adam Montgomery, also back in the side.
The Celtic defence was in disarray when Paulinho played in Wirtz who knocked the ball past Hart and into the net which left a very different complexion on matters.
Furuhashi tested Hradecky again at the start of the second half with a shot on the turn before the keeper made an even better save from Jota with winger Liel Abada missing the target with the follow-up shot.
A penalty shout when Frimpong knocked over Turnbull was ignored by referee Marco Di Bello but when the former Hoops defender drew a save from Hart with a drive, Paulinho’s shot from the rebound was judged to have hit the arm of defender Cameron Carter-Vickers.
Alario sent Hart the wrong way with the spot kick and the tie was effectively over.
Moments later, Hradecky brilliantly saved a header from Jota and Furuhashi hit the side netting with the rebound and another great chance was missed.
In the 74th minute, amid a glut of substitutions, Giakoumakis replaced Turnbull but it was Hart who had to make the next save, a header from Schick, who had also come on before Adil hammered in a fourth on the break. Now Celtic must regroup and get ready for the Dons.
Analysis: Leverkusen class shines through
Sky Sports’ Andy Walker:
“They’ve lost convincingly. It was a terrific start to the game, played at a really good pace and Celtic created a number of chances before they fell behind.
“There’s been some naivety from Celtic tonight in their defending especially, but take nothing away from Leverkusen. Their experience has shone through, although I thought the penalty was harsh on Cameron Carter-Vickers.
“Joe Hart has made a couple of saves tonight to keep the score down but having said that, Celtic are a team that makes chances, but for the Leverkusen goalkeeper. He’s made at least three terrific saves.
“An entertaining game but Celtic have lost quite convincingly.”
Sunday 3rd October 11:00am
Kick off 12:00pm
Celtic are back in Scottish Premiership action on Sunday when they visit Aberdeen, live on Sky Sports; kick-off 12pm. They will be back in Europa League action on Tuesday 19 October when they host Ferencvaros at 3.30pm.
Bayer Leverkusen face Arminia Bielefeld in the Bundesliga on Sunday, before traveling to Real Betis on Thursday 21 October in the Europa League.