Celtic are out of the Europa League after a late late show from Bayer Leverkusen, which featured two goals in the final ten minutes gave the hosts a dramatic 3-2 win. A classy Panenka penalty from Josip Juranovic and a brilliant counter-attack finished off by Jota had given Celtic an improbable lead which they held heading into the final ten minutes - but when they needed to be resolute, they crumbled.
Bayer, who sit fourth in the Bundesliga produced the quality in key moments with a brace from Robert Andrich, and it was left to Moussa Diaby to break Celtic hearts with a stunning volley. That result, on a thrilling night in Germany, makes it mathematically impossible for the Hoops to qualify for the knockout stages and also means that Leverkusen win the group.
Despite conceding three goals on the night, Joe Hart put in an outstanding display with several crucial saves but unfortunately for Postecoglou it wasn’t quite enough. Florian Wirtz's outswinging delivery was met by the onrushing Andrich, who glanced in a top class header at the near post to open the scoring. Disappointingly from a Celtic point of view, he was allowed to get a run and jump on the defenders which simply gave them no chance. For all of the hope and promise heading into this game, after just 15 minutes their task became an awful lot more difficult.
With Real Betis taking an early lead against Ferencvaros, the writing was on the wall for Postecoglou’s side who were under the cosh for the opening half an hour against a talented Bundesliga outfit, that currently lie fourth in their domestic league.
James Forrest and Jota on the wings were willing runners and attempted to get the visitors back into the game but Kyogo Furuhashi up front was struggling to get into the action, and was ruled offside when he got his first sniff of goal. The Japanese forward was then clattered by the goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky when attempting to get on the end of the cross and after a VAR review, a penalty was correctly awarded.
Having netted from the spot away at Real Betis in the first matchday, Juranovic pulled off the inch-perfect Panenka as he clipped his penalty off the underside of the bar and into the back of the net. Although that led to a period of calm, the home side nearly went back in front and hit the post twice in a matter of seconds.
First Diaby smashed a half volley from the right of the box past Joe Hart but it rebounded off the upright, before it fell to Wirtz from close range, but he saw his effort come off the other post. The Hoops rode their luck on that occasion, but they deserved the scores to be level as they went back into the dressing room at half-time.
Celtic were second best at the start of the second period and had to rely on their English goalkeeper to keep the scores level Joe Hart made a simply sensational double save as he first denied Diaby with his feet before somehow scrambling up from the floor to deny Amine Adli when it looked certain they were about to concede.
Hart then claimed a free-kick and picked out Forrest with an inch perfect kick - and he flicked the ball into the path of Nir Britton. The ball found its way to Kyogo who fed Jota in space and he thumped home a finish to cap a simply staggering counter-attack and put the visitors ahead. Instantly, there was real belief pouring out of the away end.
Adli found himself one and one with the former England keeper but was denied once more and yet - with less than ten minutes to go, Celtic’s hopes of a historic result evaporated. Andrich got his second of the night with a sweeping finish through the legs of the unfortunate Hart, whose individual performance did not warrant the scoreline.
Just a few minutes later, with a draw enough to take it to the final round of fixtures, Leverkusen hit the front. A sensational volley from the edge of the box from Diaby found the bottom corner and ended Celtic’s hopes of progress in the competition.
Meanwhile, West Ham secured top spot in Group H with a 2-0 win at Rapid Wien thanks to goals from Andriy Yarmolenko and Mark Noble. In the UEFA Conference League, Antonio Conte’s Tottenham had a nightmare of a night as Ryan Sessegnon was sent off in an injury-time 2-1 loss to Slovenia’s NS Mura - minnows that had not picked up a point in this competition before tonight.