RB Leipzig 2-0 Celtic: The Hoops fizzle out yet again in the Europa League
It’s all too easy to write a report on a Celtic game away in European competition (and has been so for a long time). That fateful night in Germany had all the familiar trappings: a strong start, growth in confidence, silly defensive mistakes and ultimately being usurped by technically superior opponents.
The doubleheader with RB Leipzig is vital to Celtic’s hopes of progression from the Europa League group stage but it’s the Bundesliga outfit who now hold the upper hand. Both sides were missing key players, with playmaker Emil Forsberg injured for the home side and captain Scott Brown unavailable for Brendan Rodgers.
Indeed, his starting line-up had many changes making it seem scarcely believable before kick off. Fringe players Cristian Gamboa, Lewis Morgan, Ryan Christie and Kouassi Eboue all found themselves as shock starters. They all lacked top-level European experience but to their credit, they started strongly. Eboue, in particular, was quite effective in central midfield.
Celtic survived early pressure from Leipzig and the Hoops looked settled in the first 30 minutes of the contest. Odsonne Edouard pulled a tight shot just wide after being played through by Morgan. Callum McGregor was thwarted by the heels of a Leipzig defender when running through on goal. However, that’s all that Celtic had to show for their first-half efforts.
In just 4 minutes, Leipzig took control of the game, scoring twice. First, a tame cross from the right was misjudged by both Eboue and Dedryck Boyata. The ball landed at the feet of Cunha, who blasted the ball past Craig Gordon.
The second also came from a needless defensive mistake, with the nervous Gamboa flying into a sliding challenge that was easily evaded by Marcelo Saracchi, who was then free to set up Bruma for an easy finish. Celtic were fortunate to make it to half-time with the same scoreline.
It speaks to the fragile mentality that has haunted the club for too long in Europe, especially away from Celtic Park. Too often, there seems a distinct lack of belief among the players and they fail to match up to the continent’s challengers sides.
Interestingly, both Leipzig and their previous opponents RB Salzburg, have had similar or lesser transfer budgets to work with. The solidity of Martin O’Neill’s team that made it to the UEFA Cup final in 2003, or even the workmanship of Gordon Strachan’s 2006-2008 vintage side who made it to the last-16 of the Champions League twice in succession, has evaporated and must be worrisome for Rogers.
The second-half contained little action of note. Celtic’s first shot on target finally arrived in the dying minutes when the disappointing Olivier Ntcham was wasteful with his tame effort.
As a result, Celtic are now 3 points behind Leipzig in 2nd place but, due to their terrible record in European away ties, have a vastly inferior goal difference. It means, therefore, that the return fixture in Glasgow is a must-win.