Thursday, December 1, 2022

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Celtic 0-2 RB Leipzig: Timo Werner’s header and Emil Forsberg’s goal seal the Germans’ victory

Long before the referee’s last shrill whistle pierced the night air, a sense of acceptance enveloped Celtic Park.

The final stages of the Champions League remain taboo for Ange Postecoglou, at least for the time being.

While Australia’s men couldn’t be faulted over the course of their first four games, they lacked experience at this extremely unforgiving level.

Too many missed opportunities. Too many errors. Not enough ice in her veins. You must have this experience and try to go there again next year.

Once again there was much to admire in the way Celtic prevailed at this level, but it wasn’t long enough to really worry the Champions League group stage regulars they faced here.

Since beating Ajax nine years ago, the quest for a home win in this competition has continued and you wouldn’t bet on it ending anytime soon.

Like Germany last week, Postecoglou’s men had to reflect on how ruthless that level is compared to what they experience most weeks.

A point from four games seems like a meager reward for their efforts, but it’s not a losing streak either. This competition just eats you up and spits you out.

They’re not out of the running to break into the Europa League, but even that now looks like a long shot.

A win against Shakhtar Donetsk next time in Glasgow is now non-negotiable. They will also demand something from the last game in Madrid. Stranger things have happened. But not many.

Postecoglou felt home field advantage could play a big part in ensuring his side maintained a positive attitude no matter what came their way.

You couldn’t have asked for more. The stadium was previously a place of sound and light, the cacophonic noise that surrounded it a life force of its own.

They needed all the help they could muster. After the absence of Cameron Carter-Vickers in Leipzig, Celtic had to do without skipper Callum McGregor with a knee injury suffered there and wing star Jota with muscle problems.

It was another extraordinary night for the press and counter-press. The kind of game that was exhausting to watch, let alone participate in.

The risks both sides took wouldn’t have looked out of place in a high roller room in Las Vagas. It was engaging stuff.

While Celtic hopped forward from the start, Daizen Maeda Liel Abada’s cross flashed inches wide.

Leipzig’s defenders often looked encircled in these early skirmishes. They reverted to long diagonals, a tactic executed with the utmost precision.

In no time at all, David Rahm stormed forward and crossed to Dominik Szoboszlai. Somehow, the Hungarian managed to kick the ball over the far post when the net was sure to buckle.

Leipzig were smarter and smarter than Celtic when the game settled down, but only marginally.

A heavy touch from Sead Haksabanovic led to a weak tackle from Matt O’Riley. To Postecoglou’s relief, Amadou Haldara’s shot was deflected into the air and eventually into Joe Hart’s arms as the visitors fired forward.

Carter-Vickers made a rare misjudgment as he lunged at Andre Silva 40 yards away to let Leipzig in. Moritz Jenz drove to the rescue by blocking Timo Werner’s drive.

When the Germans advanced in numbers, malice and menace hung in the air. Celtic had to work like dervishes to scurry back and undo them. The importance of Jenz’s recovery speed was underlined.

By the middle of the first half, Postecoglou’s men had gained a foothold. Greg Taylor sent Haksabanovic away with an early shot from the midfielder which was fumbled around the post by Janis Blaswich.

O’Riley hit the post from 20 yards with a smoking low strike, and Taylor immediately headed the bar.

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