Bayer Leverkusen qualified for the UEFA Europa League last 16 knockout stage as Group G winners, after Florian Wirtz orchestrated a topsy-turvy win over Celtic.
Bayer Leverkusen 3-2 Celtic
Goals: 1-0 Andrich 16' (assist: Wirtz), 1-1 Juranovic (pen. 40'), 2-1 Jota 56' (assist: Kyogo), 2-2 Andrich 82' (assist: Amiri), 3-2 Diaby 87' (assist: Wirtz)
Celtic were outplayed in the reverse fixture, falling to a 4-0 defeat, and were on the back-foot for much of the first half at the BayArena. After Robert Andrich headed a Wirtz corner against the woodwork, the hosts were undone. The same duo combined from another set-piece to give Leverkusen a fully deserved lead, only for Celtic to hit back against the run of play through Josip Juranovic’s Panenka penalty. Bayer went desperately close to restoring their advantage on the stroke of half-time, though, with Moussa Diaby and Wirtz striking the crossbar in quick succession.
Leverkusen were desperately unlucky not to restore their lead nine minutes into the second half. Joe Hart stuck out a leg to deny Diaby’s curler, before scrambling across his line to thwart Amine Adli’s follow-up. Jota landed a sucker-punch to put Celtic in front, but Leverkusen stuck to their guns. Adli twice tested Hart, whose resistance was finally broken in the 82nd minute when Wirtz and substitute Nadiem Amiri set up Andrich for a thunderous finish. Diaby completed the comeback, the Frenchman volleying in the majestic Wirtz’s cross with three minutes of Leverkusen's penultimate Group G assignment remaining.
- Leverkusen have never lost at home in the Europa League group stage, winning 12 of their 15 matches, including the last six, in which they have scored 23 goals.
- Only Lyon's Karl Toko Ekambi (six goals, two assists) has had a direct hand in more goals than Wirtz (three goals, three assists) in this season's Europa League.
- Andrich scored his third Europa League goal, and first brace of his senior career.
- Wirtz and Diaby head the Europa League assist charts after five rounds of fixtures.
- Jeremie Frimpong made 51 appearances in all competitions for Celtic, before moving to Leverkusen in January.
- Celtic have never won a UEFA fixture on German soil.
Leverkusen: Hradecky (c) - Frimpong, Kossounou, Tah, Hincapie (Sinkgraven 85') - Palacios, Andrich - Diaby, Wirtz, Paulinho (Amiri 75') - Adli
Unused subs: Lomb, Lunev, Retsos, Tapsoba, Gedikli
Out: Alario (calf), Aranguiz (calf), Bakker (ankle), Baumgartlinger (knee), Demirbay (unconfirmed), Fosu-Mensah (knee), Schick (ankle)
Coach: Gerardo Seoane
Celtic: Hart - Ralston, Carter-Vickers, Welsh, Juranovic - Bitton (McCarthy 76') - Turnbull, McGregor (c) - Forrest (Abada 72'), Furuhashi (Ajeti 76'), Jota (Johnston 72')
Unused subs: Bain, Oluwayemi, Scales, Soro, Urhoghide, Shaw, Murray, Montgomery
Out: Dembele (ankle), Giakoumakis (knee), Jullien (knee), Rogic (hamstring), Starfelt (hamstring), Taylor (shoulder)
Coach: Ange Postecoglou
As it happened!
FULL-TIME: LEVERKUSEN 3-2 CELTIC
Leverkusen advance as Group G winners, with a game to spare. They did it the hard way, but were good value for all three points in the end. Wirtz, again, was majestic.
He's not had much to do, but Hradecky stands tall when he needs to, repelling Turnbull. That's surely that?!
TIME ADDED ON
Six minutes at the BayArena...
Superb goal - probably the best of the bunch. Wirtz cuts a cross back to the edge of the area, where Diaby connects on the volley to put Leverkusen back in front!
There's the goal the Bundesliga club deserve. Ralston's clearance lacks power. Wirtz loops it back into the danger zone for Amiri. He cuts it back, and Andrich fires through the legs of Hart from inside the box. Emphatic!
Joe Hart is keeping Celtic in this. The former England international dives full stretch to beat away another well-struck Adli effort.
Paulinho and Hincapie make way for Amiri and Sinkgraven. Looks like Seoane wants his men to get at Celtic right-back Ralston...
That's more like it as Adli stings the palms of Hart from 18 yards. Paulinho meets the ensuing corner from Wirtz, but can't beat the Celtic custodian. Bayer have the quality to go through the gears, and win this!
What will Seoane's response be to falling behind, and those fresh Celtic legs? His side haven't really got going in the second half.
Leverkusen are still top by virtue of their superior head-to-head record against Betis. Celtic are third, a point behind Group G's top two, meaning Bayer will have to wait until their final fixture against Ferenvaros to wrap up qualification - unless they can get a result here.
Celtic score with their second effort on goal. A long punt from Hart is helped on to Furuhashi in the box. Frimpong mistimes his lunge, and the Japanese forward has the simple task of picking out Jota for a routine finish past Hradecky. Leverkusen do not deserve this at all!
Celtic survive another huge scare as Hart pulls off a sublime double save from Diaby's well-hit effort and Adli's follow-up. It was Wirtz again with the pass to unlock the Celtic defence.
It's as you were at the start of the second half. Seoane has a pretty slim squad for this one, though it wouldn't be a surprise to see Nadiem Amiri on for Leverkusen at some point.
HALF TIME: LEVERKUSEN 1-1 CELTIC
Leverkusen are very unfortunate not to be ahead at the break. They're still top of Group G, though, and are going through to the last 16 with a game to spare...
TIME ADDED ON
Just 60 seconds at the BayArena...
OFF THE BAR!
Juranovic gets himself into a right mess on the edge of the Celtic area. Wirtz pounces and clips a ball into the path of Diaby, who thunders an effort against the crossbar. Wirtz is first to the follow-up, but his effort also finds the goal frame! Almost the perfect response from Leverkusen!
Hradecky dives to his right as Juranovic chips a penalty down the middle and off the crossbar to bring Celtic level.
GOAL!1 : 1
There's a lengthy VAR review following a collision between Leverkusen goalkeeper Hradecky and Celtic forward Kyogo. It's completely against the run of play, but the visitors have the chance to level...
Palacios will have to watch his step after being booked for a foul on Turnbull. It wouldn't be a surprise if he gets the hook at half-time, as a precaution.
Whenever Leverkusen attack, they look capable of doing some real damage. Celtic do not know what to do with the pace and directness of Diaby, Adli, Paulinho and Wirtz.
Celtic don't heed the warning. Wirtz's next corner finds the head of Andrich, and he makes no mistake with his glancing effort. Leverkusen going through as section winners, as things stand.
BAYER IN CHARGE
Strong start from Leverkusen. They're really getting at Celtic, and have already won a handful of corners. One such set-piece via the trusty right boot of Wirtz finds Robert Andrich, but he sends his header wide.
SEOANE WARY OF RESURGENT CELTIC
"We need to produce a good performance defensively, as a collective," commented Leverkusen's head coach prior to the contest. "We have to try and give away even less than last time. We want to control the game with possession and take our chances. We deserved that win because we were effective with our chance conversion and we showed conviction in the challenges. Now they're on a good run of results, they're cementing their approach to the game and are in a better rhythm."
WATCH: THE BEST OF FLORIAN WIRTZOnly Lyon's Karl Toko Ekambi (six goals, two assists) has had a direct hand in more goals than Florian Wirtz (three goals, one assist) in this season's Europa League. The 18-year-old Leverkusen man has also produced four goals and six assists across his 10 Bundesliga appearances so far this term.
WATCH: LEVERKUSEN 1-0 BOCHUMLeverkusen climbed to fourth in the Bundesliga with victory over Bochum on Saturday. Amine Adli's first Bundesliga goal decided matters, though Die Werkself could easily have scored a couple more.
Leverkusen have never lost at home in the UEFA Europa League group stage, winning 11 of their 14 matches, including the last five, in which they have scored 20 goals. Celtic, meanwhile, have never won a UEFA fixture on German soil, and have failed to score in nine of 12 matches away to Bundesliga opposition.
Leverkusen will confirm a last-16 berth if they avoid defeat, or if Real Betis lose. A draw would also secure Die Werkself a top-two finish, as would a defeat if Betis also lose at home to Ferencvaros in the group's other Matchday 5 fixture. Celtic will drop into the Europa Conference League, if they lose and Betis win.
LAST TIME OUTLeverkusen ran out comfortable 4-0 winners in Glasgow earlier in the campaign, with Florian Wirtz one of four different goalscorers for the Group G pacesetters.
© Getty Images
MORE ON THOSE TEAMS
Gerardo Seoane makes four changes to the side that beat Bochum 1-0 in the Bundesliga at the weekend. Defenders Odlion Kossounou and Piero Hicapie replace Edmond Tapsoba and Daley Sinkgraven respectively. Exequiel Palacios and Paulinho are also rotated in, with Kerem Demirbay unavailable and Nadiem Amiri among the substitutes. As for Celtic, James Forrest is preferred to Liel Abada in the only change to Saturday's Scottish League Cup semi-final win over St. Johnstone.
LEVERKUSEN STARTING LINE-UPS
Hradecky (c) - Frimpong, Kossounou, Tah, Hincapie - Palacios, Andrich - Diaby, Wirtz, Paulinho - Adli
Lomb, Lunev, Retsos, Amiri, Tapsoba, Sinkgraven, Gedikli
CELTIC STARTING LINE-UP
Hart - Ralston, Carter-Vickers, Welsh, Juranovic - Bitton - Turnbull, McGregor (c) - Forrest, Furuhashi, Jota
Bain, Oluwayemi, Scales, Ajeti, Abada, Soro, McCarthy, Johnston, Urhoghide, Shaw, Murray, Montgomery
UEFA Europa League Group G leaders Bayer Leverkusen will be confirmed as winners of this section, if they win tonight. They can also seal top spot with a draw, if Real Betis do not beat Ferencvaros. Stay tuned...