Brilliant Joe Hart, still much improvement to be made; 3 things we learned as Celtic beaten by Leverkusen
Celtic went to Leverkusen, a city nestled in the Eastern bank of the Rhine, with no interest in seeing the local sights.
The Bhoys knew that losing would mean no more Europa League football this season. Yes, there’d still be a job to do against a talented Real Betis side, but an unlikely win tonight would’ve made things much brighter.
Fine; the Europa Conference League is secured. But try telling Ange Postecoglou to settle for his lot.
Postecoglou made his agenda clear. He and Celtic had no interest in being conservative, shutting up shop and letting Bayer Leverkusen take control. In the end, it almost worked to an absolute T. Almost.
Celtic were fantastic for most of tonight. Rather than let the heads go down at 1-0, the Hoops pressed Leverkusen relentlessly, caused problems for the Bundesliga side and nearly, so nearly, came away with their first win on German soil.
Until, of course, they didn’t. Celtic conceded two soft late goals and undid all the hard work that came before.
A horrible result to take; and it’ll be up to Postecoglou to lift the spirits.
The manager can be proud of his approach and his players, but what next for this Celtic team?
What did we learn from a gutting night for Celtic in Leverkusen?
Brilliant Joe Hart so unfortunate to be on losing side
Joe Hart made two brilliant interventions tonight.
The first was when, after denying a chance with his legs, he immediately got up to swipe the ball from French striker Adli.
It was absolutely remarkable from the former England keeper. He had microseconds to react. Yet, he didn’t just save it, he grasped the ball in his hands when a goal looked inevitable.
Then, his quick release to James Forrest set up the second goal. It was a brilliant long delivery; not the orthodox under Postecoglou, but a heads-up reaction to Celtic outnumbering Leverkusen at the back.
Joe Hart was absolutely phenomenal tonight. With 75 caps, you’d give a penny for Gareth Southgate’s thoughts about the Celtic shot-stopper tonight.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t a whole lot he could do about Bayer’s second and third. He didn’t deserve to be on the losing side tonight.
Postecoglou’s approach for Celtic against Leverkusen was spot on despite defeat
Ange Postecoglou, tactically and mentally, got the majority of this game spot on.
The heads didn’t go down at 1-0. For vast swathes of this game, Celtic were the better team, and there was a huge sense of justice when the Bhoys went 2-1 up, via Jota.
Coming from a goal down showed the huge improvements Celtic have made under Ange Postecoglou. In times before, it would’ve been the kind of heavy defeat we saw at Celtic Park. Instead, the Hoops battled for everything, and were so close to being rewarded.
There were excellent performances across the board. From the aforementioned Hart to Kyogo, via Nir Bitton, the spine of the team was integral to what ought to have been a Celtic win.
Having a go at these sides is the right thing to do. It’s a tough result to take, but it’s a sign of the immense progress Celtic are making.
Extra Bayer Leverkusen quality shows against Celtic; improvements needed
Ultimately, Bayer Leverkusen had the strength in their ranks to overcome the Celtic defence.
We knew how good this team were. There was a sense of disbelief, among fans anyway, that we’d engineered a 2-1 lead, and hope we’d see it out. But Leverusen could rely on players like Florian Wirtz and Moussa Diaby to make the difference.
Ultimately, we’re not quite at that elite level in the Europa League. Not yet. But in a night of utter drama, Leverkusen had to throw everything at us.
This Celtic side will get a lot stronger. And while yes, it’s a bitterly disappointing result in many senses, with Celtic out of the Europa League, we knew this game would be a benchmark, against high-quality opposition.
It was looking so good. But extra quality showed.