Celtic and Rangers defeated but Hoops get lucky and stay in Europe
Not for the faint-hearted – Gers are out and Celtic scrape through despite themselves. Pictures by Bill Heaney
By Bill Heaney
It’s a funny old game. Celtic scraped into the last 32 of the Europa League on a night of astonishing drama thanks to a late Rosenborg goal in Leipzig.
And Rangers went out, disappointingly beaten by a late goal from Dejan Ljubicic’s, which gave Rapid Vienna victory in Austria.
It was a terrible night for Celtic. Salzburg outclassed them. They lost Ryan Christie after a wild tackle left him with a serious leg injury.
And then to heap misery upon misery for the Parkhead faithful, goalkeeper Craig Gordon made a howler to let Frederick Gulbranson through on goal to roll the ball into an empty net.
With Celtic two-down to Salzburg – and Leipzig ahead – the below-par Scottish champions were heading out, until Rosenberg’s Tore Reginiussen’s shock equaliser four minutes from time.
The sports scribblers were already writing Celtic’s obituary by that time.
Olivier Ntcham, who replaced Christie, pulled a goal back at the death, scoring the rebound after missing a penalty, but it was Reginiussen’s late strike for the section’s bottom side that would prove pivotal.
Celtic lost Mikael Lustig who had to go off with a head knock after just 20 minutes.
Celtic were well below their recent form and their big players failed to turn up for this match, Rogic and Sinclair in particular.
Scott Brown came on for the second half but in truth he didn’t make much difference.
The Parkhead side finish their group campaign on nine points behind winners Salzburg, with the pair going into Monday’s last 32 draw at midday GMT.
Rangers failed to reach the last 32 of the Europa League after Dejan Ljubicic’s late winner gave Rapid Vienna victory in Austria.
Manager Steven Gerrard was completely scunnered by his team’s performance.
So much so that he didn’t hang around at the end and went straight up the tunnel to the dressing room.
Both sides found it the conditions difficult on a rutted pitch, but Rangers’ Connor Goldson struck the bar with a header.
Home goalkeeper Richard Strebinger saved from James Tavernier before substitute Ljubicic slid in the winner.
That secured a first win in four home games for Rapid, who finish as runners-up to Villarreal after the La Liga side beat Spartak Moscow 2-0 in Spain.
It was Rangers’ second defeat in 14 Europa League games and ends a journey that began in the first round of qualifying against Shkupi in July.
Celtic must be counting their blessings and praying hard that young Christie, the brightest star in their galaxy of young players, recovers quickly from what looked a terrible injury to his ankle.