Celtic guarantee European progression with win
Celtic ensured they will continue in European competition after Christmas with a dramatic 3-2 Europa League win over Ferencvaros in Hungary.
Ange Postecoglou’s men are now guaranteed a spot in the next round of the Europa Conference League at the very least should they finish third in Group G, but are now only a point behind second-placed Real Betis after their second win in as many games.
They took an early lead in Hungary when Kyogo Furuhashi made and scored the opener from 12 yards inside three minutes, but were soon pegged back through a cruel deflection on Oleksandr Zubkov’s cross from Josip Juranovic.
Benfica loanee Jota again showed his class to restore Celtic’s advantage midway through the opening period, beginning on the touchline before driving inside and beating Adam Bogdan from 25 yards.
Liel Abada seemingly put the game beyond doubt on the hour but Celtic, determined to do things the hard way, gave Myrto Uzuni too much space to give Ferencvaros hope with a long-range curler four minutes from time.
It proved only a consolation as the visitors held on for victory, and knowing two wins from their final two games would extend their Europa League campaign into the new year.
Back-to-back wins pull Celtic back from brink
Celtic, whose fans were locked out by Covid rules, were booed for taking the knee before kick-off but they silenced the home fans inside three minutes.
Abada won the ball when pressing high up the park and squared for Furuhashi, who fooled a sliding defender by feigning to shoot with his right foot before slotting home with his left.
Stephen Welsh had replaced the injured Carl Starfelt in Celtic’s starting line-up and overcame a difficult start when he slipped before making a recovering tackle, and was then booked for catching Zubkov’s face with the palm of his hand.
Abada also played a part in the 11th-minute equaliser, giving the ball away in front of the 18-yard line. The home side worked it across to Zubkov, whose attempted cross was closed down by Juranovic only for the ball to loop over Joe Hart and into the far corner.
Celtic regained the lead in the 23rd minute, seconds after Hart had saved an angled drive from Eldar Civic. Callum McGregor carried the ball forward and his pass was helped on to Jota by David Turnbull before the Portuguese winger cut inside and fired in off a defender and the post from 22 yards.
Hart made a stop after Uzuni got in behind Cameron Carter-Vickers but Celtic looked the likelier team to add to the first-half scoring with Turnbull coming closest with a long-range effort that was held by former Hibernian goalkeeper Bogdan.
Both sides hit the bar in the early stages of the second half, Tokmac Nguen with a swerving long-range effort for the hosts and Anthony Ralston with a header from Turnbull’s free-kick.
Furuhashi was denied by an excellent goal-line clearance after racing on to Turnbull’s through ball before setting up Abada for Celtic’s third on the hour mark.
Turnbull started the move by winning the ball back near the halfway line and McGregor then fed Furuhashi. The Japan international threaded the ball inside the home left-back and Abada dispatched a perfectly-placed finish inside the far post.
Postecoglou swapped his front three and James McCarthy came on for the injured Nir Bitton as the tempo dropped.
The home side set up a thrilling finale when Uzuni produced a brilliant curling finish after substitute Mikey Johnston had lost the ball.
Welsh also went off injured and Liam Scales came on to help Celtic over the line.
What the manager said…
Celtic boss Ange Postecoglou told BT Sport: “Our objective was to get three points and keep us alive in the group.
“It’s all credit to the players, I thought we played really well and scored three great goals and could have had more.”
Celtic’s trip to Dundee is live on Sky Sports Football from 12pm on Sunday; kick-off at 12pm.