Matthew Marshall, BayArena – Bayer Leverkusen scored two late goals to beat Celtic 3-2 at the BayArena, securing top spot in Group G and ending the Hoops’ hopes in the Europa League. Robert Andrich opened the scoring before Josip Juranovic’s equalised from the penalty spot.
Jota sent the Scottish club ahead after the break, but they couldn’t hold on with the Werkself scoring twice in the final 10 minutes. Andrich bagged his brace in the 82nd minute, Moussa Diaby firing past Joe Hart five minutes later.
Florian Wirtz was involved in all three of Leverkusen’s goals and Jota scored his fourth goal in three matches for Celtic, but they were both overshadowed by Andrich who stole the show with a rare brace.
Class apart early on
Bayer Leverkusen made all the running early on and sent an ominous warning 10 minutes in when Robert Andrich headed Florian Wirtz’s corner over the bar. The hosts were looking dangerous, Jeremie Frimpong enjoying a lot of space down the right wing.
Celtic hadn’t learned their lesson and went behind in the 16th minute when Wirtz sent another corner into the danger area, Andrich rising above Stephen Welsh and heading the ball past Joe Hart.
The Scottish club were too static and finding it hard to find players in space. They were given a lifeline in the 37th minute.
Jota’s dangerous ball into the box was headed away by Jonathan Tah, but Lukás Hrádecky’s attempt to punch the ball only resulted in the keeper punching Kyogo Furuhashi in the head.
Referee Anastasios Sidiropoulos consulted the touchline monitor and awarded a penalty that Josip Juranovic converted with a panenka off the underside of the bar.
Leverkusen went desperately close to retaking the lead before the break. Moussa Diaby smashed a shot off the woodwork, the ball eventually falling to Wirtz who saw his shot hit the outside of the post.
Celtic finished the first half strong, buoyed on by their boisterous home support who were in fine voice.
Bayer Leverkusen started the second half strong and should have retaken the lead. Wirtz released Diaby who raced clear, forced a save from Hart with Amine Adli looking certain to score, but his heavy touch allowed Hart to recover and make a miraculous save on the goal line.
Minutes late Celtic made them pay. A tremendous team move looked to have broken down with Nir Bitton’s poor pass, but Frimpong slipped, the ball finding Jota who unleashed a powerful left footed shot into the bottom corner.
Leverkusen soon regained control, going close with Adli’s shot tipped over the bar and Paulinho heading the resulting corner at Hart. Adli had a great chance in the 80th minute but Hart was equal to the task, deflecting the ball over the bar.
The Werkself wouldn’t be denied however, and were rewarded with the equaliser two minutes later.
Wirtz’ long ball found Nadiem Amiri on the touch line, he cut the ball back to Andrich who fired a fierce shot through Hart’s legs. Five minutes later the comeback was complete.
Wirtz was afforded to much time and space in the box, he picked out Diaby who volleyed into the bottom corner. Celtic had one last chance in added time, Anthony Ralston’s cross finding David Turnbull, his shot tipped wide by Hrádecky.
Andrich steals the show
Robert Andrich has built a reputation as an enforcer in the middle of the park, but he is showing that there is much more to his game than aggression and unsettling opposition players.
The 27-year-old has shown an ability to score important goals for his new club, netting late equalisers late against Real Betis, Hertha Berlin, and following it up against Celtic with a rare brace.
Andrich is looking settled in Leverkusen and beginning to become an important part of Gerardo Seoane’s starting side.