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Celtic’s European adventure ends with away loss to Lazio

Celtic’s head coach Brendan Rodgers during the Champions League, group E, soccer match between Lazio and Celtic at Rome’s Olympic stadium, Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Celtic’s head coach Brendan Rodgers during the Champions League, group E, soccer match between Lazio and Celtic at Rome’s Olympic stadium, Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Celtic crashed out of Europe for the season after a late double by super substitute Ciro Immobile gave Lazio a 2-0 Champions League win in Rome.

The Hoops went into the make-or-break game with one point from four Group E matches but gave as good as they got for most of the game before the home side’s veteran attacker struck in the 82nd and 85th minute to sink the Scottish champions.

To rub salt in the Celtic wounds they were awarded a penalty by Halil Umut Meler in added time for a push on substitute Oh Hyeon-gyu but it was overturned when VAR intervened and sent the referee to the pitchside monitor for another look.

Celtic remain bottom of the section and cannot catch Lazio, Atletico Madrid or Feyenoord.

Brendan Rodgers’ side play the Rotterdam team in their final tie at home next month but that will be their European swansong for another season.

The Hoops travelled to Rome knowing they needed a win to keep hope of progression in Europe alive.

Rodgers had stressed the importance of keeping 11 players on the field after having three players sent off in their two away games – Gustaf Lagerbielke and Odin Thiago Holm in the 2-0 defeat against Feyenoord and Daizen Maeda in the first half of their 6-0 thrashing in Madrid, with the latter and Luis Palma suspended.

Right-back Alistair Johnston, midfielder Paulo Bernardo and veteran winger James Forrest returned against a Lazio side whose coach Maurizio Sarri was under some pressure after defeat to bottom side Salernitana at the weekend saw them drop to 11th in Serie A.

Italy Soccer Champions League
Goalkeeper Joe Hart did not have a lot to do in the first half (Alessandra Tarantino/AP)

The visitors made a decent fist of the first half without threatening too much, although after just four minutes Lazio keeper Ivan Provedel had to deal with a drive from Hoops striker Kyogo Furuhashi.

However, the best chance of the first half fell to Lazio’s Brazil international Felipe Anderson, who missed the target with a close-range header from a Matteo Guendouzi cross which ought to have tested Hoops keeper Joe Hart.

Furuhashi almost capitalised on some Lazio indecision in the penalty area between Provedel and defender Mario Gila before the Italian side got the ball to safety.

Both sides enjoyed spells of possession but neither keeper was properly tested again before the break.

Italy Soccer Champions League
Celtic’s Yang Hyun-jun, left, challenges Adam Marusic for possession (Alessandra Tarantino/AP)

Lazio started the second half with increased tempo but in the 49th minute Furuhashi flashed a shot across the far post on a Celtic break before Yang Hyun-jun headed a Forrest delivery back across goal trying to find Furuhashi when he might have tried to get it on target.

Meanwhile, Taty Castellanos twice headed over the bar at the other end and Gustav Isaksen squeezed a shot past the far post after a clever break into the Celtic box.

Immobile and Pedro Rodríguez came on for Anderson and Castellanos with Forrest making way for Mikey Johnston with striker Oh soon coming on for Bernardo to support Furuhashi.

The game began to heat up at both ends.

Italy Soccer Champions League
Ciro Immobile broke the deadlock in the closing stages of the contest (Alessandra Tarantino/AP)

Lazio captain Luis Alberto lofted a shot over the bar with 10 minutes remaining but when Isaken’s drive was deflected into the path of Immobile he gleefully knocked it past Hart.

Minutes later, later, the Italy international outmuscled Liam Scales, turned inside Cameron Carter-Vickers and slotted in from close range again.

Italy Soccer Champions League
Immobile doubled the lead soon after (Alessandra Tarantino/AP)

There was more drama in the three added minutes when Celtic were awarded a penalty for a Patric push on Oh but after being directed to his monitor, the Turkish official changed his mind and a chance of a consolation was gone.

Now, it is time again for Celtic to reflect on another European disappointment.