Two second-half mistakes from Kolo Toure gifted Borussia Monchengladbach a Champions League victory at Celtic.
The visitors dominated the first half but Celtic held firm, and even passed up a good chance when Scott Sinclair sliced over from close range.
However, Lars Stindl drove in the visitors’ first goal after Andre Hahn robbed Toure of possession.
Hahn made it two when he raced past Toure to score following the Ivory Coast defender’s poor pass.
The Germans came here without some stellar names, most notably chief goalscorer Raffael and one of their most creative players, Thorgan Hazard. Both missed out through injury, a bout of misfortune Celtic would have hoped to exploit.
They were unable to. Too many Celtic players were out of sorts, in their passing, their concentration, their aggression. They were out-played and out-fought. Celtic were lucky to lose by only two goals.
Gladbach did something Manchester City could not when they were here a few weeks back – they kept Celtic down and kept their vast support largely hushed. If two of their most dangerous players were absent, they had others.
Ibrahima Traore, Tobias Strobl and, most tellingly, the excellent double act of Stindl and Hahn, moved it quickly and found space time and again. They got in behind their hosts and asked all sorts of questions.
Traore had a shot saved wonderfully by Craig Gordon, then Jonas Hofmann forced another stop from the Celtic goalkeeper. Just after, Hahn had a decent effort, then Strobl caused some bother.
Celtic could not hold on to the ball and could not do anything with the ball they kept. This was the polar opposite of the thrill-fest against Manchester City.
Gladbach’s dominance continued after the break. They were pacy and intelligent and far too much for Celtic. Eventually, they found their ruthlessness in front of goal, too.
Toure had a double meltdown. For the first, he tried to see a ball out for a goal-kick only to be ransacked of possession by Hahn, who managed to scramble a pass to Stindl, who shot past Gordon.
Later, after Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers had made his move by bringing on Leigh Griffiths to play alongside Moussa Dembele, Gladbach scored again. Toure gave it away and Hahn took advantage, motoring through on the Celtic goal and finishing brilliantly.
Given that Gladbach were missing four key first-team players, this was Celtic’s chance to secure a precious victory, a win that would have put them in the box seat for a third-place finish in the group – and Europa League football beyond Christmas.
That hope is withering now. Celtic’s away record in Europe is horrendous, and when Celtic go to Germany the probability is their hosts are going to have their injured men fit again. If they cannot beat a diminished Gladbach in Glasgow, what chance of overturning this loss on the road?
After the giddy highs of that classic against Manchester City, this was a return to sobriety for Rodgers’ team.
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