UEFA Champions League: Celtic end group with rout at hands of Real Madrid
Celtic ended a frustrating Champions League campaign in grim fashion as Real Madrid handed out a rough lesson to claim victory and top Group F.
The Scottish champions were 2-0 down after 21 minutes as Luka Modric and Rodrygo converted penalties awarded for handball in a brutal opening.
Josip Juranovic then missed a spot-kick for Celtic, and that seemed a distant memory when Marco Asensio, Vinicius Junior, and Federico Valverde made it a rout for the defending champions, even though Jota netted a late free-kick.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side turned on the style in the second half against an increasingly tired and open Celtic, who finish bottom of the section with two points and no wins in their six matches.
Real, though, march on in their quest for a 15th European title having earned the win that guarantees top spot in the group.
With two points from five matches, Celtic knew not even a famous win would extend their stay in Europe, but their fans still travelled in hope, with far more than the official 1848 allocation seemingly inside the Bernabeu.
The wind was taken out their sails with just four minutes on the clock. In attempting to block Valverde’s tame shot, Moritz Jenz got himself in an awful twist and handled the ball. Modric showed his customary coolness to slot home.
The visitors responded well, fashioning decent openings for Kyogo Furuhashi and Reo Hatate, but neither could trouble Thibaut Courtois in the Real goal.
In fact, the trouble was about to deepen for Celtic. Rodrygo’s strike struck the arm of Matt O’Riley – not quite as clearly as the Jenz incident – but the outcome was the same. Penalty to Real and this time Rodrygo did the honours.
Vinicius Junior missed an absolute sitter just a minute later as Real threatened to run away with it in the opening half-hour.
Celtic had to get up the pitch and did so to great effect as Hatate robbed the ball to allow Daizan Maeda to put Kyogo through, but Courtois stood tall, and was equal to Hatate’s piledriver from the edge of the box moments later.
Then a huge chance for Celtic. Liel Abada’s surge to the bye-line was checked by a foul by Ferland Mendy. A third penalty in a crazy first half, but Courtois foiled the Scottish champions again, diving to his right to push away Juranovic’s spot-kick.
Six minutes after the break, Real put the game beyond whatever little doubt still existed with their third goal. Dani Carvajal ghosted to the bye-line and his sliding cross teed-up Asensio to fire past Joe Hart.
Vinicius Junior added another after stealing ahead of Carl Starfelt to flash in a teasing Valverde cross before Real summoned Ballon D’or winner Karim Benzema from the bench on his return from injury.
The Madridistas were enjoying themselves and Valverde added to that – and piled further pain on the visitors – when he curled a gorgeous effort beyond Hart and into the net.
The Celtic fans could be forgiven for begging for the final whistle, but Jota gave them something to cheer when he curled a wonderful free-kick past Courtois.
It was a lovely moment for the Portuguese winger and gave the visiting supporters something to cheer, but it was no more than a consolation on a night when the gulf between the champions of Scotland and the champions of Europe was laid bare.