The pre-match atmosphere was electric as the 55,000 spectators at Celtic Park not only sang "You'll never walk alone" but also produced an impressive piece of choreography. A great introduction to a great night from the Werkself perspective.
And the opening minutes on the pitch were no less spectacular. Less than 60 seconds into the game, Bayer 04 in the shape of Kerem Demirbay and Florian Wirtz twice tested the Celtic goalkeeper Joe Hart. After the keeper parried the second shot, Lucas Alario was on hand to head in the rebound but he was in an offside position. The Argentinian started up front in place of Patrik Schick and, compared with the 1-0 win against Mainz, Paulinho and Piero Hincapie were in the starting line-up in place of Karim Bellarabi and Odilon Kossounou – it was the first start for Hincapie for Bayer 04.
His fellow central defender Jonathan Tah made the first crucial intervention in defence: The Celtic striker Kyogo Furuhashi was already past Lukas Hradecky with an empty net in front of him but our central defender prevented a certain goal with an outstanding sliding tackle (2') – a great challenge, Jona! Shortly after that, Callum McGregor fired a shot over the target from distance – the first three minutes contained more highlights than many games do over the full distance. The intensity remained high on the atmospheric stage with Mitchel Bakker having to be treated early on after a crunching tackle from an opponent, and Tomas Rogic hit a shot on the turn over the bar (15').
There was end-to-end action with the hosts initially posing the greater threat – and Hradecky had to pull off a great save following on from Tah: A quick Celtic attack ended with Furuhashi clean through but this time he was denied by excellent reactions from the Werkself skipper (19') and the Finn also pulled off a spectacular save from the following corner to keep out a shot from Carl Starfelt that was heading for the top corner (20') – two sensational saves from our number one.
The first good chance of the Werkself came from an outstanding Wirtz pass to Moussa Diaby who was denied by Hart rushing out (24'). Bayer 04 then took the lead from the ensuing corner: Celtic defended the set piece and the second wave of the attack but David Turnbull made a momentous slip-up in his own penalty area bringing the alert Bakker into play. The Dutchman broke to the byline and pulled the ball back for Hincapie who hit his shot into the far corner. Adam Montgomery intercepted the ball before the line but was unable to prevent the unavoidable – the first goal in his first start for our new signing from Ecuador (25').
The goal gave Bayer 04 visible security and the Werkself went on to make their mark on the game – and soon doubled the lead: Paulinho came down the left flank and showed great vision. From the left side of the penalty area, our Brazilian played a perfect pass to Wirtz in the penalty area and the youngster was able to round off this outstanding move from close range to make it 2-0 (35').
The second half started like the first: with a spectacular incident after just a few seconds. Once again, Hradecky was called on to show his full ability as he kept a shot on the turn from Furuhashi that was heading into the top corner (46'). Equally impressive was a flying save by the Finn to keep out a powerful long-range effort from Jota (51') – our captain was having a brilliant game. The great interventions from the Werkself keeper also reflected a strong start to the second 45 by the hosts with Turnbull unable to convert a good chance from a free kick (55').
In the middle of this pressure from the Scots, the Werkself hit again: Jeremie Frimpong had the afterburners on at his old stamping ground as he broke through into the penalty area forcing Hart to make an impressive save. The rebound landed at the feet of Paulinho and his shot was blocked by the upper arm of Cameron Carter-Vickers. The referee Marco di Bello pointed to the spot – and Alario did not miss out on this opportunity: The Werkself striker slotted the ball into the left corner of the net to make it 3-0 (58').
Celtic refused to give up and the Scots came very close to replying straightaway – but Hradecky intervened again: The outstanding shot-stopper was unbeatable on the night pulling off a great stop to keep out a header from Jota with the follow-up effort from Furuhashi hitting the outside of the net. The Werkself did have more space for their own attacks. Another great sprint from Frimpong ended with Alario firing the ball over the top in a central position (68').
The scorer of the third goal was then replaced by Schick – and he also had a great chance. This time it was Hart who pulled off a brilliant save to keep out a powerful header from the Czech (77'), and Schick hit another shot over the bar late on (86'). The game was already decided at this point. Celtic were unable to maintain the tempo from the opening phase of the second half and Hradecky was no longer required to pull off outstanding saves.
Instead, another Werkself sub shone in added time: Bellarabi was first kept out with a great reaction save from Hart but then Amine Adli came up trumps: After energetic work from fellow substitute Nadiem Amiri, the French new signing received the ball on the edge of the box and fired an unstoppable shot past Hart into the roof of the net. It was his first goal in a Werkself shirt – and also the final action of a completely successful away trip (90+4').
The Werkself have the maximum six points from the first two matches in the Europa League – as do Real Betis who won 3-1 in Budapest. The two teams meet in Sevilla on 21 October. The next action is in the Bundesliga on Sunday, 3 October (kick-off: 19.30 CEST) with an away game at Armenia Bielefeld.
Celtic: Hart - Ralston, Carter-Vickers, Starfelt, Montgomery - Turnbull (Giakoumakis 74’), McGregor (McCarthy 66’) - Abadi, Rogic (Bitton 66’), Jota - Furuhashi (Ajeti 74’)
Bayer 04: Hradecky – Frimpong, Tah, Hincapie, Bakker – Aránguiz (Amiri 65’), Demirbay – Diaby (Bellarabi 65’), Wirtz (Adli 74’), Paulinho (Retsos 79’) – Alario (Schick 74’)
Goals: 0-1 Hincapie (25’), 0-2 Wirtz (35’), 0-3 Alario (58’, pen.), 0-4 Adli (90+4’)
Booked: Rogic, Carter-Vickers - Bakker
Referee: Marco di Bello (Italy)
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