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Leverkusen down resilient Celtic to book last-16 in UEFA Europa League

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Berlin, Nov 26 (IANS) Robert Andrich’s brace helped Bayer Leverkusen progress into the round of the last-16 after overpowering Celtic Glasgow 3-2 in UEFA Europa League here.

The “Werkself” took the reins on home soil from the kick-off and caught a perfect start as Andrich headed home a corner kick from Florian Wirtz with 16 minutes played. Celtic responded well but couldn’t produce goal-scoring opportunities whereas the hosts ceased their offensive actions.

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Leverkusen’s passiveness got punished in the closing stages of the first half as goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky, who had nothing to do until then, was penalised for a foul play on Kyogo Furuhashi by the video assistant referee in the 40th minute.

Glasgow’s Josip Juranovic stepped up and chipped the penalty from the spot past Hradecky to level the scores out of the blue. Leverkusen tried to answer but the woodwork denied first Moussa Diaby and then Wirtz in quick succession just before the break.

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After the restart, Leverkusen grabbed the better start again but couldn’t take advantage of its half chances by Diaby and Amine Adli in the opening stages. To make things worse, Celtic turned the tide with its second shot on goal in the 56th minute when Joao Pedro Neves Filipe, known as Jota, finished off a counterattack into the bottom right corner to flabbergast the hosts, Xinhua reports. Leverkusen was shocked and couldn’t respond while the visitors focused on a fast break and lurked for their chances.

The hosts showed a sign of life in the 80th minute when Adli had all the time and space inside the box but shot into the arms of Celtic goalkeeper Joe Hart.

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Two minutes later, Leverkusen eventually restored parity as Nadiem Amiri teed up Wirtz’s cross for Andrich, who made no mistake and tapped home the equaliser from close range.

Things went from bad to worse for the visitors as Diaby benefitted from Wirtz’s second assist of the night after volleying the ball past hapless Hart to complete the comeback in the 87th minute.

Leverkusen remained dominant in the closing stages but for all that Hradecky had to be on guard to defuse David Turnbull’s dangerous effort in the dying seconds of the game.

With one round to spare, Bayer Leverkusen top Group G with 13 points followed by Betis (10 points), Celtic (6 points) and Ferencvaros (0 points).

–IANS

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