Celtic have crashed out of the Champions League after conceding four times to CFR Cluj of Romania in a frantic game in Glasgow.

Neil Lennon’s side were 2-1 behind on aggregate at half-time thanks to Cirpian Deac’s header, but seemed to have turned the tie around with goals from James Forrest and Odsonne Edouard.

Billel Omrani’s penalty gave Cluj the lead on away goals with 16 minutes left, and although Ryan Christie forced the hosts in front, Omrani and George Tucudean struck to seal Celtic’s fate.

It means the Scottish champions now drop into the Europa League play-off round, where they will play Moldovans Sheriff Tiraspol or Stockholm side AIK, with the Swedes having won 2-1 away in the first leg last week.

Celtic reached the last 32 of that competition last season, having been knocked out at the same stage of the Champions League by AEK Athens.

‘Cluj exploited Celtic and grew amid chaos’

An abject night began with a selection by Lennon that had a few among the home support a tad perplexed. Callum McGregor, one of his most dynamic midfielders, was picked at left-back. Lennon said that he wanted as many “technicians” in his team as possible. What he needed was more resistance, more nous, more defensive discipline.

Lennon wanted McGregor and Olivier Ntcham on the field and the only way to do it was to pick the Scot in defence, he said. Of course the other theory is that his trust in his first-choice left-back, Boli Bolingoli, is not exactly complete. Regardless of the reason, McGregor played at the back and Celtic struggled their way through a testy opening half.

Cluj arrived with intent, physicality and pace up front. They pressed Celtic hard and fast and looked dangerous on the counter attack. When the heat came on them later on, they delivered big-time. A raucous stadium didn’t make them bat an eyelid. They grew amid the chaos. They exploited Celtic and all the acres of space they afforded them.

Cirpian Deac heads Cluj into a first half lead

The goal that brought collective palpitations to Celtic Park came just before the half hour. From an innocuous position, a throw-in on the left touchline, Cluj engineered the opener with an awful lot of help from their hosts. Omrani went up the wing, away from Scott Brown, and swung in a cross that should have been dealt with comfortably. Instead, McGregor let Deac get across him and the Romanian outjumped him and saw his header go in off Scott Bain’s left-hand post.

As it stood, Celtic were out of the Champions League, a fate that brought a mixture of anxiety and anger to the stadium. Celtic looked unsettled. Their supporters sounded furious, not (yet) at their team as such but at Mario Rondon who, having already picked up a yellow card, then thundered into Kristoffer Ajer without sanction.

‘Nightmarish night of violent turbulence’

A fascinating game only became ever more compelling. Celtic came back out for the restart with a lot more urgency: Ajer’s header getting cleared off the line one minute, Jozo Simunovic’s header saved the next. The game was madcap. A wide open, toe-to-toe slugfest.

The equaliser was greeted like a long lost son, McGregor blasting down the left before squaring to Edouard, who dummied deftly and let it run to Forrest. The winger was cool and clinical. Celtic Park erupted.

They upped it from there, Hatem Elhamed’s cross squeezing between the hapless Paulo Vinicius and Andonie Burca to Edouard, who put Celtic in front. Just over an hour had gone and Celtic drove on to get another. Christie lashed one wide as the home team appeared to be setting sail for the Champions League play-off round.

The violent turbulence of the night started to kick in. From a corner, the ball carried to the back post and Scott Brown handled. Penalty. The silence that descended on the place was something else. Omrani stood up and lashed it past Bain to make it 2-2. Once again, Celtic were going out.

Ryan Christie's goal appeared to have put Celtic through

But, no. Two minutes later it switched again when Edouard burst through on the left side of the box and slipped it across to Christie, arriving ahead of all others. Christie tapped it home. On this crazy night, Celtic were through again. And then they were out again.

Cluj were like a prizefighter, behind on points but still possessing the firepower for a knockout. Under the cosh for so long, they broke out and Constantin Paun, under little pressure, fired a shot on Bain’s goal. The goalkeeper flung himself away to his right and parried it, but when the ball broke free there wasn’t a Celtic man in sight. All of them were posted missing.

The one player who was where he needed to be was Omrani, who lashed his shot high past Bain to make it 3-3. Cluj were going through. Celtic tried to save themselves, but couldn’t. They had six added minutes but it only got worse. As they tried to get a winner they conceded a loser, George Tucudean making it 4-3 with the game’s last kick.

A nightmarish night for Celtic. Truly awful. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. A shot at the Europa League group stage is all that’s waiting for them now.

Man of the match – Billel Omrani

Omrani scored two and made one. Apart from that, he was a threat with his physicality and his pace. Celtic’s defence struggled with him periodically and when the ball broke loose in the game’s pivotal moment none of them were anywhere near him. He was the only man on the pitch alive to what was going on. More than anybody, Omrani was the one who did the damage.

Line-ups

Celtic

  • 29Bain
  • 33ElhamedBooked at 41mins
  • 35Ajer
  • 5Simunovic
  • 49Forrest
  • 8BrownSubstituted forBayoat 88′minutes
  • 21NtchamSubstituted forGriffithsat 83′minutes
  • 42McGregor
  • 17Christie
  • 22Edouard
  • 19JohnstonSubstituted forMorganat 75′minutes

Substitutes

  • 1Gordon
  • 2Jullien
  • 6Bitton
  • 9Griffiths
  • 10Bayo
  • 16Morgan
  • 23Bolingoli-Mbombo

CFR Cluj

  • 87ArlauskisBooked at 87mins
  • 16Susic
  • 55Vinícius De Souza
  • 3Burca
  • 45Malino Paulino
  • 37Bordeianu
  • 6Coimbra AurélioSubstituted forPaun Alexandruat 78′minutes
  • 8Djokovic
  • 10DeacBooked at 62mins
  • 9OmraniSubstituted forMuresanat 84′minutes
  • 99RondónBooked at 40minsSubstituted forTucudeanat 45′minutes

Substitutes

  • 5Sylla
  • 7Paun Alexandru
  • 12Vatca
  • 20Tucudean
  • 30Muresan
  • 77Peteleu
  • 92Cestor
Referee:
Andris Treimanis

Match Stats

Home TeamCelticAway TeamCFR Cluj
Possession
Home50%
Away50%
Shots
Home3
Away4
Shots on Target
Home3
Away4
Corners
Home0
Away0
Fouls
Home0
Away0

Live Text

Match ends, Celtic 3, CFR Cluj 4.

Full Time

Second Half ends, Celtic 3, CFR Cluj 4.

Goal!

Goal! Celtic 3, CFR Cluj 4. George Tucudean (CFR Cluj) right footed shot from the centre of the box to the centre of the goal. Assisted by Constantin Adrian Paun Alexandru.

Substitution

Substitution, Celtic. Vakoun Issouf Bayo replaces Scott Brown.

Booking

Giedrius Arlauskis (CFR Cluj) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

Substitution

Substitution, CFR Cluj. Andrei Muresan replaces Abdel Billel Omrani.

Substitution

Substitution, Celtic. Leigh Griffiths replaces Olivier Ntcham.

Goal!

Goal! Celtic 3, CFR Cluj 3. Abdel Billel Omrani (CFR Cluj) left footed shot from the centre of the box to the centre of the goal.

Substitution

Substitution, CFR Cluj. Constantin Adrian Paun Alexandru replaces Luís Aurélio.

Goal!

Goal! Celtic 3, CFR Cluj 2. Ryan Christie (Celtic) left footed shot from the centre of the box to the high centre of the goal. Assisted by Odsonne Edouard.

Substitution

Substitution, Celtic. Lewis Morgan replaces Michael Johnston.

Goal!

Goal! Celtic 2, CFR Cluj 2. Abdel Billel Omrani (CFR Cluj) converts the penalty with a left footed shot to the centre of the goal.

Booking

Ciprian Deac (CFR Cluj) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

Goal!

Goal! Celtic 2, CFR Cluj 1. Odsonne Edouard (Celtic) right footed shot from the centre of the box to the centre of the goal.

Goal!

Goal! Celtic 1, CFR Cluj 1. James Forrest (Celtic) right footed shot from the centre of the box to the centre of the goal. Assisted by Callum McGregor.

Second Half

Second Half begins Celtic 0, CFR Cluj 1.

Substitution

Substitution, CFR Cluj. George Tucudean replaces Mario Rondón.

Half Time

First Half ends, Celtic 0, CFR Cluj 1.

Booking

Hatem Elhamed (Celtic) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

Booking

Mario Rondón (CFR Cluj) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

Goal!

Goal! Celtic 0, CFR Cluj 1. Ciprian Deac (CFR Cluj) header from the centre of the box to the centre of the goal. Assisted by Abdel Billel Omrani.

Kick Off

First Half begins.

Lineups are announced and players are warming up.