Celtic’s Champions League campaign came to an end with a 5-1 defeat to a classy Real Madrid side in the Spanish capital.
The Scottish champions were comfortably beaten by a star-studded Real side who had cruised to a 5-0 lead before Jota took some consolation for the visitors with a well-struck free-kick to narrow the scoreline.
Luka Modric and Rodrygo scored early penalties before Josip Juranovic saw his spot-kick saved by Thibaut Courtois. Marco Asensio, Vinicius Junior and Federico Valverde all found the net before Jota pulled a goal back late on.
The result means Celtic finish the group with two points to show for their efforts, their lowest tally after six group games.
Manager Ange Postecoglou had a surprise in his starting line-up, naming Carl Starfelt for his first game since early September after he had recovered from a knee injury. The stopper came in for the injured Cameron Carter-Vickers to take on the job of handling Real’s dangerous attacking players.
Starfelt had barely had time to settle in when he and his teammates found themselves a goal down. Moritz Jenz was judged to have handled in the box just five minutes in and a VAR review confirmed the decision.
Up stepped Luka Modric and the experienced midfielder sent Joe Hart the wrong way, slamming his shot into the net.
Things went from bad to worse after twenty minutes. Another penalty for handball was awarded, Matt O@Riley the culprit this time, and Rodrygo took responsibility from the spot this time, choosing the opposite side from Modric and making no mistake.
Celtic were quickly given a chance to reduce the deficit and once again it was from the penalty spot. Liel Abada had raced down the right and into the box, panicking Ferland Mendy into a rash sliding challenge that caught the winger and saw another spot kick given.
Josip Juranovic stepped up but his powerful shot was at the right height for Courtois and the Belgian made a good save to deny the visitors.
Celtic continued to push forward looking for reward but Real were comfortable and always looking to exploit any space, though neither side could add to the scoreline before the break.
It took just six minutes after the restart for the hosts to extend their lead. Dani Carvajal had pressed forward from right-back and lifted a cut-back to the edge of the box that Asensio hit on the bounce, his controlled finish going past Hart’s reach and nestling into the corner of the net.
Madrid were fully in control and added to their tally again with twenty minutes to go. Valverde scored what may have been the goal of the night, sweeping a firmly hit shot from outside the box across Hart and inside the post.
Celtic were well beaten but did have one positive moment to come. Jota, who had come off the bench in the second half, sized up a free-kick just outside the box and curled a perfect shot round the wall and past Courtois.
Real progress to the knockout stages as group winners, while Celtic finish fourth in the group and return to domestic challenges and the task of qualifying for next year’s competition.
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