Ewan Henderson scored with his first touch off the bench to put Celtic 2-1 upA much-changed and youthful Celtic ended their Europa League group campaign on a high with a dramatic home win over Spain’s Real Betis.
Already bound for the Conference League in February, manager Ange Postecoglou changed his entire starting team but they took an early lead through Stephen Welsh’s header.
Betis levelled twice following a spell of three goals in five minutes – including Ewan Henderson’s strike with his first touch – before David Turnbull’s decisive penalty.
Amid a run of seven games between now and 3 January, Postecoglou had rested his first-choice side but was forced to bring on Kyogo Furuhashi after 25 minutes when Albian Ajeti was removed with a muscle injury.
Crucially the Japanese forward was himself forced off after the break, while Nir Bitton and Osaze Urhoghide both managed to stay on despite clashing heads.
Celtic don’t have depth – PostecoglouReaction & as it happenedCeltic will now face one of eight second-place sides in the Conference League for the chance to play in the last-16 of Uefa’s new third-tier club competition, with Bayer Leverkusen and Betis having already sealed the top two spots in Group G.
Manuel Pellegrini made nine alterations to the Betis side who won at Barcelona at the weekend, but they still possessed greater quality and experience than a raw Celtic, who included debutants Osaze Urhoghide and Liam Shaw, with Liam Scales making his first start.
After Welsh flicked home Liel Abada’s corner for the opener, the visitors’ quality gradually began to tell as Diego Lainez went close, before stand-in goalkeeper Scott Bain denied Cristian Tello and Joaquin.
But they only managed to haul themselves level in the 69th minute when Borja Iglesias’ low shot was tipped on to a post by Bain, before ricocheting back off the Celtic keeper and into the net.
It was unlucky, but despite failing to qualify Celtic have not been short of goals in their group campaign, and responded three minutes later through 21-year-old Henderson, who tapped home Mikey Johnston’s cross just after replacing Kyogo.
Iglesias – who was outstanding for Betis – calmly slotted past Bain when played clean through for an almost instant reply, only for Edgar Gonzalez to bundle over Liel Abada in the box as he streaked through on goal.
Turnbull – one of the 11 players rested from the starting XI – tucked away the resulting spot-kick for the winning goal, but there was still plenty of time for more drama.
First Johnston had a goal disallowed for offside, before the visitors passed up a gilt-edged chance to snatch a draw.
Nine minutes of stoppage time were added due to the head clash between Bitton and Urhoghide, and with one minute of it left Juanmi inexplicably headed into the ground and off the bar from three yards out.
Bitton stood tall to block a follow up shot on the line and clinch a morale-boosting victory for Celtic amid a busy run of games.
Man of the match – Liam ScalesScales was influential with more passes and touches than any of his team-mates. The Irishman looked composed.What did we learn?It’s probably hard to take much from a dead-rubber game, but there was enough quality and spirit on show from Celtic’s youngsters to encourage Postecoglou.
They used nine players under the age of 22 on the night, with Scales arguably the pick of the bunch with his energy and use of the ball.
If the injuries keep piling up at the current rate, some of these players will be getting more game time as Ajeti and Kyogo were added to the injury-list including Jota, Anthony Ralston, and James Forrest, though the latter pair are expected back soon.
With a cup final and crucial league games – including an Old Firm derby on 2 January – on the horizon, the large squad is being tested to its limit.
Match statsCeltic have won three of their last four Europa League games (L1), having won just one of their previous 11 (D2 L8).Their games in the competition this season have contained 28 goals (F13 A15) – more than any other side.Real Betis have conceded at least three goals in three of their last four European away games, as many times as they’d done in their previous 29 on the road.There were just nine minutes and 46 seconds between Bain’s own goal making it 1-1, and Turnbull’s penalty.Henderson scored just 37 seconds after coming off the bench, the second fastest goal by a substitute in the competition this term (Ryan Babel, 21 seconds vs Marseille).Bain became the first goalkeeper to score an own goal with Celtic in a major European competition (excluding qualifiers).What’s next?Celtic resume their Scottish Premiership campaign at home to Motherwell on Sunday (15:00 GMT).
Player of the match
with an average of 7.84
CelticSquad number5Player nameScales
Squad number26Player nameUrhoghide
Squad number57Player nameWelsh
Squad number52Player nameHenderson
Squad number6Player nameBitton
Squad number14Player nameTurnbull
Squad number30Player nameShaw
Squad number11Player nameAbada
Squad number42Player nameMcGregor
Squad number12Player nameSoro
Squad number54Player nameMontgomery
Squad number29Player nameBain
Squad number8Player nameFuruhashi
Squad number19Player nameJohnston
Squad number16Player nameMcCarthy
Squad number10Player nameAjeti
Real BetisSquad number17Player nameJoaquín
Squad number13Player nameRui Silva
Squad number14Player nameWilliam Carvalho
Squad number9Player nameIglesias
Squad number24Player nameRuibal
Squad number4Player nameAkouokou
Squad number10Player nameCanales
Squad number3Player nameGonzález
Squad number11Player nameTello
Squad number7Player nameJuanmi
Squad number20Player nameLainez
Squad number16Player namePezzella
Squad number12Player nameWillian José
Squad number2Player nameMontoya
Squad number15Player nameÁlex Moreno
Squad number33Player nameMiranda
29Bain26Urhoghide6Bitton57Welsh5Scales12SoroBooked at 24minsSubstituted forTurnbullat 65’minutes16McCarthy11Abada30ShawBooked at 33minsSubstituted forMcGregorat 65’minutes54MontgomerySubstituted forJohnstonat 65’minutes10AjetiSubstituted forFuruhashiat 28’minutesSubstituted forHendersonat 71’minutesSubstitutes3Taylor8Furuhashi14Turnbull15Hart19Johnston42McGregor47Murray52Henderson71Oluwayemi88JuranovicReal BetisFormation 4-2-3-1
13Dantas da Silva
13Dantas da Silva24RuibalBooked at 55minsSubstituted forMontoyaat 75’minutes16PezzellaBooked at 49mins3González33MirandaSubstituted forMoreno Loperaat 75’minutes4Akouokou14William CarvalhoSubstituted forDa Silvaat 79’minutes20LainezBooked at 24minsSubstituted forCanalesat 63’minutes17Sánchez Rodríguez11TelloSubstituted forJuanmiat 79’minutes9IglesiasSubstitutes2Montoya5Bartra6Ruiz7Juanmi10Canales12Da Silva15Moreno Lopera18Guardado21Rodríguez27González30RebolloReferee:Daniel Stefanski
Live TextMatch ends, Celtic 3, Real Betis 2.
Second Half ends, Celtic 3, Real Betis 2.
Álex Moreno (Real Betis) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Michael Johnston (Celtic).
Corner, Celtic. Conceded by Edgar González.
Corner, Real Betis. Conceded by Nir Bitton.
Attempt blocked. Willian José (Real Betis) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked.
Juanmi (Real Betis) hits the bar with a header from very close range. Assisted by Joaquín with a cross.
Attempt missed. Sergio Canales (Real Betis) left footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by Joaquín.
Corner, Real Betis. Conceded by Liam Scales.
Corner, Celtic. Conceded by Edgar González.
Offside, Celtic. Callum McGregor tries a through ball, but Liel Abada is caught offside.
Attempt missed. Paul Akouokou (Real Betis) right footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the right. Assisted by Willian José.
Corner, Real Betis. Conceded by Osaze Urhoghide.
Substitution, Real Betis. Juanmi replaces Cristian Tello.
Substitution, Real Betis. Willian José replaces William Carvalho.
Goal! Celtic 3, Real Betis 2. David Turnbull (Celtic) converts the penalty with a right footed shot to the bottom left corner.
Penalty conceded by Edgar González (Real Betis) after a foul in the penalty area.
Penalty Celtic. Liel Abada draws a foul in the penalty area.
Substitution, Real Betis. Álex Moreno replaces Juan Miranda.