Celtic 3-2 Real Betis: Kyogo Furuhashi injury scare casts shadow over thrilling win for Ange Postecoglou's much-changed side
Seldom has a so-called dead rubber proved to be so entertaining and so potentially significant.
Celtic signed off their Europa League Group G campaign with a highly creditable victory over Real Betis achieved with a shadow side as Ange Postecoglou made 11 changes to his starting line-up.
But satisfaction with the display of his fringe men was tempered by anxiety over an injury to key men Kyogo Furuhashi, one of the key men supposed to be having the night off. Having replaced Albian Ajeti midway through the first half, the Swiss striker having pulled a hamstring, Furuhashi appeared to suffer the same fate himself.
Postecoglou must hope it doesn’t entail any kind of lengthy absence for his top scorer.
Betis coach Manuel Pellegrini had made nine changes to his own line-up and it was the side currently riding high in third place in La Liga who actually took longer to settle.
Defensively, they were certainly disjointed in the opening exchanges which saw Celtic profit with Stephen Welsh’s third minute breakthrough.
Betis were fortunate not to concede from Celtic’s first corner, swung in from the right by Liel Abada and met by debutant Liam Shaw whose close range attempt was scrambled wide by Paul Akouokou.
From the subsequent corner on the left, Abada picked out Welsh who wasn’t properly tracked as he glanced a neat header beyond Betis goalkeeper Rui Silva.
It took Betis time to produce a meaningful response but Diego Lainez passed up a glorious chance to equalise when he shanked a shot wide after Borja Iglesias had led a rapid counter attack.
Scott Bain was making his first appearance since the defeat against Hearts at Tynecastle on the opening day of the Premiership campaign in July.
While Joe Hart has firmly established himself as Celtic’s number one under Postecoglou, Bain looked determined to prove he remains a worthy deputy. He produced some fine saves as Betis upped their tempo and started to look more threatening, the pick of them a tremendous reaction stop to deny the visitors’ veteran captain Joaquin.
Bain certainly didn’t deserve the misfortune which came his way in the 69th minute when he touched an Iglesias shot onto his left hand post, only for the ball to rebound off his back and into the net.
The mood around Celtic Park deepened further two minutes later when a visibly upset Furuhashi limped off, although concern over the Japanese talisman was forgotten briefly when his replacement Ewan Henderson restored the hosts’ lead with his first involvement as he stabbed home Mikey Johnston’s low cross.
It was basketball style fare now and Iglesias made it 2-2 when he raced clear onto a Sergio Canales through ball to beat Bain with a smart finish. Back roared Celtic and when Abada’s burst into the Betus box was crudely halted by Edgar Gonzalez, substitute David Turnbull sent Silva the wrong way from the penalty spot.
Celtic (4-2-3-1): Bain, Urhoghide, Bitton, Welsh, Scales, Soro (Turnbull 65), McCarthy; Abada, Shaw (McGregor 65), Montgomery (Johnston 65); Ajeti (Furuhashi 28) (Henderson 71). Subs not used: Hart, Oluwayemi, Taylor, Murray, Juranovic.
Real Betis (4-2-3-1): Silva, Ruibal (Montoya 76), Pezzella, E.Gonzalez, Miranda (Moreno 76); Akouokou, Carvalho (Jose 79); Lainez (Canales 63), Joaquin, Tello (Juanmi 79); Iglesias. Subs not used: Rebollo, Bartra, Ruiz, Guardado, Rodriguez, R.Gonzalez.
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