05 Nov Celtic 1-2 Molde: Shambolic Hoops left bottom
Celtic face an almost insurmountable challenge in securing Europa League football after Christmas following another dismal defensive display against Molde.
Leigh Griffiths was twice denied goals by the linesman’s flag before Kris Commons cancelled out Mohamed Elyounoussi’s stunning opener, with a deft flick from Nir Bitton’s volley.
However, Daniel Hestad became the oldest player to score in the Europa League at 40 years of age stabbing home from close range for the visitors.
And Celtic’s misery was compounded when Bitton was sent off late on.
It leaves Celtic bottom of Group A and in desperate need of victories against Ajax and Fenerbahce in the final two games, while it puts further pressure on under-fire boss Ronny Deila. Molde’s victory means they’ve qualified.
Deila’s gamble on Jozo Simunovic didn’t pay off as he was replaced by Tyler Blackett after just four minutes with an ankle knock.
However, they put the early setback behind them and thought they found the opener only for Griffiths to be denied twice in quick succession by the linesman’s flag for offside.
Molde were dangerous on the counter in Norway and once again threatened but Celtic escaped punishment only briefly after Tommy Hoiland’s touch evaded him when through on goal.
Then Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men took the lead.
Blackett was culpable with a poor headed clearance, but the pedestrian defending thereafter from Boyata allowed Elyounoussi to bring the ball down on the chest and hit a stunning volley past Craig Gordon from 20 yards.
Intelligent play from Commons ensured Celtic weren’t behind for long as he redirected Nir Bitton’s volley into the bottom corner with a tidy flick.
A mistake by goalkeeper Ethan Horvath almost let Celtic in again but Hestad showed bravery to block a ferocious goal-bound strike from Commons, before the 40-year-old then scored at the other end to put Molde back in front, stabbing home from close range.
Commons had a hamstring complaint and was replaced by James Forrest at half-time but it was a cracking effort from youngster Kiernan Tierney which almost had the Hoops level though his vicious shot was tipped over by Horvath.
Molde continued to threaten on the counter but their keeper Horvath, who had looked unconvincing at times, produced a stunning save from a Mikael Lustig header and then showed great reactions moments later to deny a certain equaliser from Bitton.
Substitute Blackett was then replaced by Nadir Ciftci as Celtic searched for a leveller but it was Griffiths who passed up a golden opportunity to score from Stefan Johansen’s clever lofted pass.
Worse was to follow for Celtic as Bitton was sent off for bringing down substitute Ola Kamara when he was through on goal.
Joona Toivio was a whisker away from converting the free kick as it shaved the post before Kamara hit the bar late on.