Celtic will not play in European football beyond the World Cup break after being held 1-1 at home by Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League.
Giorgos Giakoumakis put the hosts ahead at half-time but a brilliant finish from Mykhaylo Mudryk earned the visitors a point and made it 10 Champions League home games without a win for Celtic, a streak dating back to nine years. The result relegated Celtic to bottom place in Group F ahead of their final game against holders Real Madrid in Spain next week and blocked their escape route to the Europa League.
Ange Postecoglou said: “We know the areas where we have failed in this campaign and those are the areas where we obviously need to improve. But that only comes with experience, learning and improvement.
“It’s our job – to take what we’ve learned this year and improve for next year. But we have to qualify again. We haven’t competed in this competition for five years. If you do that makes it very difficult to intervene and have an impact.
“Our job and my responsibility is to make sure we are there every year. If we are there every year and continue to contribute, we can have more impact.
The Scottish champions didn’t quite create the quality of chances they had in previous group matches, but Kyogo Furuhashi missed a great chance to put them back in front. However, the visitors then produced a strong contender for the season’s misfire.
Celtic’s tally of a point and two goals from their opening four matches was no reward for their attacking ambition and Postecoglou were even bolder in their approach for their final home game in this season’s competition. The Celtic manager employed a 4-2-4 formation with Giakoumakis and Furuhashi starting together for only the second time.
Furuhashi dropped deep to create Celtic’s first shot chance, leading to Giakoumakis hitting an early effort from 25 yards out. Shakhtar took the sting out of the game early on and Celtic needed solid cover from Greg Taylor to stop the visitors’ main threat, Mudryk, from dribbling Joe Hart.
Giakoumakis missed on target and Matt O’Riley went wide from 20 yards, but Celtic took the lead in the 34th minute with their first real chance. Sead Haksabanovic struggled to make set pieces count in the first half, but he made the difference by reaching the boundary line and driving into a low cross. Liel Abada’s effort was blocked and Giakoumakis returned the ball seven yards out.
Celtic kept the pressure on and O’Riley and Giakoumakis forced saves from long range. But the hosts had Hart to thank for taking the lead at half-time. Mudryk was played by Lassina Traore and the keeper did well to reduce the angle and block the Ukrainian winger’s shot with his chest.
Mudryk was at the heart of another chance for the visitors which ended with Oleksandr Zubkov sliding to hit the side netting, and the 21-year-old quickly did it all himself in the 58th minute.
Celtic lost the ball just inside Shakhtar’s half and Mudryk quickly sprinted towards the penalty area. Mudryk cut inside and made room for himself to shoot into the roof of the net from 20 yards out.
Celtic had an excellent chance to regain the lead early when Giakoumakis played Furuhashi, but the Japanese striker missed a weak effort directly at the goalkeeper. The home side had a huge let go after another searing break from Mudryk, who scored what looked like a certain goal for Danylo Sikan. But the substitute nonchalantly caught an open goal from six yards out.
O’Riley forced a decent save from long range and stroked an early effort wide from 15 yards, but Celtic generally lacked conviction in his passes around the Shakhtar box, despite some decent crosses from substitute James Forrest. The visitors knew a point would be enough to give them the chance to finish second despite RB Leipzig’s win over Real Madrid and they came under late pressure.