Odsonne Édouard gave Celtic a massive Europa League boost with a dramatic winning goal in the 2-1 victory over RB Leipzig at Parkhead.
Brendan Rodgers’ side went into the game with three points from three Group B games, including a 2-0 defeat to the German team at the Red Bull Arena last month, but Kieran Tierney’s early strike gave them a deserved lead at the interval.
The visitors levelled in the 78th minute through striker Jean-Kévin Augustin but only a minute later French forward Édouard, playing his 50th game for Celtic, restored the lead.
Asked if it had been the best Celtic Park win since he took over in 2016, Rodgers said: “I couldn’t argue against that if you look at the level of the opponent and our performance.
“People see pressure as negative, I said that the other day. This was a pressure game that we needed to win but you seen the positivity in the team. What I was pleased with was the performance against a very good side we played with no fear.
“We brought our aggression and identity to the game. We’ve seen the team returning to that in the last seven eight games and it’s nice to see we can do it not just domestically but against one of the best teams in Europe. It was a fantastic victory and one I am very proud of.”
Édouard’s winner took the Scottish champions on to six points, the same as Ralf Rangnick’s side, who have a better goal difference and head-to-head record. Celtic travel to Trondheim to play already eliminated Rosenborg on 29 November before hosting RB Salzburg, who have taken maximum points so far, in the last game.
Despite the defeat in Germany in their previous Europa League match, Celtic went into the game in a confident mood after scoring 23 goals in their past five domestic matches. Constant rain meant the ball zipped about the pitch quicker than normal and the visitors refused to let Celtic settle, but only for so long.
In the seventh minute the Celtic goalkeeper Craig Gordon had to save a long-range drive from Marcel Sabitzer after he had given up possession with a slack clearance. Four minutes later, however, it was Celtic who took the lead with their first real effort on goal.
Midfielder Callum McGregor’s quick free-kick to James Forrest set the Scotland winger free down the right and his pass sped across the penalty area untouched until it reached Tierney. The 21-year-old left-back took a touch before drilling it low past goalkeeper Yvon Mvogo and into the far corner of the net for his first goal of the season.
Leipzig lost their early composure as Celtic, imbued with confidence, went for a second and came close when Scott Sinclair set up Tom Rogic with the Australia midfielder firing over the bar from the edge of the box and then Ryan Christie doing the same minutes later.
The Bundesliga side struggled to contain the exuberance, pace and power of Celtic who ended the first period comfortably on top while the second half saw play race from end to end and the tension grow by the minute.
Bruma’s deflected strike caused Gordon little trouble but moments later Sinclair raced on to an Édouard flick and into the box but he took too long to get his shot away and was crowded out.
Leipzig slowly increased the pressure and Gordon did well in the 70th minute to parry a close-range effort from Sabitzer following another corner. A swift Celtic attack moments later ended with Édouard’s deflected drive from a tight angle speeding across the goal.
Then came a minute of madness. After Augustin headed in a Konrad Laimer cross from six yards to stun the home crowd, Celtic raced up the pitch and Édouard had the easiest of tasks, tapping in a pin-point Christie pass to send Parkhead wild with delight.
In the fraught final minutes Leipzig substitute Kevin Kampl hit the bar with a powerful drive but the home side retained their cool and are still fighting for qualification to the knockout stages.