Celtic have now gone 13 games and more than six years without a Champions League win after 10-player Atletico Madrid twice came from behind to claim a 2-2 draw at Parkhead.
Feyenoord’s victory over Lazio earlier on Wednesday meant Celtic could not move off the bottom of Group E regardless of their result against Atletico, further emphasising the need to earn their first points in Europe this season.
Perhaps spurred on by that challenge, Celtic quickly took the lead as Matt O’Riley superbly set up Kyogo Furuhashi to score – just as he had done against Lazio on matchday two.
Atletico’s first equaliser came when Antoine Griezmann scored the rebound after Joe Hart saved his penalty, but Celtic struck back just three minutes later through Luis Palma’s rasping shot.
Alvaro Morata restored parity just before the hour mark and Atletico looked like they would go on to complete the turnaround until Rodrigo De Paul’s late red card, which forced the visitors to settle for a point that keeps them well-placed to return to the knockouts.
Celtic: Hart (8), A. Johnston (7), Carter-Vickers (7), Scales (7), Taylor (4), O’Riley (8), McGregor (7), Hatate (n/a), Maeda (7), Kyogo (7), Palma (7).
Subs: Bernardo (5), Phillips (6), Forrest (6).
Atletico Madrid: Oblak (6), Savic (6), Witsel (6), Hermoso (6), Molina (7), De Paul (5), Koke (7), Saul (6), Galan (5), Morata (7), Griezmann (9).
Subs: Riquelme (7), Llorente (8), Correa (7).
Player of the match: Antoine Griezmann
How Atletico fought back to frustrate Celtic
Celtic will no doubt take heart from going toe to toe with a genuine European heavyweight such as Atletico, who had won their last six games in all competitions.
But failing to reap the rewards their performances deserve is a familiar tale in Europe for Celtic, who impressed at home to Lazio in their previous Champions League game before losing in stoppage time.
- Celtic were unchanged from their win over Hearts at the weekend, with Kyogo Furuhashi starting up front and Matt O’Riley in midfield
- Atletico Madrid made four changes from their 3-0 victory at Celta Vigo, bringing Stefan Savic, Nahuel Molina, Javi Galan and Rodrigo De Paul in for Pablo Barrios, Samuel Lino, Marcos Llorente and Cesar Azpilicueta
Kyogo’s well-worked early goal was fully merited as Celtic harried Atletico into mistakes, with the home crowd providing a hostile atmosphere for the Spaniards to work in.
But Griezmann – comfortably the best player on the field – began to take control and stepped up to take the penalty when Greg Taylor clumsily fouled Nahuel Molina.
Celtic likely to face UEFA charge
A large number of Celtic supporters defied the club by showing Palestine flags against Atletico Madrid – displays that will inevitably lead to disciplinary action by UEFA given the governing body has already fined the club for similar acts on previous occasions.
The France forward’s spot-kick was tipped onto the post by Hart but the rebound was cruel to the Celtic ‘keeper, falling back at the feet of Griezmann, who levelled the scores at the second attempt.
But instead of crumbling at that setback, Celtic hit back impressively, with Daizen Maeda’s low cross picking out Palma, who smashed the ball off the far post and into the net.
Jan Oblak had to make a sharp save to stop O’Riley making it 3-1 and Diego Simeone had seen enough by half-time, introducing Marcos Llorente as one of two changes at the break.
The midfielder quickly made an impact, claiming the assist for Morata’s smart header when Taylor provided too much room for his devilish cross.
Llorente then saw a shot deflected into the side-netting and Hart kicked away a sharp Angel Correa effort as Atletico began to turn the screw, only for De Paul to get sent off for a needless second yellow.
But Celtic did not look as though they could decide whether to go for the win or settle for a point – so Atletico decided for them.
Simeone’s side camped inside their own half to ensure they headed back to Madrid with a draw that keeps them in second place in Group E – four points above Celtic with just three matches to play.
Rodgers: Performance was superb
Brendan Rodgers described Celtic’s performance as “absolutely superb”, adding to TNT Sports: “We scored two outstanding goals. That first 45 minutes, against a top team, we were great.
“Atletico have got big quality but the guys kept fighting until the very end. It was a brilliant performance against a very talented side and shows the growth of the team.”
Celtic must make up a three-point gap on third-placed Lazio if they want to enter the Europa League this season and a four-point gap on Atletico if they hope to reach the Champions League knockouts.
However, when asked whether the result against the 2014 and 2016 finalists showed Celtic can be hopeful of playing European football after Christmas, Rodgers said: “I’m not really thinking about that. We’ve got a very good point.”
Analysis: Celtic miss chance to win after Rodgers’ caution
Rodgers may have insisted in his post-match press conference that he is not bothered about talk over his record in the Champions League, but it merits discussion.
After taking charge of 21 matches in the competition – six with Liverpool and 15 with Celtic – over nine years, the 50-year-old has only beaten Ludogorets and Anderlecht.
In fact, winning fewer than 10 per cent of his matches gives Rodgers the worst record of any manager to take charge of more than 20 Champions League games.
The stats are, of course, skewed by the fact the majority of his time in the competition has come with Celtic, but the draw with Atletico felt like a missed opportunity for Rodgers and his side to claim a first Champions League win since 2017.
With the game in the balance midway through the second half, Rodgers opted to bring on Nathaniel Phillips for Luis Palma and match Atletico’s 3-5-2 formation.
The move meant Celtic lost the ability to create overloads on the flanks, while Kyogo and Maeda became isolated up front as the hosts struggled to play through Atletico’s press.
It turned out to be a negative move that only invited Atletico pressure – and Simeone’s side may well have made Rodgers pay were it not for De Paul’s foolish dismissal reining in their attacking intentions.
Opta stats: Kyogo follows Miller’s lead
- Celtic scored multiple goals in a Champions League game for the first time since September 2017 vs Anderlecht (their last win in the competition), having not netted more than once in any of the previous 12 games (seven goals).
- Antoine Griezmann has been directly involved in 31 goals in 38 appearances for Atletico Madrid in 2023 (19 goals, 12 assists) – only Real Madrid’s Vinicius Junior (32) has been involved in more for a Spanish club in this period.
- With goals against Lazio and Atletico Madrid, Kyogo Furuhashi became the first Celtic player to score in consecutive home appearances in the Champions League since Kenny Miller in October 2006.
Celtic’s remaining Champions League fixtures…
November 7: Atletico Madrid (A) – kick-off 8pm
November 28: Lazio (A) – kick-off 5.45pm
December 13: Feyenoord (H) – kick-off 8pm
Celtic return to Scottish Premiership action on Saturday at Hibernian – kick-off 3pm. Brendan Rodgers’ side then host St Mirren on Wednesday – kick-off 7.45pm.
Meanwhile, Atletico Madrid host Alaves in LaLiga on Sunday; kick-off 8pm.