After falling to a humbling 4-1 loss at home to Sparta Prague on Thursday, Celtic remain without a win in Europa League Group H.
Lukas Julis scored a hat-trick as Sparta Prague won a 4-1 win against Celtic, ending the expectations of their opponents to qualify from Europa League Group H.
Following a run of one win in five games, pressure was already on Celtic manager Neil Lennon and his squad was again below par against a Sparta side who were without a number of regulars due to coronavirus.
In the 26th minute, Julis opened his account and doubled his tally with a curled finish on the verge of half-time, the goals coming either side of Mohamed Elyounoussi hitting the bar from a rare Celtic chance.
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25 minutes from the moment when replacement Leigh Griffiths made an immediate impact, the hosts were offered a route back into the game, but Julis killed off the competition with his third and Ladislav Krejci added a late fourth to pile on the misery.
David Moberg Karlsson crashed an early shot against the woodwork and Scott Bain, who also kept out Julis with a brilliant reaction save, denied it with another effort.
Moments later, however, Sparta’s pressure told as Julis lashed into the roof of the net after David Hancko’s glanced header had come back from the target frame.
Elyounoussi met Ryan Christie’s pass and grazed the crossbar with his volley, but Sparta were soon two goals in front through Julis’ fine finish in the bottom-right corner. Celtic engineered a chance 38 minutes in.
As Celtic came within inches of shipping a third, Michal Sacek was given space to fire a long-range shot against the post, although that let-off served as a turning point of sorts.
Florin Nita stopped Tom Rogic ‘s shot out, but Griffiths had previously been on hand to shoot the rebound into an empty net against a Sparta side without a point to their name.
Karlsson got away from Shane Duffy just as Celtic had some momentum on their side and squared the ball for Julis to bundle in.
In the 90th minute, Substitute Krejci then got on the end of a Borek Dockal cross to further the pain of Celtic, who for the first time lost three home games in a row in the competition and sit at the bottom of their group.
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Lennon was willing to take positives out of last week’s 2-2 draw from his side to in-form Lille, but after this chastening loss he would fail to find much to be happy about.
Celtic appeared leggy and were much too passive until Griffiths briefly resurrected their hopes, managing four attempts to attack eight of their opponents collectively.
At the halfway level, the Scottish champions are bottom of Group H, two points behind Sparta and five adrift of Milan, who suffered a surprise 3-0 home defeat to new leaders Lille.
The Sparta striker had 35 ball touches, the least of any player to play for the full 90 minutes, but he was able to reach the net out of three of his five attempts.
As he drilled the ball high into the net, Julis’ opener was more about control, the second was all about accuracy and the third was a case of making himself free for a simple tap-in.
Leigh lifts Celtic
Lennon substituted Elyounoussi with Griffiths on the hour mark and it took only six minutes for the replacement striker to do what Elyounoussi was unable to do-find a way past Nita.
Only 61 percent of his 18 passes-the lowest passing accuracy rate of any Celtic starter-were completed by the departing Elyounoussi, with the host ‘s best spell coming when two players were fielded up top.
And what is next?
In their final Scottish Premiership outing before the international break, Celtic will take on Motherwell on Sunday, while Sparta will fly to Viktoria Plzen on the same day.