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Celtic out of Champions League after 4-3 defeat to Cluj

The Scottish champions were beaten by the Romanians in a dramatic night at Celtic Park.

Celtic were on the end of a Champions League upset.
Celtic were on the end of a Champions League upset. SNS Group

Celtic have been knocked out of Champions League qualifying after a shock 4-3 home defeat to CFR Cluj.

After a 1-1 draw in Romania last week, Neil Lennon's side held a slim advantage going into the second leg, knowing a win or a 0-0 draw would put them in the play-off round but instead they found themselves dumped out of the competition and facing a tie against Sherrif Tiraspol or AIK to reach the Europa League group stage.

Lennon had brought Ryan Christie, Mikey Johnston, Hatem Abd Elhamed, Jozo Simunovic and Olivier Ntcham into the side and raised some eyebrows by dropping summer signing Boli Bolingoli to the bench and moving Callum McGregor in to deputise at left-back.

The Scottish champions started shakily as Cluj shrugged off their underdog status to show signs of danger even in the early stages and the visitors scored after 27 minutes to set nerves in the stadium on edge. Billel Omrani swung over a cross and Cirpian Deac reached the ball ahead of McGregor to head in.

Cluj held on to their lead through to half-time and Celtic emerged after the break knowing they had to step up a gear to keep their hopes alive. Six minutes into the second half they had levelled and it was James Forrest who had the goal. Callum McGregor's pass was dummied by Odsonne Edouard and Forrest collected before blasting the ball past Giedrius Arnauskis.

The hosts then took the lead through Edouard, who took advantage of poor Cluj defending to sweep the ball into the net.

Celtic were on top but not for long. After 71 minutes Scott Brown was adjudged to have handled in the box and Billel Omrani fired the penalty low into the corner.

The goal brought an instant response from Lennon's side and Edouard cut back for Christie to shoot past Arnauskis and put Celtic 3-2 up on the night and 4-3 ahead on aggregate. But another Cluj goal would see the Romanians through on away goals.

That goal came four minutes later with Omrani pouncing to smash home the rebound after Bain saved from Alexandru Paun.

Leigh Griffiths and Vakoun Issouf Bayo were brought on as Celtic chased the goal they needed but they couldn't make an impact and Celtic were caught out at the back for what was a killer blow. George Tucudean  finished off a sharp counter and ended Celtic's Champions League dream.





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