Celtic were dumped out of the Champions League third round qualifying stage after losing 2-1 away to AEK Athens, going down 3-2 on aggregate.
The build-up to the game was dominated by the absence of Fulham target Dedryck Boyata, who did not play despite manager Brendan Rodgers saying he was fit.
And the Hoops missed the Belgian centre-back as they fell behind early on to Rodrigo Galo’s strike in the box.
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Rodgers’ side controlled the possession for the rest of the half but failed to take their chances with Leigh Griffiths missing the target from close range.
And their Champions League hopes took a further blow at the start of the second period when Marko Livaja headed in from close range, again exposing their defensive frailties.
Moussa Dembele and Scott Sinclair were brought on for the closing stages and made an instant impact, with the latter’s bullet header from Kieran Tierney’s cross giving the Scottish champions hope.
But the home side clung on in the final minutes to seal their place in the playoff round as Celtic suffer a Greek tragedy and drop into the Europa League playoffs.

Celtic's Leigh Griffiths looks dejected after the match

Image credit: Reuters

TALKING POINT

What does the result mean for the future of Boyata and Rodgers? Rodgers admitted before the game the defender was fit but was not playing after his transfer saga sparking criticism from former Hoops players including John Hartson and Chris Sutton about the Belgian’s behaviour. He has a lot to do to get back in the good books. As for Rodgers, he has been unhappy with his side’s transfer business after losing out on John McGinn but has plenty of credit in the bank after two successive domestic trebles.

MAN OF THE MATCH

Marko Livaja (AEK Athens). The Croatian is nicknamed the 'Balotelli of the Balkans' and with good reason. The forward was constantly in the thick of the action, scoring in important header and pulling the strings with his link-up play.

Athens' Marko Livaja celebrates scoring their second goal with team mates

Image credit: Reuters

PLAYER RATINGS

AEK ATHENS: Barkas 6, Bakakis 6, Oikonomou 7, Lambropoulo 7s, Hul 6t, Alef 5, Simoes 5, Galo 8, Klonaridis 7, Bakasetas 7, Livaja 8. Subs: Mantalos 6, Albanis n/a, Cosic n/a.

CELTIC: Gordon 5, Lusting 4, Simunovic 5, Hendry 5, Tierney 7, Brown 5, Ntcham 4, Forrest 4, Rogic 6, McGregor 6, Griffiths 7. Subs: Dembele 7, Sinclair 8.

KEY MOMENTS:

6’ - GOAL FOR AEK! Galo with a low first-time strike inside the box after a low cross came in from Hult.
33’ -CLOSE! McGregor with a low cross for Griffiths who turns it around the post from close range in a central position, he should have done better from there.
50’ -GOAL FOR AEK! Galo swings in a free-kick into the box, its flicked on and Livija 'the Balotelli of the Balkans' is there to head it in.
59’ - GOOD SAVE! Griffiths' cross finds Simunovic with a glancing header which is brilliantly parried away.
78’ - GOAL FOR CELTIC! Tierney's cross is headed in forcefully by Sinclair. Game on!

KEY STATS

  • Celtic fail to qualify for the Champions League group stage for the first time since the 2015/16 season when Ronny Deila was in charge.
  • It is the first time Brendan Rodgers has lost successive games as Hoops manager following the defeat to Hearts last weekend.
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