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Celtic 3-2 Real Betis: Turnbull earns Scots rare win over Spanish foes

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 9 Dec 2021

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Celtic ended their Europa League adventure by halting a dismal run against Spanish teams with a dramatic 3-2 win over Real Betis.

There was no Group G final-day reckoning, with places from top to bottom already decided with a game to spare, so Thursday’s clash was all about playing for pride.

Betis are heading through to the knockout play-offs as runners-up, with Bayer Leverkusen having won the group, while third-placed Celtic have Europa Conference League knockout play-offs ahead of them.

Celtic had gone seven games without a win against Spanish opposition, but goals from Stephen Welsh, Ewan Henderson and David Turnbull, with a winner from the penalty spot in the 78th minute, saw off the LaLiga visitors to Parkhead.

The much-changed hosts made a fine start when Welsh deftly headed a left-wing corner from Liel Abada across goal and inside the right post.

Betis midfielder Paul Akouokou struck a sweet shot from outside the box against the angle of post and crossbar with almost the final kick of the first half, and Cristian Tello was denied early in the second half, while Celtic’s Nir Bitton scuffed an effort following a corner when he should have done better.

It felt like an equaliser was coming as Joaquin, Diego Lainez and Tello rained more shots towards the Celtic goal. It came in the 69th minute when Joaquin cut in from the right wing, the 40-year-old showing a respectable turn of pace, and Scott Bain pushed a stinging shot from Borja Iglesias against his left-hand post, only for the ball to cruelly ping back into the net off the goalkeeper.

Henderson restored the hosts’ lead three minutes later, touching in fellow substitute Michael Johnston’s surface-skimming cross from the right, but the rush of goals continued as Iglesias got in behind the Hoops defence and slotted beyond Bain in the 74th minute.

Celtic had a penalty from their next attack, with Edgar Gonzalez tripping Abada, and Turnbull found the bottom-left corner. Ahead for the third time, this time Celtic locked up at the back, making sure of the win.

What does it mean? Win not enough for snookered Hoops

In a week when snooker’s Scottish Open is unusually being played in Wales, it was Welsh in Glasgow’s East End who made the breakthrough with his first goal in Europe. It was hard to draw any serious conclusions from this game, given both fielded essentially second-string sides as their respective fates were already sealed. Celtic made 11 changes from their win over Dundee United, and Betis showed nine alterations after their victory at Barcelona. The flurry of four goals in 10 minutes livened things up, with Celtic getting the win despite Betis leading the shot count 19-8.

Bain stands tall (despite own goal)

Celtic came into this tussle having lost each of their last seven matches against Spanish opposition in Europe, since a famous 2-1 win over Barcelona at this ground nine years ago. This was hardly a swashbuckling performance to match that Champions League triumph over Lionel Messi and Co, but it represents surely a positive step for manager Ange Postecoglou. He might want to thank goalkeeper Bain, whose six saves proved vital and who was unfortunate to end with an own goal by his name.

Away-day blow for Betis

Betis have now lost consecutive away games in Europe for the first time since 1998, when they lost to Chelsea in March and Vejle BK in September. Admittedly this is just their fifth season in Europe since the turn of the century, and if Manuel Pellegrini was desperate to avoid this possibility he would have fielded a much stronger team.

What’s next?

Celtic tackle Motherwell at Parkhead on Sunday in the Scottish Premiership, while Betis are back in LaLiga action on the same day as they host Real Sociedad.

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