Celtic probably didn’t need to travel to this student city in Saxony to become better versed in how unforgiving this level of football can be.
If you don’t take your chances and don’t embrace the breaks when they came along, you tend to end up with nothing. It’s elementary stuff really.
Celtic had both in abundance in Leipzig. They crafted a string of openings throughout this brilliantly open affair and had good fortune in the form of two VAR decisions that went their way. Still they contrived to hand victory to their opponents.
Andre Silva scored a late brace to secure a deserved win for Leipzig on Wednesday night
Make no mistake. Much improved in the month since Marco Rose took charge, Leipzig were deserved winners here. They were more threatening with the ball and smarter without it. They will now take some stopping to qualify for the knock-out stage along with Real Madrid.
But they still owed a vote of thanks to Celtic for first three points of the group and to Joe Hart in particular.
With the scored tied at one apiece in the second half, the Celtic keeper had just breathed his second sigh of relief of the night at Leipzig’s celebrations being cut short by VAR.
For reasons only he could explain, a dreadful pass to to feet of Dominik Szoboszlai gifted Andre Silva a goal.
Coming after Celtic had rallied to cancel out Christopher Nkunku’s opener through a fine Jota strike, it sucked the air from the visitors. Silva removed all doubt as to the outcome with 13 minutes remaining.
The forward coolly finished a sweeping move to seal the win for hosts in the 77th minute
By the end, Celtic could offer few complaints regarding the outcome. Like their previous matches with Real Madrid and Shakhtar Donetsk, though, they will harbour significant regret.
In flashes here, they showed they can hold their own at this level.
At the midway point of the group, they are by no means out of the running but back-to-back home victories against Leipzig and the Ukrainians are pretty much non-negotiable if they are to retain any hope of pinching second place.
The sharp slopes of the Red Bull Arena are not for those given to bouts of vertigo and at close to capacity, as it was last night, the noise generated by the 48,000 souls within it can feel thunderous.
It wasn’t the white-hot atmosphere that was the prime concern for the visitors, though.
In the absence of Cameron Carter-Vickers and Carl Starfelt, Postecoglou’s faith in the makeshift pairing of Stephen Welsh and Moritz Jenz was absolute yet the lurking menace of Timo Werner and Nkunku was hard to gloss over.
Those predicting that two teams committed to remaining on the front foot throughout would produce a captivating spectacle were not wrong. At times, it felt like a basketball game.
Silva put 2-1 ahead in the second-half after a howler by Celtic goalkeeper Joe Hart
Leipzig’s first thrust saw Werner set up with Silva with Hart diving to deny the Portuguese.
Within seconds Nkunku had flashed Mohamed Simakan’s centra inches wide of the upright and you already sensed it had the makings of a long night for the Scots.
Leipzig always did look somewhat suspect in possession, though. Jota did well to pick the pocket of Kevin Kampl only for a deflection to take the sting out of his shot.
A Jenz error forced Hart to dive at the feet of Nkunku but Postecoglou’s men had a foothold in the contest.
A high press left home keeper Peter Gulácsi panic-stricken. A woeful kick fell straight at the feet of Reo Hatate. The midfielder ought to have done better than failing to clear the first covering defender.
That moment came at a big cost to the Germans. His leg having given way beneath him, the keeper was stretchered off with Janis Blaswich his replacement.
Jota equalised for Celtic just after half-time
Leipzig remained the more threatening side. Simakan had a volley tipped away by Hart before VAR cut short Nkunku’s celebrations when it deemed that he’d been offside by millimetres prior to scooping the ball home.
By the time Szoboszlai glanced a header wide of the target, it felt like Postecoglou’s men were beginning to ride their luck.
Yet they surged back into contest. A sweeping move down the right saw Josip Juranovic release Daizen Maeda. The forward’s cross was attacked by Kyogo Furuhashi but Blaswich produced a fine save.
It sparked a brief spell where Celtic created a number of chances.
With Leipzig’s defence looking decidedly uncertain, Greg Taylor’s blocked shot fell kindly to Jenz. How the German would have loved to have netter here. Instead, his composure deserted him and he ballooned the ball over the bar.
Another press saw Hatate win the ball 30 yards from goal. His smart pass allowed Furuhashi to get is shot away but a defection took it wide.
A goal was to come from the resultant corner but not at the end Celtic wanted.
Leipzig only half cleared their lines. Callum McGregor’s shot on the edge of the box was blocked and suddenly the Germans were charging forward in numbers.
The Celtic skipper made up the ground but his attempt to tackle Silva only knocked the ball into space.
Nkunku was on to it in a flash. He rounded Hart and finished superbly. There was to be no reprieve this time.
Matters immediately went from bad to worse when McGregor was withdrawn with what appeared to be a jarred knee. Oliver Abildgaard was handed his European debut.
Jota had started on his favoured left but took some time to remind of of his ability. One drop of the shoulder did bring a peach of a cross which Furuhashi sent over the top with his head.
The half-time whistle came not a moment too soon from Celtic’s perspective.
Welsh blocked Werner’s thumping effort from the edge of the box before Taylor spared Abildgaard’s blushes by sliding in on Szoboszlai just after the Dane had turned over possession.
They re-emerged from the tunnel like a team reborn, startling Leipzig with their energy and equalising after three minutes.
Rose had defended the form of the returning Werner on Tuesday but there was no case to be made for the former Chelsea man’s slackness in attempting by bypass Hatate with a flick.
Christopher Nkunku clipped the ball over the advancing Hart to put the home side ahead
The Japanese was wise to it and sent Furuhashi speeding away. The forward still had a bundle of work to do but showed remarkable composure to carry the ball forward before releasing Jota on his left.
The winger fired the ball across the keeper with his left foot and home.
Leipzig were shaken although not for long. Szoboszlai struck the outside of the post after a sumptuous move then wheeled away to celebrate after beating Hart with a stinging effort from the edge fo the box. Remarkably, VAR again came to Celtic’s rescue due to Silva being in the keeper’s line of vision.
A couple of minutes of calm were needed. We hadn’t even got that when calamity struck.
Hart’s hesitation saw him gift-wrap a pass to Szoboszlai. The Hungarian could hardly believe his club and fed Silva who made no mistake.
Postecoglou introduced James Forrest and Sead Haksabanovic but, a tame Jota shot aside, Celtic were fading.
Pressing forward, they were undone again by an outstanding counter-attack with 13 minutes remaining.
Nkunku’s 50-yard diagonal was perfectly weighted for the advancing Simakan. The full-back cushioned the ball back across goal where Silva left Hart without a prayer.