Celtic had some positive moments at the San Siro, but were unable to hold on to an early lead as AC Milan produced a superb comeback to win 4-2 in the Europa League.
Celtic fans were desperate for a reaction after a shock 2-0 defeat to Ross County in the Scottish League Cup at the weekend, and their side made the perfect start as Tom Rogic (7) capitalised on Rade Krunic's error to fire the visitors ahead. Odsonne Edouard (14) added a quick second with a chipped finish as Celtic took advantage of a positive spell.
However, current Serie A leaders AC Milan were not to be held back for long. Hakan Calhanoglu (24) whipped a sensational free kick home before Samu Castillejo (26) dinked over a sea of green shirts ahead of him to haul Milan level.
The impressive Jens Petter Hauge (50) completed the Milan turnaround soon after the break, although Celtic did have another good spell in the middle of the second half. Nonetheless, they were unable to find a way an equaliser before Brahim Diaz (82) rounded things off late on, condemning Celtic to a third successive four-goal defeat in the Europa League.
The result - coupled with Lille's own 2-1 comeback win against Sparta Prague - means Milan have qualified for the knockout rounds along with French side. It will be a battle between the two for top spot in next Thursday's final group games, with Celtic, still bottom of Group H with just one point, welcoming group leaders Lille to Celtic Park.
How Celtic stumbled again in Milan
It was a goal-laden opening half an hour and it was sparked by a poor error from midfielder Krunic. He failed to control an easy back pass from Gianluigi Donnarumma with Rogic waiting just behind. The Celtic man then strode along the top of the area before hitting a superb volley past the goalkeeper to give the visitors an early lead.
Rogic almost made it two instantly after. Jeremie Frimpong had two crosses blocked by Theo Hernandez, but the second fell to Rogic, who - surrounded by players - managed to get his strike away, but it whistled just wide. Callum McGregor also tested Donnarumma after some more neat Celtic play but the Milan stopper pushed his effort away.
AC Milan: G Donnarumma (7), Dalot (6), Kjaer (n/a), Gabbia (6), Hernandez (7), Krunic (6), Kessie (7), Calhanoglu (8), Castillejo (8), Rebic (7), Hauge (8).
Subs used: Romagnoli (7), Tonali (6), Diaz (7), Bennacer (7), Colombo (n/a).
Celtic: Barkas (5), Bitton (5), Brown (5), Christie (6), Rogic (6), Edouard (6), Frimpong (7), Ajer (6), McGregor (6), Elhamed (5), Laxalt (6).
Subs used: Ntcham (5), Soro (4), Klimala (n/a).
Man of the match: Jens Petter Hauge.
The second did not feel too long away and it finally came in the 14th minute. Ryan Christie chipped a long ball over the top for the waiting Edouard, with defenders Diogo Dalot and Alessio Romagnoli - who had already replaced the injured Simon Kjaer - giving him plenty of space. Edouard latched onto the pass before chipping into the far corner past the oncoming Donnarumma to double Celtic's lead.
But the Milan comeback was on and they pulled one back with a world-class free-kick from Calhanoglu. Christie made a thunderous challenge on Ante Rebic right in the middle, handing the hosts a dangerous advantage. They took it too as Calhanoglu curled his set-piece into the right-hand corner, leaving Vasilis Barkas rooted to the spot.
- Milan made five changes. Davide Calabria, Alessio Romangnoli, Sandro Tonali, Alexis Saelemaekers and Brahim Diaz dropped to the bench with Diogo Dalot, Matteo Gabbia, Rade Krunic, Samu Castillejo and Jens Petter Hauge coming in.
- Celtic made two changes from the weekend's 2-0 Scottish League Cup defeat to Ross County. Jeremie Frimpong and Callum McGregor returned to the side with Christopher Jullien and Albian Ajeti named amongst the substitutes.
Two minutes later and Milan were level. Hernandez sent a cross into the area after Calhanoglu picked him out down the left, with the ball headed further on by Rebic. It landed to Castillejo, who sent a lovely chip into the back of the net, with none of the five Celtic players in the area able to block the effort
It took AC Milan five minutes to take the lead after half-time. It was a superb solo goal from Hauge who cut into the area from the left flank, driving past Frimpong, Hatem Abd Elhamed and McGregor with ease, before slotting home into the far corner. It was his second goal against Celtic in this season's Europa League after also scoring Milan's third goal late on in the reverse fixture.
Celtic did have a strong spell after the hour mark and could have equalised. Frimpong twisted and turned on the right of the area - leaving Hernandez on the floor - but his strike could only find the side of the net.
Soon after, Kristoffer Ajer made a sensational solo run from his own half into the opposition area, but his eventual cut back was seen away by Romagnoli. Christie also tested Donnarumma with a thunderous free kick of his own, but the goalkeeper leapt across to make a superb save.
But it was another moment of magic from Hague, coupled with some poor Celtic defending, that allowed Milan to score their fourth late on. The winger drove into the area from the left wing and easily went past Elhamed's weak attempt at a tackle. He then slotted the ball in for Diaz, who chipped home over the oncoming Barkas to help send Milan into the last 32.
Man of the match - Jens Petter Hauge
The 21-year-old Norwegian has only been at AC Milan for two months but you would not have known it watching him on Thursday evening. He exploited a confidence-shaken Celtic defence on the left wing, making driving runs time and time again.
For his goal, he came in off the flank and floated past three Celtic players like they were not even there. It was a wonderful finish too, adding to the goal he scored against them in the reverse fixture in October.
He was also the instigator for Diaz's fourth, making that same run to test the Celtic defence and they failed once again. It shows that despite being top of Serie A, AC Milan have not had to spend the big money to find talent.
Lennon taking positives from Milan defeat
Celtic manager Neil Lennon said: "We took the game to Milan. We tried to get a bit of respectability back to our performance and I felt we got all that.
"We looked far more like ourselves and I think the scoreline didn't do us justice. But I think there is a lot to be positive [about] now going forward. The players at times showed what they're really capable of.
"I don't think I've ever been involved with a team that's gone 2-0 up in the San Siro, regardless of the circumstances. We created quality chances and they had to rely on their goalkeeper to keep them in the game.
"I'm sitting here disappointed, obviously, as it's another defeat and it's a sore one to take. But I'm also very proud of the reaction and their will to put on a performance. We looked far more like a Celtic team that I know.
"The players are disappointed because they felt they were always in the game. They are really good professionals who like to win.
"We're talking about playing AC Milan in the San Siro and we're sitting here disappointed that we haven't got something out of the game.
"We must take something from it. People may say it's another defeat and another four goals. I get that and I understand it. But the quality of opposition was top class and the performance from our team and as individuals was a very, very high standard."
Opta stats - Only Messi ahead of Calhanoglu
- Since the start of the 2013/14 season, only Lionel Messi (36) has scored more direct free-kicks in all competitions than Hakan Calhanoglu (18) among players in the top-five European leagues in that time.
- Odsonne Edouard has been directly involved in seven goals in his last eight UEFA Europa League starts (5 goals, 2 assists).
- Celtic's Tomas Rogic netted his first goal in the UEFA Europa League in his 16th appearance in the competition.
AC Milan travel to Sampdoria on Sunday in Serie A as they look to extend their lead at the top of the table. They then travel to Sparta Prague in the final Europa League group game next Thursday; kick-off 8pm.
Celtic are back in Scottish Premiership action on Sunday when they host St Johnstone; kick-off 3pm. Lille then visit Celtic Park next week in the Europa League; kick-off 8pm.