ALISTAIR JOHNSTON went into the unknown in Rotterdam on Tuesday night.
The Canadian World Cup defender sampled defeat for the first time as a Celtic player since joining from CF Montreal in a £3.5million deal in January.
Johnston had gone 23 games unbeaten in his Hoops career until the 2-0 loss against Feyenoord in the Champions League Group E opener when Brendan Rodgers’ nine men succumbed to the Dutch title winners.
Swedish double-act Gustaf Lagerbiekle and Odin Holm were red-carded within six minuted of each other after the interval as the Hoops’ strategy was unravelled and the hosts attempted to pile on the misery.
NUMBER ONE…Calvin Stengs free-kick ships round the Celtic wall on its way past Joe Hart.
NUMBER TWO…Alistair Johnston is left defences at the near post as Alireza Jahanbakhsh thumps the ball past the exposed Joe Hart.
It was also 24-year-old Johnston’s first taste of football among Europe’s elite and he reflected: “That result levels it a little bit for me, doesn’t it? But that’s the Champions League for you.
“So, yes, it’s a bit frustrating to lose that record.
“But it was going to happen at some point, so, hopefully, we can bounce back and start another streak.
“You’re playing against teams that have quality all over the pitch and any little mistakes, mental errors and things that an inexperienced group can make, are punished.
“I’m not necessarily saying we’re inexperienced, but we do have a lot of players who were making their Champions League debuts, me included.
“The only guy who’s got a ton of them is probably Joe Hart. I think he played a really good game again.
“He made a couple of big saves for us which is what we needed. It helped us stay in it.
“We were in that game, but obviously once you go down to 10 and then to nine men away from home, you’re asking a lot from yourselves.
SEEING RED…Gustaf Lagerbiekle makes contact with Igor Paixao who is about to take a theatrical fall to get the Celt ordered off and win a penalty-kick for Feyenoord.
“Leading up to that there were definitely some positives for us to take.
“But at the same time, it was definitely a learning curve.”
Johnston, speaking to the Celtic website, continued: “Deep down, I do feel we were able to walk away feeling that we can compete with these teams – if we keep 11 players on the pitch.
“We play at Celtic Park week in, week out and we know what that pressure’s like.
“We know what it’s like playing in front of 60,000 who are desperate and they are moaning whenever you pass the ball backwards.
“It wasn’t like walking into that stadium against Feyenoord we found it overwhelming, which I think can really help us on this stage.
“Instead, I think it’s more down to the fact that these teams are experienced, they don’t feel rushed and they keep playing to their principles, while other teams, potentially, when they come up against Celtic, sometimes they respect us a little too much.
“So, once again, experience does make a difference when it comes down to some of the decisions on the pitch.
“Of course, with both red cards, that’s another learning curve for us.”
SEEING RED…Odin Holm dives in to challenge Mats Weifer to get an immediate dismissal.
Johnston is now looking forward to playing under the lights in the east end of Glasgow on a European evening when Lazio and Atletico Madrid visit in the next two encounters.
The attack-minded right-back added: “Yes, I think you can see again what an advantage playing at home is.
“That crowd in Rotterdam was amazing from the moment we stepped out for the warm-ups.
“I’ve only been told, I haven’t seen it yet, what Celtic Park is like on the big Euro nights.
“It can be intimidating for teams coming to that place. It’s going to be emotional. You’re not just playing against 11 — you’re playing against 60,000 as well.
“So, we’ve got to use that energy with us to really kind of buoy us to that next level of performance.
“At the same time, I do think when we had 11 men on the pitch that we probably had the better chances.
“It wasn’t the Celtic you’re used to, with free-flowing football and creating chances every couple of minutes.
“But it still felt like it was one of those ones where you want to be in Europe, on the road.
“You want to be in these matches where you’re striking distance away, one half-chance away from nicking something.
“Now we’re excited to play at home, for sure.”