CALLUM McGREGOR came within a lick of paint of scoring the first Champions League goal of Ange Postecoglou’s era at Celtic.
The Hoops skipper left Real Madrid keeper Thibaut Courtois rooted to the spot when he whipped in a thunderous 20-yarder that crashed off the inside of the right-hand post and rebounded to safety.
That moment came in the 21st minute with a tense encounter that remained goalless until the silverware holders broke the deadlock in the 56th minute through Vinicius Junior and then Luka Modric added a quickfire second with Ange Postecoglou’s players rocking on their heels.
Any thoughts of a brave fightback were obliterated when Eden Hazard popped the third behind the helpless Joe Hart in the 77th minute.
The Scottish title-winners had been handed a harsh lesson on their own backyard by one of world football’s undisputed heavyweights.
The chastening experience has just left club captain McGregor anxious for more involvement among Europe’s elite with their next challenge a week tonight in the Polish capital of Warsaw against Shakhtar Donetsk, shock 4-1 winners over RB Leipzig in Germany.
The Scotland international said: “It was really enjoyable, but, ultimately, we’re really disappointed to lose three goals at home.
“However, I think there was enough in the game to show that we definitely belong at this level.
“We took the game to Madrid for large parts of it. A little 10 or 15-minute spell we just lost concentration and you can see that’s why they’re the holders, they’ve got so much quality on the counter-attack.
“We knew that and tried to limit that as much as we could, but we felt at that point in the game we were on top and maybe were just a little bit naive in terms of sticking to what we were doing.
“It was a great showing from the lads.”
Reflecting on his drive that smacked off the woodwork, McGregor, speaking to BT Sport, added: “I don’t know how it stayed out.
“It was a good strike, Big Giako does well to hold it up and you just think when it clips the inside of the post it’s going in, but it wasn’t to be.
“We created some big chances and that’s probably the difference at this level, they get one clear-cut chance and they take it.
“We probably had three or four good opportunities, but we’ll learn from that and the boys can be proud of themselves in terms of the level of performance.”