CELTIC pressed the self-destruct button as they were turned over by the European champions at Parkhead tonight.

Ange Postecoglou watched as his side presented the masterful opposition from Madrid the points in a performance which can only be viewed as a learning curve.

In truth, the Hoops were eventually outclassed by a side that can be rightly lauded as the best in the world and yet it could have been so different if Daizen Maeda had taken a gilt-edged chance when the game was still goalless.

The Japanese forward, who had replaced Liel Abada at the interval, somehow managed to get his feet in a fankle eight yards from goal in the 47th minute and his mishit shot trickled forward and was picked up by Thibaut Courtois. He should have burst the net.

Maeda did something similar late in the game and might have checked afterwards to make sure his boots were on the correct feet.

A BIG HAND…Ange Postecoglou encourages his Celtic players while Sead Haksabanovic awaits his chance to go on as a substitute.

After an encouraging first 45 minutes, Postecoglou’s side were undone in four fatal minutes when Vinicius Junior opened the scoring with Josip Juranovic caught fast asleep in the 56th minute and on the hour mark Luka Modric danced past two desperate challenges from Greg Taylor and Moritz Jenz as he came in from the right to curl the ball wide of the helpless Joe Hart with the outside of his right boot.

The third arrived in the 77th minute when Eden Hazard, who had replaced the limping Karim Benzema on the half-hour mark, took advantage of acres of space between Taylor and Cameron Carter-Vickers smack in front of goal to drill the ball home.

The goal came after a mesmerising move that comprised of 33 passes as Real probed patiently for an opening and the home side chased shadows.

The nearest Celtic came to a goal arrived in the 21st minute when Callum McGregor was out of luck with a blistering first-time left-foot shot from 20 yards that battered against the inside of the right-hand post and ricocheted to safety with keeper Courtois rooted to the spot.

KNOCK ON WOOD…Callum McGregor was out of luck against Real Madrid.

Some clever hold-up play from Giorgos Giakoumakis set up the opportunity for his skipper, but, unfortunately, his elevation was just out a shade and that is the difference between success and failure at this level.

The game, as anticipated, started in whirlwind fashion and a Giakoumakis touch presented an opportunity for Liel Abada in only 27 seconds, but the Israeli’s quickfire shot took a flick off a defender for a corner-kick.

In the 12th minute the lively winger was left running clear after a brilliant sweeping pass from Filipe Jota, but he wasted the opportunity by driving shot straight into the grateful arms of Courtois.

Still the Hoops pushed forward against quality opponents as they searched relentlessly for the breakthrough goal and Reo Hatate and Matt O’Riley worked a neat one-two, but the Danish international saw his effort deflected into the side net.

REAL DEAL…the Madrid All Stars celebrate Vinicius Junior’s opening goal at Parkhead.

The European champions weren’t exactly sitting back and allowing their opponents to enjoy the freedom of the east end of Glasgow and they were putting some moments of precision together, mainly when Modric and Toni Kroos were on the ball.

Juranovic never looked at ease with Brazilian ace Vincius Junior to contend with and that was highlighted in the 43rd minute when the Croatian right-back was slack with a pass inside.

It was picked up and the winger was sent clear with a through ball. He was a step inside the Celtic half and looked just offside, but there was no flag and the exciting raider was allowed to race in on Hart.

Thankfully, the keeper kept his nerve, remained big and was in line to block Vinicius Junior’s drive and the Hoops breathed a sigh of relief.

Real were also getting a lot of joy down the Celtic left with Federico Valverde being afforded way too much space and time. The home side almost paid a heavy price when he cut inside to blitz a shot just wide of the upright with Hart scrambling.

PICK IT OUT…Joe Hart stretches, but he can’t get close to Luka Modric’s shot with his defenders all over the place.

Very little had been coming off for Abada and there was no surprise when he was replaced by Maeda for the start of the second-half.

The Japanese frontman then squandered a superb opportunity after a good pass inside from Juranovic and nine minutes later Valverde, still not being picked up as he hurtled up and down the right, swung over a cross and Vinicius Junior left the badly-positioned Croatian international looking on before knocking the ball wide of the unprotected Hart.

Modric then added a second four minutes later and Postecoglou eventually made the required triple substitution with Giakoumakis, Hatate and O’Riley departing to be replaced by Kyogo Furuhashi, David Turnbull and Aaron Mooy.

Five minutes later, Hart was left helpless as his defenders switched off at the crucial moment and Hazard steered in a third.

Sead Haksabanovic took his Parkhead bow as an 82nd-minute substitute for Jota and the new Bhoy looked eager to contribute in the fading moments.

He forced a good save from Courtois at his near post after a determined run on the left as he wriggled clear of a couple of challenges.

TEARS AND CHEERS…the Celtic players are crestfallen as Luka Modric celebrates his goal.

At the end of the evening, Celtic were beaten, but not disgraced. They will now know the fine margins between success and failure at this level.

They lost their composure after the first goal, passes started to go astray, concentration lapsed and the were picked off  by a superior set of players.

The Celtic supporters were magnificent throughout and, despite bitter disappointment at the scoreline, they remained behind their team throughout. On a scoreline to forget, their backing was something to remember.

Now all eyes are on a week tomorrow when the Hoops take on Shakhtar Donetsk in the Polish capital of Warsaw with a 5.45pm kick-off.

Celtic reject Marion Shved was a two-goal hero for the Ukrainians as they shocked Bundesliga outfit RB Leipzig 4-1 in Germany tonight.

No-one ever said perorming in Europe’s elite tournament was going to be easy.

TEAM: Hart; Juranovic, Carter-Vickers, Jenz, Taylor; Hatate (sub: Turnbull 72), McGregor, O’Riley (sub: Mooy 72); Abada (sub: Maeda 46), Glakoumakis (sub: Kyogo 72), Jota (sub: Haksabanovic 82).

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