The margin between great success and disastrous failure at this level can be paper thin. Celtic failed to make the most of a 28th minute corner kick and within 30 seconds, Cluj opened the scoring. Lewis Morgan missed a challenge in the 70 yards from goal and the inch-perfect through ball got beyond Boli Bolingoli for Mario Rondon to score.
We have seen many Celtic teams wilt after losing a goal away in Europe, but James Forrest made sure the same would not happen on this occasion.
Within nine minutes of the opener, Forrest played a give-and-go with the impressive Hatem Abd Elhamed, collected the return pass and shot, the ball clipping the inside of the post on its way into the net. This passage of play turned the tie in Celtic’s direction.
While there is a high expectation Celtic will progress to the playoff round, our chances are no more than they were when we secured the same result away to Maribor in 2014. There is work to do on Tuesday. In particular, the nature of the Cluj goal is of concern.
Apart from one dreadfully defended corner, Celtic restricted Cluj to few genuine chances, but they were able to punish us on the break. This will be the basis of their game plan next week. Soak up as much pressure as possible and overload on our flanks when we are forward. It does teams no harm to have a simple game plan. We will need to be at our best.
More on Kieran Tierney later. There will be chat like: “This is how football works and has done so for decades. It’s why many players come to Celtic. They come and go, our job is to understand how the sport works and to be good at it….”