Still a long way to go, but there’s a sharpness about Celtic that is very reassuring. Nomme Kalju were unable to make anything of their Champions League qualification tie with Celtic in front of their own fans last night, while Neil Lennon must have been delighted at what he saw throughout the team.
Marian Shved’s added time goal gave us an insight into why Celtic signed the player, who turned 22 this month. He has pace to burn and an end product. There is a lot more to the modern game, and it will take a while before we see him fully integrate into the team, but the raw materials are clear to see.
One notable aspect of this tie was the quality of dead-balls from Leigh Griffiths. Last week’s free kick aside, his corners arrive in the box at pace and a height that created opportunities. Chris Jullien should have made more of one in particular, but he can be very satisfied with his competitive Celtic debut.
My feeling is that Cluj caught Maccabi Tel-Aviv unprepared. The Israelis have played half as much football as the Romanians this season. Having knocked out two higher seeds, Cluj will face Celtic next Wednesday with nothing to fear. We should progress, but this tie will be a necessary step-up in pace ahead of the play-off round, which starts in three weeks.
The relaxed days of summer are over. Between now and 1 September we play four league games, four European qualifiers and a League Cup tie. If you check the calendar, cup finals happen in March and May, but the real ones take place in the coming weeks. Be ready, Celtic.