At the end of last month, looking ahead to the Miydjitlland tie, I predicted, “a Halloween movie awaits”. Home and away, Miydjitlland created few chances until late in normal time, when Celtic tired. They were unable to sustain periods of pressure and will surely not lay a glove on PSV Eindhoven in the next round. Still, we endure Halloween in July.
The young and inexperienced defenders performed well, this one was not on them. As did Scott Bain, whose confidence to drop the shoulder before playing a 30-yard forward pass, created our best chance of the game. He also made two fine saves, which makes me wonder what could have been had we never embarked on our Greek Odyssey.
Callum McGregor’s goal was sublime; he placed rather than blasted his shot, one of the few occasions we tested a keeper who never convinced. Anthony Ralston reminded us why we had such high hopes for him a few years back, while Stephen Welsh and Dane Murray outperformed expectations.
James Forrest should have put the tie beyond the Danes shortly after coming on but poked his shot wide. Within seconds, Miydjitlland were level.
Like Celtic, Miydjitlland were short of reinforcements, but started extra time with four substitutes on the field, including an 18-year-old debutant, Victor Lind. The teenager repeatedly mishit the ball whenever he got near it, but he and the other subs managed to provide what proved to be crucial energy. Celtic made only the one change, Forrest for Liel Abada, until after they went a goal down in the 94th minute. When energy sapped from ever-busy Ryan Christie and David Turnbull, the writing was on the wall.
Even though Celtic closed the game unable to pass out of their half, Ange Postecoglou stuck to his game plan. Teams on their way out of a cup invariably go Route One in the final minutes, not so this time.
I am sure none of us had Champions League expectations; we are not at PSV Eindhoven level, but Europa League group stage qualification is crucial for financial, competitive, coefficient and recruitment reasons. That would have been achieved with a win last night. Two qualification rounds now have to be negotiated, you have more fraught evenings ahead.
I remain hopeful the squad we have on 1 September will be significantly better that that available last night. Whether that will be sufficient to take the Champions League bounty available to this season’s Premiership winners is another story.