CELTIC’S experiences in the Champions League have been punishing and painful.
The European adventure kicked off with a 3-0 loss at Parkhead from Real Madrid two months ago and came to a conclusion with a 5-1 thumping from the Spaniards in the Bernabeu in midweek.
In between those defeats, there have been two setbacks home and away against RB Leipzig (1-3 and 0-2) with two 1-1 draws with Ukrainian champions Shakhtar Donetsk.
FALL GUY…Liel Abada is sent sprawling after a wayward challenge from Real Madrid Ferland Mendy for Celtic’s penalty-kick award.
OOPS…Josip Juranovic sees Thibuat Courtois save his spot-kick.
It’s been an eye-opening, six-game endurance test for Ange Postecoglou’s men with just two points picked up from a possible 18 – but Hoops defender Greg Taylor admits: “I have LOVED it, to be honest, playing at this level.
“It is the best competition in the world. It has been challenging, but so fulfilling when you do compete because you are learning at every moment in the game.
“You are trying to focus, you are trying to reposition, everything. But it is difficult and Wednesday was as difficult as it comes. They were right at it. It was a tough night. But, equally, it gives you a taste for it, you want another crack at it.
“Everyone in that changing room will want to compete at this level. Of course, we want better results, that goes without saying. And the fans demand that.
“It has been difficult, but if you don’t want to compete at this level, then you’re in the wrong sport. We want to challenge ourselves at the highest level and against the best.
“Hopefully, if we knuckle down domestically we will get another crack at it. We are a determined group as it is, but we know the club demands success, demands to be playing on the biggest of stages.”
DODGY DECISION ONE…Moritz Jenz is adjudged to have handled the ball as he falls.
DODGY DECISION TWO…VAR insisted Matt O’Riley had handled Rodrygo’s shot.
Taylor, speaking to the Daily Record, continued: “I think throughout the campaign we have performed well at points.
“But, if we are honest with ourselves, Real Madrid had too much for us. They broke on us with speed, power and quality and were clinical.
“To lose two penalties in the first-half was disappointing, but that is what VAR is.
“We benefited from it at the weekend with a penalty and a handball against Livingston. On this occasion, it went against us. We can’t be too hard on the boys.
“I didn’t think their arm positions were necessarily making their bodies bigger, but the referee deemed them penalties.
“Unfortunately, that’s the way the rule is now. If your hand is just a wee bit away from your body, you get punished. That is for the referees to decide. I focus on playing football.
“I think we did that in spells, but, overall, we were beaten by the better side.”
PAIN GAME…Joe Hart goes the wrong way as Rodrygo claims Real’s second penalty-kick inside 20 minutes.
Josip Juranovic’s penalty-kick miss with the score at 2-0 highlighted the Hoops’ campaign of missed opportunities.
The Scotland international left-back added: “We look at where we can be better and that is probably being more clinical. We also need to be more resolute at the back and defend better as a team.
“We don’t just defend as a back four, we defend as an 11. Real probably broke through us a bit too easily. There are definite improvements to be made.
“But, equally, we know that with another year’s experience we will, if we get back next year, be better equipped.”