CELTIC had to play more than half a game with two central defenders with the combined age of former skipper Scott Brown.

Eighteen-year-old debutant Dane Murray was forced into action near the end of the first-half following the utter folly of Nir Bitton in being ordered off for a moment of madness.

The rookie immediately teamed up with 21-year-old Stephen Welsh as Ange Postecoglou’s first competitive encounter ended in a 1-1 draw with FC Midtjylland at Parkhead last night with a challenging return leg of the Champions League second round qualifier to face in Denmark a week tonight.

The new gaffer, who saw £3.5million recruit Liel Abada score a debut goal to give the team the lead before his compatriot blew a gasket, declared himself satisfied with his young defenders.

HIGH PRAISE…Ange Postecoglou reckoned his young central defenders were “outstanding”.

He said: “I thought the two young centre-halves, Dane and Stephen, in a Champions League fixture, were outstanding.

“If there’s one area to improve? I thought we gave away some unnecessary fouls. They only got into our box a couple of times and in that sense defensively we did a great job.”

Welsh, who was only converted to the middle of the rearguard last season after starting out at right-back, praised his impromptu teenage sidekick and said: “Dane is good in the air and on the ball, too. He’s young, so he will make mistakes, but everyone does and it’s about how he bounces back from them.

“He’s got a great career ahead of him.”

The all-action pivot, speaking to the Daily Record, added: “I think everyone’s trying to push to be in the starting XI and we all want quality players to come in, too.

“I thought the first-half we were faultless, going forward and back as a team they couldn’t handle our quality

SHAPING UP…Dane Murray goes through a training routine at Lennoxtown.

“In the second-half, on the ball, we were dangerous and always creating chances with the quality we have up front.

“With the chances we created, we could have scored four or five, especially in the first-half. We looked like a real threat, so we’re going over there with a real confidence to win the game.”

Bitton, of course, will be banned for the return and Murray is now on stand-by to team up again with Welsh in yet another new-look partnership in the heart of the Hoops defence.

The fans may get a glimpse of the future when Postecoglou names his line-up for the friendly against Davie Moyes’ West Ham side at Parkhead on Saturday.



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