A draw in with Sheriff in Moldova, a draw away to Olympiakos to stop them reaching their sixth consecutive group stage qualification, a win against Inter in the San Siro, a two goal defeat in Prague and a draw in Southampton. That’s a stunning European away record for a team of no-hopers from Israel. Or so we thought.
In the middle of that run Hapoel Be’re Shiva lost 5-2 at Celtic Park before giving us a fright in the return leg. Olympiakos are seven clear in Greece and join Be’er Shiva in the Europa League knock-out rounds. Inter and Southampton are out.
What do we learn from this? The principle lesson is that there are no guarantees in football. Even good teams can be dumped out of Europe by a team they’ve never previously heard of (I’d no prior knowledge of Be’er Shiva).
The Israelis went 2-0 ahead against Celtic in the return leg three minutes into the second half. Brendan Rodgers put his team into lockdown mode and got the result but, final outcome aside, it was a horrible night’s football. Not for the first time last summer, this season’s project looked shaky.
If Celtic got out of jail, Olympiakos were shocked. We could afford some respect towards a team who came close, but the Greeks were devastated their club was derailed by apparent nonentities.
Celtic, like Olympiakos, have a development plan which is delivering, but even if we had the budget of Southampton or Inter we’re still going to lose out to a team none of us rate in our annual summer lottery. That wee bit of jeopardy is why we enjoy European football so much.