Supporters produce old-school greatness
There is much mythologising about the crowd properties at Celtic Park on a Champions League night. Much of it from those within said crowd. OK, off-the-scale noise is generated. But that isn’t a game changer, whatever the hype. If it was the 3-0 defeat by Real Madrid would not have represented the seventh straight home encounter in the competition Celtic had failed to win; the seventh in 10 such home games they had failed to score.
Yet, that did not prevent punters producing something special; as they did with their reaction to Carlo Ancelotti’s holders doing a number on them. In spending the closing minutes lauding manager Ange Postecoglou and his men for their fire in a fizzing first half - despite it giving way to flatness as the continent’s foremost footballing assassins smothered them - they truly were supporters of the most worthy kind. As a faction, recently they haven’t always pitched towards showing the best of humanity in their domain: as is represented by, now rarely-witnessed, non-result dependent backing. In that sense, their vocal appreciation of, ultimately, a heavy defeat recalled the greatness of an old-school Celtic crowd.
Postecoglou latest in line to add to grim stat
Only a loss of reason could explain a section of the Celtic fanbase convincing themselves that their team could take down Europe’s ultimate football titan. They patently didn’t know their history. Ange Postecoglou may be threatening to reset domestic parameters with his team’s whizz-bang brand of football. However, it always seemed that in Celtic’s 11th iteration of the continental’s blue riband club competition, he would join Martin O’Neill, Gordon Strachan, Neil Lennon and Brendan Rodgers. Not one of these men won their opening encounter of a Champions League group campaign. The Australian now joins them.
Dare-not-lose territory already
The eight-week, compressed nature of the Champions League sectional stage as a consequence of the end-of-year staging of the Qatar World Cup finals this year means the competition can quickly run away from an aspiring team.
Celtic may understandably have come up short against the magisterial Madrid, but with this solitary defeat they are immediately in dangerous terrain. That is down to Shakhtar Donetsk’s stunning 4-1 success away to RB Leipzig in Germany. The Ukrainians are next up for Ange Postecoglou’s men, the pair meeting in their war-enforced European home of Warsaw next Wednesday. A win for Donetsk there would surely allow them to establish a six point advantage in the three-team scrap for a second-place finish in Group F - behind Real Madrid, a given for the top slot - that will earn qualification, owing to Carlo Ancelotti’s men hosting Leipzig at the same time.
Celtic need at least a draw then away to Donetsk to avoid such a gloomy scenario. In the wake of the Madrid reverse, Postecoglou talked about “bridging the gap” with his team finding themselves on “the wrong side of the ledger” over the “small margins” that make the difference at this level. Yet, it is merely preventing a hefty gap opening up between Celtic and Donetsk that is the Australian’s most pressing immediate issue.