How Celtic were hit for 6 by Real Madrid - biblical downpour, mental test, Argentine youth international

As the ball bounced to Nico Paz in a crowded Celtic area to allow the Real Madrid forward to score it encapsulated the adversity faced by the young Scots during a testing 33 minutes.

Up until that point the team had started brightly, fell behind to a deflected effort before losing another due to a goalkeeping error. Just as the home side were getting a foothold in the match they lost centre-back Ben McPherson to a red card, prompting the talented Matthew Anderson to be moved from left-back to the middle.

Goal three saw manager Stephen McManus turn from the edge of the technical area, where he had encouraged and cajoled his players, to kick at fresh air. Then came that goal number four. When your luck is out, your luck is out.

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All this came in the middle of a biblical downpour which started during the warm-up and continued into the start of the game.

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While the management and team may well be hurting after a comprehensive 6-0 defeat, and they may not want to hear it, such experiences at such an age can be hugely beneficial as former Celtic boss Gordon Strachan watched on from the stands.

Playing against Real Madrid for 67 minutes up there with the most difficult mental test these Celtic players will face at this age. It’s not just the running, it’s the focus and aptitude to stay with it when it's tough, the team can’t get out and the opposition are playing keep ball.

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The nostalgia factor

When down to ten men and 2-0 behind, McManus went from 4-3-3 to a 4-3-2 as Celtic tried to keep an attacking presence and disrupt from the final third.

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Celtic were well beaten by Real Madrid at a sodden Excelsior Stadium. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)

When the rain was at its worst, bringing with it a sense of nostalgia as players skidded and skited as if back playing with pals in the park, Celtic reacted better, playing the ball with more pace, getting up on loose balls, showing a greater willingness to win it back. Captain Anderson, Ben Summers and Roco Vata all linked effectively. But they came unstuck when a shot snuck past Tobi Oluwayemi at his front post, having already witnessed a shot from Pol Fortuny loop past him via a deflection.

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At that point it was an uphill battle. When McPherson was sent off for bringing down Nico Paz the challenge became akin to scaling Everest while wearing ice skates.

Madrid’s confidence rose as did their quality of popping the ball around, creating space and overloads, especially down the right side with Pol and the highly effective right-back David Jimenez.

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By the time Paz had made it 5-0 with a sweet finish after the interval the Argentine youth international was already starting to exert his influence. Sporting the No.10, he appeared to just drift effortlessly into the right spaces at the right time.

The only feeling left when number six went in was sympathy as Oluwayemi, on the back of a tremendous save, watched the ball rebound around the box and, as it did all game, the ball fell kindly for a Madrid player to score.

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There will be plenty of success and victories for these Celtic players in the coming weeks, months and years but this is an experience which will stand their development in a good stead.

Celtic (4-3-3) – Oluwayemi; Dede, Corr, McPherson, Anderson; C. Thomson, Carse, Summers; Davidson, Brooks, Vata.

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