Champions League nights are forever presented as occasions to be embraced by Celtic but their flailing in the Allianz was another evening in the competition simply to be endured by the Scottish champions.
Brendan Rodgers spoke pre-match about his team’s duty to show the nerve to play their own game in the exalted company provided by Bayern Munich in an effort to avoid another heavy defeat by one of the elite members of the European game. In the past 14 months Celtic have lost 5-0 against Paris Saint-Germain and 7-0 against Barcelona.
But the utterly predictable one-sided nature of the contest was not down to some dereliction on the part of his players, so much as deficit in talent compared to their Bavarian hosts. Their movement and power, even amidst some wastefulness in possession, was all too much for Rodgers’ side, who were fortunate that the scoring did not assume the proportions of these other lancings. Two goals down inside 28 minutes to efforts from Thomas Muller and Joshua Kimmich, Bayern missed a raft of second-half opportunities after going 3-0 ahead in the 50th minute thanks to Mats Hummels.
Never is the chasm in quality Celtic cannot bridge more cruelly exposed in the Champions League domain than in the defensive department. Another makeshift backline made for an impossible shift for those within it. In truth, it is doubtful it would have made much difference had Jozo Simunovic had been fit enough to partner Dedryck Boyata. Yet it certainly didn’t help Celtic’s cause that Mikael Lustig had to be detailed to do that job, which meant Cristian Gamboa filling the right-back berth vacated by the Swede.
It was painful to watch the Costa Rican, in only his second start of the season, corkscrewing as he attempted to deal with Kingsley Coman. He strived manfully to avoid constantly seeing the back of the Frenchman but he’ll probably be picturing the winger’s no.29 even when he closes his heavy lids later tonight.
There is no reason to expect Celtic to be able to live with any “superclub”, as Rodgers called a monied Munich side with pretensions to win the trophy. And one with vigour renewed following the return of Jupp Heynckes, the club’s go-to manager who was in the technical area for a Champions League outing for the first time since leading the club to victory in the final weeks of his third spell four years ago. Never mind that they were on a 10-game winning run in the group stages in their epic 70,000 arena that is all bells and whistles and more bells, the pre-match razzmatazz that amounted to a riot of colour and noise that would have been befitting of a concert by one of those soft rock stadium-fillers which the Germans seem to so beloved.
Instead, it was a soft touch of an opponent that provided the entertainment because for all that Bayern are operating many levels above Celtic, the Glasgow side did nothing to make Bayern extend themselves to pick off goals. It was only Arjen Robben, making his 100th appearance in the competition, that they had any real joy in frustrating. Clearly desperate to bag a goal as he brought up his century, he was deprived when Gamboa threw himself across the goal-line to block a header from the Dutchman.
Such body-on-the-line moments were too few as Bayern seemed to find space in the final third with alarming ease. The warnings were there before an opener that followed from Robert Lewandowski drifting into a different timezone from a static Lustig and Boyata to meet a Joshua Kiimmich chip from right-hand channel. A low header brought a superb one-handed hand save down to his left from Craig Gordon - who made a series of notable stops across the evening - only for the rebound to be drilled in by Muller.
The second came when Coman had Gamboa revolving like a spinning top before hanging up a cross that Kimmich attack at edge of the box to head powerfully into top left hand corner with precision and ease. The third goal was another of utter simplicity with Hummels run and jump to head in a Robben corner a training ground manoeuvre nonchalance about it. There was little in the way of the physicality or aggression sought by Rodgers but there was some sort of token resistance with Scott Sinclair and late substitutes Moussa Dembele and Tom Rogic ensuring there was goalmouth action that provided the possibility that a consolation could be registered. Sinclair, indeed, had the ball in the net only for his strike to be ruled out for offside - Bayern having two ‘goals’ that met this fate.
The Champions League contest Celtic are in does not involve the Munich, who will be at Celtic Park in fortnight for the return, or PSG but is between them and Anderlecht. And thanks to their 3-0 win in Brussels last month, at the halfway stage of the group campaign, and with the Belgians pointless, that is at least one they are in a position to prosper in.