For the first time in eight months and 36 matches, Celtic supporters have been reacquainted with the experience of seeing their team draw a blank.
The significance or otherwise of their failure to find the target in the first leg of the Champions League third qualifying round tie against Rosenborg at Celtic Park will unfold on what promises to be a tense evening in Norway next week.
Certainly, the majority of the Scottish champions’ fans will find it difficult to present as relaxed a demeanour as Brendan Rodgers does ahead of the return fixture. Not since the 2-0 defeat by Barcelona in the group stage of last season’s Champions League back in November had the Celtic manager witnessed his team frustrated in their efforts to find a way past an opposition goalkeeper on their own patch.
But, while inevitably a little frustrated, Rodgers was also unfazed by a result which he believes still leaves Celtic in the driving seat to progress into the play-off round of European football’s elite club competition.
With any scoring draw in Trondheim next Wednesday night enough to win the tie for Celtic, his logic and optimism is not difficult to share. In three of their away fixtures in Europe last season – against Astana in Kazakhstan in the third qualifying round and at Borussia Moenchengladbach and Manchester City in the group stage – Celtic achieved the 1-1 scoreline which would be sufficient to keep their ambitions alive on this occasion.
For all that Rosenborg impressed with their tactical discipline and counter-attacking threat in Glasgow, there is also plenty of evidence to suggest they are not so formidable a proposition at their own Lerkendal Stadium that Celtic should be losing any sleep over the trip to Scandinavia. During their pomp as Champions League regulars from 1995 to 2008, when they made 11 group stage appearances, Rosenborg claimed the scalps of Porto, Blackburn Rovers, Real Madrid, Galatasaray, Paris St Germain, Valencia and Celtic themselves at the atmospheric Lerkendal. The more recent history of the Norwegian champions, however, offers plenty of encouragement for Rodgers and his squad. Rosenborg have lost four of their last eight home games in Europe, the most recent defeat a 2-1 reversal against an unremarkable Austria Vienna side in the play-off round of the Europa League last season. In the second qualifying round of the Champions League earlier this month, they were level at 1-1 after 90 minutes against Dundalk before scoring an extra-time winner against the League of Ireland champions.
St Johnstone and Sligo Rovers have both won Europa League games at the Lerkendal in the past four years, while even Vikingur of the Faroe Islands emerged with a goalless draw. Rosenborg are certainly improving under current coach Kare Ingebrigtsen as they bid to reclaim some of their former status as a European force, but no-one could reasonably paint the Lerkendal in the image of an impregnable fortress just yet.
The problem for Rodgers, of course, is that he will be advancing upon the stadium without at least one of his most potent attacking weapons. The hamstring injury which is expected to sideline Moussa Dembele for another month is compounded by a calf problem for Leigh Griffiths which would have ruled him out of Wednesday night’s first leg even if he had not been suspended for his juvenile scarf-tying escapade at Windsor Park in the previous round.
Griffiths can make amends by rediscovering both his fitness and his scoring form in time to see Celtic through.