Before kick-off in the Allianz Arena the players and officials all lined up to promote Uefa’s #equalgame initiative, a campaign aimed at promoting inclusion, diversity and accessibility in football throughout Europe. The fact is there was little equality once the whistle sounded and the Champions League action got underway.
And, as the match progressed, the chances of Brendan Rodgers’ men being granted access to the premier European club competition beyond the group stage began to dwindle.
Celtic possibly showed their hosts too much respect as the vulnerabilities and doubts that have often crippled them on continental away days returned to burden them.
It had been hoped that the away win in Belgium, against Anderlecht, had dislodged that particular monkey from their back. It had left them sitting level with Bayern Munich in Group B and fostered hope in the 4,000-odd Celtic fans in the ground, and the thousands more watching at home, that, maybe, just maybe, they could upgrade their ambitions.
Bayern Munich are a side who have struggled, in relative terms. Two losses in 12 games at the start of their season was deemed unacceptable, demonstrating the level of expectation. That offered Scotland’s dominant force a glimmer of light and there was the suggestion that a draw would allow them to aim beyond the Europa League and look at progressing to the knockout stage of the Champions League instead.
But, if they started the game level on points, with similar hopes, the battle was not contested on a level playing field – with the gap between Celtic and the rest of the Scottish clubs small beer compared to the gulf in finances and quality between them and their German hosts – and that was soon reflected in the performances and scoreline.
Things that may seem easy on home turf, where domestic resistance has proved futile for over a season, were more difficult with the likes of Arjen Robben and Kingsley Coman running at a makeshift defence and Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller using their class and ability to pile on the pressure and give the rattled Christian Gamboa and Co a night they will want to forget.
Celtic just couldn’t get a foothold in the match and failing to engineer even one shot on target in the first half left them in unfamiliar territory. Two goals down by the interval, courtesy of Muller and Joshua Kimmich, they will have pondered the right approach as they returned for the second half; sit in and keep things respectable or go for it and risk a repeat of the spanking they received from PSG.
In the end they were unable to challenge yet unwilling to collapse. By the time they made up their minds to have a go, throwing on Tom Rogic and James Forrest, and Kieran Tierney’s shot grazed the post in the 70th minute and Scott Sinclair and Rogic both had efforts minutes later, they were already another goal behind and Bayern had eased off enough to permit the odd advance.
According to the Uefa #equalgame webpage, everyone “should be able to enjoy football, no matter who you are, where you’re from or how you play. That’s Equal Game”. But, in certain circumstances, particularly on the Champions League stage, Celtic were served a punishing reminder that there are times when who you are, where you’re from and how you play does matter.