Last night’s result against Rosenborg may not have been what Celtic wanted from the match, but they have been in this situation in European football before. We look back at how they fared on every other occasion they drew the first leg of a knockout tie 0-0 at Celtic Park.
Vejle BK (1973, European Cup second round)
Jock Stein’s side were booed off by the Parkhead crowd after failing to get the better of the amateur side from Denmark in what was widely thought of at the time as the club’s worst performance in Europe.
Though much improved in the second leg they could only beat Danish stopper Niels Wodskou once, with Bobby Lennox getting the only goal of the tie midway through the first half.
Atletico Madrid (1974, European Cup semi-final)
This match occurred later in the same season, as Celtic came up against the Spanish side for a place in the final. Well, you could call it a “match”, but for most Celtic fans in attendance it was nothing more than glorified brutality inflicted by the visitors, who had three men sent off and another five booked. There were pre-match punch-ups among the Atleti players, mid-match kicks in the tunnel, and post-match fighting involving both sides.
Celtic supporters were told not to travel for the away leg two weeks later, such was the tension between the two clubs. As a result, only a scattering were in attendance to watch the Scottish champions lose 2-0 thanks to a pair of late goals.
“Any time that we got the ball, they fouled, they fouled, they fouled,” said Billy McNeill when recalling the actions of Atleti many years later.
St Patrick’s Athletic (1998, Champions League qualifying round one)
The first European Cup match at Celtic Park in ten years was not a happy one. Amid a backdrop of hostility off the park between supporters and the club’s hierarchy following the exit of Wim Jansen and hiring of Dr Jozef Venglos, the ten-in-a-row stoppers did little to prize open the away defence.
Any concerns over the possibility of an embarrassing first-round exit were wiped away when Harald Brattbakk gave the visitors the lead just 12 minutes into the second leg. Henrik Larsson made certain of a safe passage later in the match.
It would only be a brief reprieve in the competition, however, as Croatia Zagreb dumped Celtic out in the next round. Their venture into the Uefa Cup would also last just two ties before Zurich killed that season’s European adventure for good.
AC Milan (2007, Champions League round of 16)
After progressing from a group containing Manchester United, Benfica and Copenhagen, Gordon Strachan’s men were drawn against the Italian giants in the club’s first ever post-group stage tie in the Champions League. Just like in the previous round, Celtic more than held their own against some tough opponents, with Milan boasting Andrea Pirlo, Paolo Maldini and Kaka among their ranks.
Ultimately it was the Brazilian playmaker who settled the tie, netting early into the extra-time period in the second leg in Italy. Having ran the opposition so close, Celtic would have been heartened to see Carlo Ancelotti’s side go on to win the competition, defeating Liverpool 2-1 in the final.