Throwing away the lead in Denmark on Wednesday night and tasting even more Champions League frustration, Celtic saw their European ambitions once again go up in smoke as they fell to a 2-1 extra-time defeat against Midtjylland.
Failing to get the job done over two legs after settling for a 1-1 draw in Glasgow last week, The Hoops’ sluggish defeat on foreign soil was the second time in back-to-back campaigns that they have come crashing out in the second qualifying round.
Now failing to make the Champions League groups stages for the fourth time on the bounce, new boss Ange Postecoglou has quite the rebuilding job on his hands as he now prepares for a drop-down to the Europa League.
On a night that saw Midtjylland mount a dramatic comeback in front of a noisy home support, we have taken a look at the major talking points as the Danes came past a lacklustre Celtic.
Midtjylland sink The Hoops
While Celtic’s latest Champions League collapse might steal most of the headlines this week, the ever-impressive Midtjylland deserves plenty of praise for what was another gritty display while on European duties.
Also under the guidance of a new man in their dugout and picking up their first win under Brian Priske thanks to a 1-0 victory against AaB over the weekend, the former Bristol Rovers striker saw his side backed by a noisy home support on Wednesday night.
Managing to pull off what some would call a real smash and grab on home soil, The Wolves only grew into the match after Callum McGregor’s sublime opener, and they got themselves back on level terms just 13 minutes later.
Watching Celtic’s strugglers quickly run out of gas in extra-time and fail to threaten Jonas Lössl’s goal, 20-year-old Raphael Onyedika fired himself into Midtjylland folk law with a deserved winner minutes after getting back underway.
Exploiting The Hoops’ issues at the back and tapping past Scott Bain from close range, the Danish youngsters deserve all the plaudits as they inch closer to another group stage adventure later in the year.
Postecoglou’s wait for a win goes on
With new captain Callum McGregor opening the scoring in Denmark with a spectacular volley just a few minutes after the restart, fans back in Glasgow must have thought that Celtic were on course to end their Champions League qualifying curse.
However, missing a string of chances in the first-leg on home soil last week, new boss Ange Postecoglou saw his lightweight squad put in another frustrating display as the Australian coach waits for his first competitive victory in charge of The Hoops.
With wantaway striker Odsonne Edouard almost non-existent amidst a string of speculation surrounding his future, there is no doubt that second-half substitute James Forrest will still be ruing a golden chance just 40 seconds after coming off the bench.
Handed the chance to practically see off the match after his initial effort fell kindly back to him, the Scotland international could only put his passed effort the wrong side of the post. Only adding insult to injury, Forrest and his teammates had to watch on as Midtjylland’s Mabil glanced his header past Bain directly following their crucial miss down the other end.
Celtic need signings, now
Putting in a stale performance on either side of McGregor’s opener and really limping over the finish line in Denmark, there is no doubt that Celtic and their new boss will be desperate to bring in new arrivals before the transfer window slams shut next month.
Watching key defender Nir Bitton miss Wednesday’s second-leg through suspension and with a dwindling squad to choose from since his arrival at Celtic Park last month, Postecoglou has been vocal about a need for new faces this summer.
With limited defensive options to choose from in Denmark and forcing 18-year-old Dane Murray into a first senior start in what was a crucial game on foreign soil, the average age of Celtic’s defence was a tender 21.
A club that is in the midst of a crisis, The Hoops’ new boss also made the decision to drop keeper Vasilis Barkas after yet another calamitous display in the first-leg last week. With last year’s arrival enduring a nightmare time in Scotland following his big-money move from AEK Athens, Wednesday’s performance underlined that Celtic still have a host of positions that need urgent attention.
What’s next for both?
Managing to end Celtic’s Champions League ambitions for a fourth year on the bounce in midweek, Midtjylland will already know that they face another stern test next week.
Desperate to secure back-to-back group stage appearances in Europe’s premier tournament this season, the Dannes will make the trip to Holland on August 2nd when they face off against a high-flying PSV at the Philips Stadion. The former Dutch champions managed to extend on their own adventure with a stunning 7-2 aggregate win against Galatasaray.
As for Celtic, marking the opening of the 2021/22 campaign this weekend with a trip to Tynecastle Park, Postecoglou will also have to get planning as his downbeat squad drop back down to the Europa League.
The Hoops will make the trip out to the Czech side FK Jablonec in the third qualifying round next week in a showdown that suddenly has real importance.
FC Midtjylland: Lossl (7), Anderson (7), Dalsgaard (6.5), Sviatchenko (7.5), Paulinho (7), Juninho (7), Evander (6.5), Mabil (7.5), Rigon Matos (7), Brumado (6.5), Sisto (8)
Subs: Nicolaisen (5.5), Cools (6), Onyedika (7.5), Dyhr (6), Lind (6.5), Hansen (7)
Celtic: Bain (6), Ralston (7.5), Welsh (5.5), Murray (5.5), Taylor (6.5), Turnbull (6.5), Soro (6.5), McGregor (7), Christie (6), Abada (5.5), Edouard (3.5)
Subs: Forrest (7), Rogic (5), Ajeti (4), Montgomery (6)
Goals: Midtjylland: Mabil 61′, Onyedika 94′ – Celtic: McGregor 48′
Yellow Cards: Midtjylland: Evander, Brumado, Sisto – Celtic: Walsh, Soro, Edouard, Ajeti
Red Cards: N/A
Referee: Bartosz Frankowski
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