Celtic Hoops dumped out of Champions League qualifiers again


The Champions League hopes of beleaguered Celtic were ended in the second qualifying round, for the second year in a row. Denmark's Midtjylland won the extra time.

Three minutes into the extra period Raphael Onyedika sidefooted the decisive blow after Callum McGregor's spectacular volley had put Celtic ahead for the second tie. However, defensive flaws cost them yet again as Awer Mobil levelled before Onyedika pounced on Celtic to leave it stranded and headed for the Europa League. They will face Czech side FK Jablonec in the third qualifying round next week, while Midtjylland go on to face PSV Eindhoven in European football's premier competition. This result highlights the enormity of Ange Postecoglou's task in rebuilding a lightweight squad. Celtic's preseason has been overshadowed by a talk from Celtic fans, pundits, and Postecoglou about the absence of signings. Quarantine also prevented them from hiring recruits from Kyogo Furuhashi and Carl Starfelt. They lined up with a defense with an average age of 21. This tells its own story. The manager said it best when he called the team "flying by its pants". But as in Glasgow last week they looked the more assured side in the first half, and McGregor provided the spark his team was searching for just two minutes into the second period as he took the ball on his chest before hooking it into the top right-hand corner. The goal was classy and gave Celtic the platform they needed to kick on. Substitute James Forrest came so close to increasing their advantage at the hour mark when he flicked the ball wide after a good run. They were also punished for their ineptitude, just like Edouard did in the first leg. Midtjylland hadn't registered a shot at this point. However, Mabil equalized within two minutes of Forrest's trying. To nod home a floated crossing, the Australia international ghosted Dane Murray and Greg Taylor. This emphasized the inexperience of the Celtic backline as well as the anxiety that has overshadowed the team for the past 12 months. The crowd grew from there as the Danish side - cheered by around 6,000 fans - grew more confident. Victor Lind lost a golden opportunity to win the tie in the final minute as he was unable to evade 18-year-old Murray. But Celtic were made to pay soon after as Evander floated in another delivery, which Henrik Dalsgaard steered into Onyedika's path, and the Nigerian had time to take a touch and dispatch from six yards out.

What have we learned?

Celtic are now as far from being a Champions League group stage club as they've been in a very long time. Despite their dominance in Scotland for a decade, they are falling further behind Europe's elite with each passing season. While it is fair to analyze the performance on the pitch in the context of Postecoglou's squad, it is not the right way to do so. It is hard to believe that a Champions League qualifying campaign would begin with a center-back pair aged 18-21, no clear first-choice goalkeeper or full-back, and Edouard, a striker who clearly sees his future elsewhere. This is just a small part of their problems. The club does not have ahead of recruitment or a sporting director. They are currently attempting their biggest rebuild in over 20 years. Postecoglou claims he entered this job blindly and will be given a fair amount of support in these circumstances. However, the challenges grow with every game. Both legs showed signs of his vertical, high-pressing style. But the Australian requires both time and signings if he is to be successful in the medium to long term. It will be bumpy.

What's next?

Celtic have little time to recover from this latest blow, as they host Hearts at Tynecastle in their Scottish Premiership campaign on Saturday (20:00 BST).

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