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Champions League

Knives come out as Hoops undone by Danes

Callum McGregor

Callum McGregor opened the scoring (pic: SNS Group)

Midtjylland 2 Celtic 1 (agg: 3-2)
MCH Arena, Middle Jutland
Second qualifying round 2nd leg


Celtic have not made it to the group stages of the Champions League since 2017 under Brendan Rodgers, and the new manager maintained that sorry record on a disappointing night for his largely experimental team.

In the past three seasons they have fallen to AEK Athens, Cluj and Ferencvaros in qualifying, having been favourites to progress each time. Midtjylland add their name to the list.

After dominating play and taking the lead in this second leg, Celtic forfeited the tie and it will be the Danes who will face PSV Eindhoven in the third qualifying round.

Celtic drop into the Europa League to meet Czech side Jablonec.

They will return to Scotland wondering how they lost a tie that looked to be going their way after Celtic captain Callum McGregor’s sweet volley put them in the lead three minutes into the second half.

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Awer Mabil, who was known to Celtic coach Ange Postecoglou having been capped 17 times by Australia, equalised on the hour mark and Raphael Onyedika settled the tie in extra time.

Celtic dominated the game with 63% of the possession, but critics said they were undone by a lack of preparation and Postecoglou’s team selection raised eyebrows for the lack of experience in defence. Dane Murray, 18, made his first start in central defence, where he was joined by 21-year-old Stephen Welsh.

After being blamed for Midtjylland’ equaliser in the first leg, Greek keeper Vasilis Barkas made way for Scott Bain for the visit to Denmark.

The changes proved to be insufficient and a big rebuilding job is now surely ahead for the new coach if he hopes to convince the Parkhead faithful that the season ahead will not be another disappointment.

Former striker Chris Sutton laid the blame on the board for failing to provide funds to strengthen the team.

Postecoglou himself pointed the finger at the board. Aside from the lack of signings, he has not been allowed to bring in an assistant coach.

He said his side would never be as badly prepared for a big match again.

“Obviously I haven’t done a good enough job convincing people we need to bring people in,” he said.

Celtic will need to put this setback behind them quickly as they open their Scottish Premiership campaign away to newly-promoted Hearts at Tynecastle on Saturday.

Celtic: Bain, Ralston, Welsh, Murray, Taylor (Montgomery), Soro, McGregor, Turnbull (Ajeti), Abada (Forrest), Christie, Edouard.

Substitutes: Barkas, Doohan, Ajeti, Rogic, Bolingoli, Shaw, Robertson, Forrest, Urhoghide, Montgomery.



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