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Entering the qualification process at the second round stage last Tuesday, Celtic saw former Australia coach Ange Postecoglou‘s tenure begin with a draw against Midtjylland that saw both sides reduced to 10 men – and the home side’s dominance of possession going unrewarded despite Liel Abada‘s debut strike.
Their hopes of building a lead to take to Jutland were diminished when Nir Bitton impetuously picked up a second yellow card in short succession; clashing with the visitors’ Anders Dreyer. The Danish winger was also sent off later on, but Evander then managed to beat Celtic goalkeeper Vasilis Barkas with a free-kick to level the game.
With 9,000 fans welcomed back to Parkhead to witness their first competitive fixture in well over a year, it proved a frustrating conclusion for Postecoglou and his new charges, who were crushed 6-2 by West Ham United in a pre-season warm-up at the weekend.
Such a setback – while irrelevant in terms of points or prizes – can have done nothing for the Glasgow giants’ confidence, as they seek a return to the Champions League group stages for the first time since 2017.
Having fallen at the equivalent hurdle to Ferencvaros last year, Celtic’s continental woes have been compounded by seeing domestic dominance stripped away by their loathed arch-rivals in recent months.
Certainly, they have endured a difficult year, and their new boss will need to adjust to his new role rapidly if Midtjylland are to be overcome on home soil – just three days before the Bhoys begin their Premiership season away to Hearts.
Signs that his team will build from the back and play at the high tempo so beloved by Celtic’s fans may offer some encouragement, however their capacity for individual errors appears to remain undimmed.