Celtic 3—0 Ross County.

We hoped for goals, but in the first-half we didn’t see any. Ross County came with the Rangers’ game-plan, win a corner and win the game. Celtic made several changes to the team that lost at Ibrox. No Kyogo, no Edouard, no Christie,  no Ralston and no Welsh. Taylor came back into the team, but was replaced in the second-half by Adam Montgomery. Kyogo’s goals in recent matches have given us the edge, so obviously he was a big miss. But Albian Ajeti hit two striker’s goals.

Ajeti had a clear sight of goal, a one-on-one with Ross Laidlaw, which he missed after twenty-five minutes. Turnbull also hit the side netting. Abada hit the bar twice and should have scored with a superb pass inside from Rogic. Jota cut inside, after 40 minutes and the keeper made a comfortable save from his shot.

In the first-half, the former Benfica player looked the best of the newcomers. Cameron Carter-Vickers looks comfortable on the ball and he’s a big boy, although not the tallest, which is how we’ve been found out in most of the games last season (and this season at Ibrox). Juranovic played on the right, and Taylor went back to the left-back slot. The Croatian, as he showed at Ibrox, isn’t fazed on the ball and is a quality addition. Starfelt, however, remains Starfelt.

Ross County, like Rangers at our last away game, had around twenty-percent-possession in the first-half, but created three chances—that weren’t corners of free-kicks—and required toe pokes into the net. Breakaways, usually down the left. Their game plan to frustrate Celtic was working.

Albian Ajeti’s first goal, a flying header inside the six-yard box, from an Abada cross on the seventieth-minute, put us 2—0 up, and made sure the game was safe.  

But in many ways, the game hinged on a deflected long-range shot from Cameron Carter-Vickers, which looped over the Ross County keeper, after sixty-four minutes, when the away team were beginning to look comfortable.

Then a save from Joe Hart minutes before our second goal. Ross County forward, Charles-Cook had switched from the left wing to the right wing. He got the better of Juranovic a few times (which hints at defensive worries) and he hung a ball up at the back post. The County forward should have scored, but Hart kept us ahead. We went up the park and got the second goal. Massive.

Hart took the captain’s armband from Tom Rogic—who’d be given it be McGregor—when the Australian went off. Hart wore John Thompson’s name on his back today, in remembrance of the Celtic keeper who died after a head knock from Rangers player Sam English at Ibrox, 5th September 1931. The story of three captains shows who’s who in the Celtic pecking order.

I’m a fan of Montgomery and he created the third goal for Ajeti with five minutes of the ninety minutes remaining. A surging run from the young Scot, a ball into the box. Ajeti with a striker’s finish. He’s holding the centre-forward jersey now, and I’m trying on my old chant for size, ‘Ajeti puts the ball in the net-ti.’

We were exposed at the back a few times. And looked lethargic before the first goal. Jota faded out of the game in the second-half. Cameron Carter-Vickers won man-of-the-match. A good day for the debutants, overall—and Ajeti. Any victory is a good victory. We’ll be more tested in Seville on Thursday, Europa League duty, where, ironically, twenty-one-years ago we lost, but remember fondly.  

Midtjylland 2—1 Celtic (after extra-time).

Scott Bain in for Barkas, no surprize there, big or otherwise. There’s really no way back for the Greek keeper. We need a new defence, goalkeeper and four defenders. That’s been obvious since last season and even before that. And made more obvious with the hammering we took in the friendly match against West Ham. Edouard will be away shortly. But needs must, he plays today. Christie has been outstanding. I’d like to keep him. From midfield to front we have shown we can be better than our opposite number, but not today. The Midtjylland manager called us ‘one dimensional’—and he’s right. We play from the back and when we get it right we’re unstoppable (in theory). When we get it wrong, we’re a gift from the gaffs. Both Midtjylland’s goals come into that category.  

Midtjylland are a big, physical team. Celtic have been a disaster from corners and free kicks, this season and las season. I can even fling in an extra-bonus-season. We held firm until half-time. A few palpitations with Bain dragging the ball back and playing it out, twice (I hate keeper doing that, it look good, but get it wrong and lose a goal). Welsh got booked early for a stupid, needless tackle in the Midtjylland half of the park. Once again, he was found wanting, while other pinpoint his youth. If you are good enough, you’re old enough…

Celtic started this tie better. In the first five minutes, Turnbull had a shot turned over the bar. From the corner, Edouard side-footed over the bar. He just hasn’t showed. Soro was also a major disappointment, giving the ball away, and passing backwards. On the plus side, Tony Ralston gave his all as Celtic faded as an attacking force. Abada was quiet. He was taken off to be replaced by James Forest (I’m not sure about the Israeli, but he gets the benefit of the doubt, for now). But Christie, initially, took most of the plaudits on the other side of the park.  

A Turnbull corner, two minutes into the second-half, the sweetest strike by Calum McGregor opens the scoring. A few minutes later, Bain flaps and the ball runs along the goal line. Bain indecisive. He had two late saves in extra-time, when we were behind. Equally, he took on players in his box. Stupid, but we got away with it, initially. Forest, who looked lively when he came on, had two great chances. The first, after McGregor’s goal, was blocked. That looked like putting us two up, and the tie beyond the Danes.

A minute later it was 1-1. A simple punt into the box. The winger Mabil stoops to score. Unmarked, as you’d expect from the defence that is no defence. Midtjylland took the tie into extra time and went on to win the game.

The first three minutes of extra-time, the Danes, finally, take the lead. Turnbull holds his hand up for offside. We’ve seen it before and we see it again. A simple ball over the top. Squared, substitute, Onyedika fires into the roof of the net. The good news was we had almost the whole of the first-half of extra-time to come up with an equaliser and all the second half.

We created nothing. Lind, an 18-year-old substitute, for the Danes misses a sitter. Bain makes another save as the minutes tick away.  Midtjylland in control. Celtic brought on three substitutes, Ajeti (that’s how desperate we got). Rogic, and Montgomery. I like Montgomery, I think he’s better than Taylor (the Scottish international has become a bit of a fall guy, but truth told, Johnny Hayes was better than him). None of them made a difference.

Pass marks to Ralston, who burst a gut, and for a problem right-back spot, filled a hole valiantly. McGregor, who scored a worldie, but tired and started giving the ball away in extra-time. Christie, who created most of our chances, with slick passes in behind. I’m tempted to include eighteen-year-old Murray, but that would charitable. Edouard can leave any time soon. Take the money and run. Do it now.

Celtic are an easy touch. We’ve already been charitable enough. Once again we got put out in the first-round of the qualifying rounds for the Champions League. Quite simple. We’re not good enough to beat a Danish team that is itself struggling to stay below average. I know where that leaves us. I’m not even sure we’ll beat Hearts at Tynecastle.  And that’s not been dramatic. We can’t defend and we don’t score. We need bodies. Any bodies? Ange Postecoglou has inherited a squad that is crap. All new managers need a bit of luck. Last season anything that could go wrong did. That continues into this campaign. The new manager is under pressure, even this early in the season. That’s the nature of the beast at Celtic. He’s a smart guy. He knows this. He knows what has to be done. This isn’t just about pride. Celtic keep flinging money away. That’s a business model for negative equity. The longer the spiral goes on, the harder it become to stop the decline. Get it wrong this season and next season’s automatic Champions League spot goes to the other side of Glasgow, we’re in deep shit.