Celtic 2—1 Ross County.

Defence against attack. Fifty goals scored. Nine points clear.

Kyogo missed the two best chances of the first-half. After a quarter hour, he got on the end of a cross and the ball floated harmlessly over the bar. Carter-Vickers had taken a pot-shot form twenty-odd yards. The keeper, Laidlaw spilled the ball and Kyogo was unable to get on the rebound. Then almost on the half-hour mark, Kyogo was played clean through by Matt O’Riley. The Japanese forward put his shot past the post.  

We looked at the team selection and then we look across the city to see if the worst team in Champions League history are due another penalty in Paisley. I was on the terracing, all those years ago, when Mo Johnston was in the team and there was a miracle as Love Street. The other Glasgow team will need to do something similar. There’s still that element of doubt.

Carter-Vickers captains the team before heading off the World Cup. Jenz comes in but goes off before half-time with a head knock. Carl Starfelt coming on. I’ve not being a fan of the Swede, but neither was I a fan of Taylor, who has been exceptional. Alexandro Bernabei started and played 85 minutes.  The young Argentinean looks a good prospect. He got a bit of a chasing at Hearts and he was hooked at half-time at home last week against Dundee United. But that was good management. He’d been booked. He lost out as you’d expect to long balls played out to Jordan White. But, one run, in particular from our half in to the last third of the field, took out most of the Ross County midfield. There’s nothing wrong with his attacking play.  

Hatate and O’Riley provide their usual elegant pairing. Further forward, Sead Hakšabanović got booked just before half time in a first half Ross County tried to frustrate. David Munro, the referee helped with some strange decisions. Laidlaw, for example, picking the ball up after dropping it as his feet. And O’Riley, as he did later in the game, making a good tackle in the box, and taking the ball off a Ross County player, but is penalised. But the VAR decision, wasn’t even the referees. I’m not sure Matt O’Riley was in the box. But three Celtic players seem to have got the job done of ushering the ball out and into attack.  Callum Johnson’s challenge meant the ball bobbled up and stuck his arm.

Penalty and job done for David Cancola and Ross County. They’re a goal ahead after 50 minutes in a game they never threatened to score.

Celtic poured forward looking for an equaliser. David Turnbull’s shot from outside the box the pick of the bunch.

Ten minutes after County’s VAR penalty, Celtic had a shout for one which was ignored. Ralston taking a dunt in the back inside the box and going down. It would have been soft. But it wasn’t given.

It didn’t affect the final score. Reo Hatate created the two goals. His turn inside the box was superb and just as he looked as if he was going to shoot he drifted toward the six-yard box and cut it back. David Turnbull took a touch and nutmegged the keeper. There was still thirty minutes of the match left to get a winner.

Eight minutes later,  Sead Haksabanovic got us it with a classy finish. Hatate played him in with a cushioned pass in a one-two movement. The Montenegrin had lots of defenders in front of him, but he bent the ball, almost in slow-motion inside the post.

This was his last action as Postecoglou replaced our front three. Giorgos Giakoumakis had a couple of chances when he came on and can think himself unlucky not to score. Jota and Abada also had decent efforts on goal.  Ross County didn’t create anything in the last twenty. They didn’t create anything in the other seventy, but they were given a goal. It didn’t prove to be enough. Celtic are in a good place. Champions and Champion elect.

Celtic 2—1 Motherwell

Not a game to remember. But at least we won. Motherwell started with attacking intent, but then the game fell into a pattern we’re familiar with as they fell back to ten men behind the ball. We were bullied and lost in Paisley to corners and free-kicks. Another familiar pattern.

Jota missed a good chance early on, but Kyogo got an early goal in sixteen minutes to settle the nerves. But it was more like O’Riley’s.  McGregor had made a bursting run. He fed Jota wide. He whipped the ball in, and O’Riley outjumped the defender near the penalty spot. Keeper, Liam Kelly, made a save, but the ball may have been going in. Kyogo made sure. One up and coasting.

But the nerves were still there. McGregor was first to a cutback from Jota around the penalty spot. His shot was tame. A good chance missed. Twenty-five minutes in and we’re still waiting for that second.

Ricki Lamie was cautioned for hauling Kyogo back out at the touchline. We’re getting closer to half-time.

Reo Hatate ballooned a shot over the bar from the edge of the box, and later hit the inside of the post. He was getting closer. We were edging closer. Barry McGuire halved him in two. O’Riley and Josip Juranovic lined up to take it. The Croatian’s shot came off the bar with the keeper beaten.

Two minutes later, Juranovic scores an own-goal. A corner came in and out again, and he chested the ball back to Hart. But the keeper had come out of his goal and it trickled over the line.  

Deflated. The first half ended with Jota slating a ball over and around the six-yard box No takers. Juranovic tries his luck, but gets nowhere.

Motherwell started the second-half as they did the first, having more of the ball. Their main threats come from free-kicks and corners. Their first corner of the second-half flashes across goal. No takers.

Kevin van Veen misses a good chance. Joe Hart came out to claim a cross ball. Sondre Solhom Johansen backs into him and he falls to the ground. The referee plays on.

Twenty minutes in and Kyogo looks for a penalty after colliding with a defender and going down in the box. Not given and would have been soft. A later effort from a corner was clear handball and was of the stonewall variety. Not given.

Twenty-two minutes into the second half. Short corner (again), played to Reo Hatate at the edge of the box. He’s pummelled one against the inside of the post in the first-half. Here he picked his spot and fired home from twenty-five yards.  

Daizen Maieda was anonymous. He was taken off after half-time. Kyogo also had one of those games. He scored the first. Was unlucky with a header that went the wrong side of the post after Hatate’s superb strike in the first-half. But missed a sitter from three yards when we were 2—1 up.

Then two minutes later, a superb defence-splitting pass from substitute David Turnbull had him running in on goal. He looked to get past Kelly, but the keeper got his hand on the ball. Another sitter from Kyogo.

A nervy last 15 minutes to the game with five Celtic substitutes coming on.  Sead Haksabanovic replaces Kyogo and with almost the last kick of the ball, the Montenegrin had a pop at goal. Kelly flapped at the ball. Fellow substitute, Liel Abada missed from two yards.

Reo Hatate with the winning goal and a good shout for man of the match performance, but almost sold the game. His pass back was anticipated by Ross Tierney. He was running in on goal. Callum McGregor with a professional foul brought him down. Twenty-five yards from goal, free kick, and a red card. McGregor took one for the team. He misses the next league match against St Johnstone.  Josh Morris’s feeble attempt flies over the bar.

Celtic scored three goals, including one for the opposition. St Mirren’s game plan was nothing new. We see it every week in Scotland. Defeat was. The game should be finished, but the referee adds five-minute’s injury time. Oliver Abildgaard makes his Celtic debut along with Aaron Mooy as Postecoglou looks to shut the game down. We see it out. Next up, R.B. Leipzig on Wednesday. We need to be better.    

In Ange we trust.

As the song goes, Celtic, Celtic, that’s the team for me. I’ve no great interest in what other teams do or who they play or sign—apart from Rangers.

Even if it’s tiddlywinks, I want Rangers to lose. They’d won the league by 25 points, and stopped us winning the ten. One of the highlights of the season was watching Ryan Kent miss a sitter in the closing minutes and Aaron Ramsey missing that penalty. I joked that my pal’s dad had died, but at least he’d lived long enough to see that. It was a season when Rangers’ fans felt they did well reaching a European final and winning the Scottish Cup.

But when they were giving out awards it was Ange Postecoglou picking them up. Hard to believe, we were chasing Eddie Howe as our new manager and it just seemed a matter of getting the deal over the line. He walked away, citing concerns about having concerns. Ange Postecolgou came in. I’d never heard of him. Most of us agreed he’d need time to rebuild. He didn’t cite concerns about not having his own backroom staff. He was willing to work with the dross that was there. We’d give him time. I was even uttering strange things like he’d have at least a season, or maybe two, in which he wouldn’t be expected to do much, and spluttering into my pint that Rangers were still shite. I was hoping somehow we’d turn it around. In our pre-season games there was little evidence that would be the case. In the qualifiers for Europe, and in Europe, generally, we were out of our depth against mediocre teams (like us).

We lost to Hearts at Tynecastle, Kyogo came on as a sub, played wide, but did nothing of note in the few minutes on the pitch (shades of Henrik Larrson coming on as a winger against Hibs). We were chasing Rangers in the league. It was a race I didn’t expect to win. But the equivalent of muscles-memory of the mind sets in. Odsonne Edouard left for Crystal Palace. I was glad about that. Ryan Christie to Bournemouth. Kristoffer Ayer went to Brentford, where he’d be reduced to talking a good game. He was fine when he didn’t have to defend.

Now here we are again. I’m far more optimistic. We’ve signed seven new players, which include mainstays, Jota and Carter-Vickers. The Portuguese winger dazzled last season and this pre-season. Carter-Vickers in pre-season hasn’t looked great. He got bullied for the second goal against Legia Warsaw, for example, losing a bread-and-butter header I’d expect any centre-half to win and getting turned far too easily. That’s nit-picking. He too has been a success. But you’re only as good as your last game is a truism.

Joe Hart has been a great signing. He’s made vital saves. He’s our number 1, keeper. But we know he’s going to lose stupid goals, when he’s trying to play sweeper-keeper. It’s just a matter of how many and against whom. Teemu Pukki almost caught him out in the friendly match against Norwich. The ex-Celt is not the quickest, and not the best, as we all know. Hart might beat him in a footrace, but I’d rather not find out during a match. Joe Hart, vice-captain, Certain starter.  

  Benjamin Siegrist, of what I remember him, was decent for Dundee United. He’ll push for the number-one spot. Uncertain starter.   

Greg Taylor started against Norwich. I wasn’t a fan of the former Kilmarnock full back. But over last season I’ve come to appreciate him. He wasn’t Kieran Tierney. Emilio Izaguirre when he first came into the team was also a revelation. Taylor is not at that level. And now he has serious competition. *Certain starter when season begins.

Josip Juranović will not be going over to play on the left as he did at Ibrox because Ange doesn’t trust the likes of Liam Scales, for example, to do a job. The Croatian has established himself as our first-pick right back. Certain starter.

Scottish international, Anthony Ralston—and I never thought I’d say that without laughing—is backup. But he too will be pushing for a starting spot. Uncertain starter.

Argentinian, Alexandro Bernabei, I think looks to have more attacking flair than Greg Taylor. *Certain starter as season progresses.

Celtic supposedly paid around £6 million to Tottenham for Cameron Carter-Vickers. A snip based on last season’s performances (and not this pre-season). Certain starter, under Ange.

I heard Carl Starfelt was injured while on international duty with Sweden. He’d miss the start of the season. I wasn’t bothered. Like Ajer, Starfelt is decent when he doesn’t have to defend. He’s too easily bullied by muscular forwards. Most of the goals we lost last season came from free kicks and corners. The most common argument I’ve heard is we’d the best defensive record in the league. We also won the league. Therefore Starfelt must be better than mediocre. He isn’t. But he’s good enough for now. But Ange trusts him. Certain starter.

Christopher Jullien is still at Celtic. For how much longer? He picked up the captain’s armband in the pre-season friendlies. But he’s an uncertain starter. If any club fancies him, he’s free to go.

Back-up to Carter-Vickers and Starfelt has been, until now, under-twenty-one Scotland captain, Stephen Welsh. He’s no better than Starfelt, and often worse. Uncertain starter.  

 Moritz Jenz from Lorient is we hope better than Starfelt and will leapfrog Stephen Welsh into the team. Loan deals like Jota and Carter-Vickers gives us a chance to try before we buy. Uncertain starter, for now, but his time will come. And if he’s good enough, we’ll keep him. Win-win. Uncertain starter, for now.

Callum McGregor, the Celtic captain, and Scottish Player of the Year plays most games. Simple. Never stops. Certain starter.  

Reo Hatate came into the team and started with a bang. Goals against Rangers are often a great way to introduce yourself to adoring fans. He didn’t disappoint. But the end of the season he was disappointing. He was never rubbish, but didn’t shine. Pre-season he’s looked at back to the level he was when we hammered Rangers 3—0, and that old joke, they were lucky to get the nil. This was the pivotal moment in the season, when we leapfrogged them in the league. We did it in Celtic style. Hatate was the man. Certain starter.

Matt O’Riley played in that number-ten role when Tom Rogic didn’t. Usually, they switched like doppelgangers, with one getting sixty minutes, the other thirty minutes, or thereabout.  A terrific acquisition. He has added goals to his game. Certain starter.

David Turnbull played every game for Celtic under Ange, until he got that injury, just before the League Cup final, which Kyogo won for us. Turnbull has had a good pre-season, scoring two goals. Sharp and strong. Goal scorer. Ready to step in and stake a place. Uncertain starter, for now.

  Daizen Maeda starts most games under Ange. He’s played at centre-forward, most recently when Kyogo was taken off against Legia Warsaw and Giorgos Giakoumakis wasn’t available for selection. But Ange prefers to play him on the wing. Usually it’s the left wing. His pace troubles defences, but his closing down work is also a stand out. He scores goals. Certain starter.

Jota has a problem when Maeda starts on the left, because he’s pushed to the right wing. Maeda is all pace. Jota is an old-fashioned winger. He ties defenders in knots and scores for fun. It was a long and protracted deal with Benfica, with shades of the Eddie Howe haunting us.  Bargain buy at £6 million. Certain starter, on right or left wing.

Kyogo Furuhashi hit the ground running. Apart from his injury, he’s not stopped running since. His speed of thought and movement would give any defence problems. The first and best of the Japanese internationals to arrive. Certain starter.

Giorgos Giakoumakis was the opposite of Kyogo. He hit the ground not running. Then he took the ball off Juranovic (I think it was against Aberdeen) in the last minute and missed a penalty which cost us two points. Without actually being Albian Ajeti (or Pukki), he’d all the makings of a dud. But he scored twenty league goals. When Kyogo was out, we didn’t miss him. The Greek international did the business. Uncertain starter, for now.

Under Neil Lennon’s tutelage James Forrest could do no wrong. He was brought through the ranks. Made his debut in season 2009-10.  He was hitting twenty goals a season and has more Celtic medals than anyone at the club and has now signed a new contract. It’s hard to believe he’s not fifty-five. But for the first time in his Celtic career he’s not an automatic pick. Jota is ahead of him. Arguably, Liel Abada is also ahead of him. Uncertain starter.

Liel Abada scored a stack of goals and assists. Let’s for a minute consider the way he sneaked in behind the Rangers’ backline and scored at Paradise. Even now, it brings a smile. He’s ahead of Forrest, but not Jotta or Maeda. He will get game time, most often as a substitute. Uncertain starter.  

Aaron Mooy plays for Australia. Ange knows him and brought him in. Whether he is to replace Tom Rogic or to sit in as a defensive midfielder for Callum McGregor is unclear. Maybe a bit of both? I’ve not seen him play. Uncertain starter.  

 Yosuke Ideguchi (Guchi) the Japanese internationalist picked up an injury early in his Celtic career. He’s not been able to find a spot in the congested Celtic midfield. A very decent showing in our pre-season friendlies. Uncertain starter.

James McCarthy was said to have struggled in training when he arrived. Might be lies. He has struggled to get into the Celtic team. Not sure he adds much. But that might change, as it did with Giakoumakis. He’s been brought on very late in pre-season games, usually to replace McGregor. Uncertain starter.

Mikey Johnston, remember him? Tricky winger, could go outside, could go inside? Scored goals? Had that wow factor? Looked rotten in pre-season matches. He’s still got an outside chance, but he’s fading fast.

Scott Bain. Backup keeper, for the backup keeper. Ball boy. Uncertain starter.

We’ve got enough to win the league. Games against Rangers will decide the title. They bullied us in two games last year, both of which we lost, one, admittedly, in extra-time. We can’t let that happen again. The real beauty of winning the title is no qualifiers for the Champions League. £40 million in the bank. We’ll play some fantastic teams. We’ll take some terrible doings, but it’s not that I don’t care, the glory is being there and we’ll get better. We won’t win the Champions League and we won’t win the treble. But I’ve been wrong before. I didn’t imagine winning the league this time, last season. Eddie Who?

Celtic 6—0 Motherwell

Celtic win the double. Kyogo Furuhashi scores a first-half double as does our Greek striker, Giorgos Giakoumakis, but in the second-half. David Turnbull and Jota add to a six-goal rout. But all eyes were on Tom Rogic and Nir Bitton. They’ve decided to move on. But there was none of the baggage that left us with a squad full of outcasts who didn’t want to play for the club at the beginning of the season. We wish them well, but the Wizard of Oz, in particular, will be a big miss. But we’ve got Matt O’Riley to step in. We’ve got depth and strength we didn’t have at the start of the season—and we’ve got a £40 million Champions League windfall. We’ll be playing with the big boys next season—thanks to Ange—and I absolutely love it.

A long summer of recuperation and recruitment. No more qualifying rounds. Just straight into defending our tenth title in eleven years and straight into the Champions League. Bigger and better. We’re going to take some batterings, but we’ll get better. Let’s make it two-in-a-row under Ange and back up to the ten. Let’s build a dynasty. We all know that managers have a shelf life that’s shortening year on year. Look at Brendan Rodgers. He wanted out. And if he’d done the honourable thing—like Rogic and Bitton—and waited until the end of the season most of us (well me) wouldn’t have begrudged him his move. History now.

It was good to see the Scottish young player of the year, David Turnbull, back in the team and scoring. He’s got a habit of scoring against his old club and did so again, in between Kyogo’s double. Tom Rogic almost had the goal we all wanted him to score, but hit the post.

Kyogo’s double were wonderfully inventive. The first swivelling and somehow getting a shot away through a ruck of players and in off the post, in the twenty-first minute. His second, just before half-time was wonderful. He took a chipped pass from Tony Ralston, which came over the top of the Motherwell defence, and hit it first time into the net.

Giakoumakis came on a substitute, he helps create a debate whether Kyogo is better, whether he should be starting by continually scoring goals. One of them was his trademark overhead kick.

But Jota had already put us four up on fifty-nine minutes. He’s been a bit cagey about whether he’s staying or going. But the on-loan Portuguese player has scored and created opportunities all season. His last-minute goal at Pittodrie got us all three points and helped create a run of games in which we didn’t lose. I’d like to see him stay. But it’s really up to him. We just keep going as the post-match printed T-shirts said (smell the glove, remember that one?)

Celtic romped it against Motherwell, playing incisive one-touch football. Callum McGregor picked up the trophy. And I think this is his best season in a Celtic jersey. He helped carry the team. At the start of the season we were in a vicious cycle. Celtic are in a virtuous circle now, when everything that can go right does and the money flows in. In November of last year I was talking about a dog’s chance in the league. Comparisons have been made with Wim Jensen’s minor miracle and double-winning team. Ange’s team might just have topped that. He’s brought in players and they’ve made a difference. A real team effort.

And no, we don’t wish our Glasgow rivals all the best in their cup finals. We might have been turning Japanese this year, but we’re turning Germanese midweek and Edinburghese on Saturday. Small minded and bigoted. All the words you’d associate with your typical Orange Order. Just holding up a mirror.        

Celtic 4—1 Hearts.

Manager of the year. Player of the year. Young player of the year. One change from the team that drew with Rangers (and we don’t need to ask if we wish our Glasgow rivals well in Seville, but we do wish our rivals, Hearts, all the best in their final). Best for Hearts today, Craig Gordon which tells its own story.

 Our generosity extended to giving them the opening goal in three minutes. A shy, a Boyce touch and Ellis Simms lashed it into the corner of the net.

David Turnbull in for Hatate. The Japanese midfielder has looked jaded in recent games. And it wasn’t that long ago that the Scottish young player of the year was a first pick for Celtic. His first start since December. He looked sharp and had our first chance to equalise, chesting the ball down and shooting from just inside the box, but an easy enough save from Craig Gordon.

 Competition for places has made us stronger. Matt O’Riley starts ahead of Rogic. But we all know the Australian will come on. Just as we know that Giakomoukis will come on for Kyogo. Abada, perhaps even Forrest or Bitton, will get a run out. It was our on loan Portuguese winger who created both goals in the first-half.

Half-hour in and he played a ball for Kyogo, who was coming back from an offside position. Jota picked it up himself and squared the ball to Daizen Maeda. His shot went between Gordon’s legs.

Seven minutes later Kyogo got his goal. O’Riley out wide created space and whipped in a cross. Jota’s headed cut back and Kyogo’s header was over the line, despite Gordon palming it out. We were in front for the first time and dominating possession. McGregor, in particular, looked to be everywhere.

Kyogo had an earlier chance saved and O’Riley had a header easily saved by Gordon. There might even have been a penalty, just on half-time with Taylor going down in the box after a flailing arm from Ginnelly. But the Japanese duo helped put us ahead after a strong Heart’s opening.  

Matt O’Riley gets my vote for man of the match. At the start of the second-half he got away from Moore in the box, but rather than shoot he squared the ball and it was cut out, but that apart, flawless.

Gordon almost scored an own goal. Palming a ball off Kingsley from a Maeda cross. Then O’Riley found some space in the box, hit it with his left foot which was blocked, and hit the inside of the post, with the rebounded right-footed shot.

Hatate, Abada and Giakoumakis come on for Turnbull, Maeda and Kyogo.

Hearts began to dominate possession and had several crossed and corners. O’Riley’s size and strength allowed him to defend and clear from Boyce and other attackers. When it was getting a bit nervy, O’Riley effectively finished the game for us. With around 15 minutes of the 90 remaining, he picked up the ball at the back post and guided a shot into the corner of the net—Champions.

O’Riley found space from a Greg Taylor cross to the back post to almost grab a second and a third goal for Celtic. Gordon saved. Tom Rogic came on for O’Riley.

Jota, who was also man of the match (since we’re Champions, I can nominate two man of the matches), thought he’d scored, taking the ball through and dinking it past Gordon. He went away to celebrate, but realised he was offside. He was replaced for a James Forrest cameo. He set up, fellow substitute, Hatate who had a couple of near misses from the edge of the box.  Forrest also had a couple of strikes on goal, before helping set up our poacher supreme, Giakoumakis. He got the goal he craved on the 90th minute. We got the victory we deserved. Celtic do the huddle after a 25 point swing from last season and a poor opening spell. Celtic do the double. Ange Postecoglou takes us to where we want to be. Guarantees us £40 million Champions League money. Alleluia.   

Abada had time for another effort on goal, but missed. He picked up an injury in the dying seconds.

Celtic 2—0 St Mirren.

Giorgos Giakoumakis misses out again, which is disappointing after the lack-lustre goal display at Easter Road. A carousel in which Matt O’Riley returns and replaces Tom Rogic, or vice-versa. Both are class player. Celtic had a free-kick in the first minute, 30 yards out, which was wasted by O’Riley, with not even a shot on goal. St Mirren offering no threat other than a Scott Tanser cross which Joe Hart had to fall on, early in the first half. No surprise they camped in and played for a no-score draw. That’s a given for most teams in Scotland.

Charles Dunne, who was lucky not to escape an early booking, came closest to scoring an own-goal after 15 minutes, and was booked just before half-time. A Jota cross and Dunne’s mis-hit clearance hitting the bar. He almost sliced another ball into his goal.

Daizen Maeda had a few headers, none of which looked like scoring. But Liel Abada had the best chance of the first-half, Maeda missing a Jota cutback and the ball falling for the Israeli. He’d ghosted in and outside the six-yard box hit the ball first time, but hit the keeper.

Jack Alnwick saved from Jota and a  Josip Juranovic shot powered over his bar. It’s been all defence for the Buddies, but our attack finding it hard to create chances.

Our centre-half, Cameron Carter-Vicker won man on of the match for a performance where our central pairing got more of the ball than their teammates. Ten minutes into the second half he got the goal we needed. Abada taken out by Tanser, who limped off after getting booked. As a general rule, we don’t score from free kicks or corners, until we do. Ball whipped in, Carl Starfelt jostled with the defender and the ball broke to Carter-Vickers, his measured control and left-foot volley from six-yards broke St Mirren’s resistance.

Maeda almost made it two with an acrobatic volley from an O’Riley cross a few minutes later. Celtic brought on three substitutes. Forrest, Rogic and Nir Bitton. All added urgency to the Celtic team. Forrest flung in a ball for Maeda which was just too high at the back post. He also came close to getting us a penalty, getting to the bye-line and getting tackled but he didn’t go down. With Hattate and O’Riley off, Callum McGregor pushed higher up the pitch after picking up a booking.

Our captain put us on easy street with nine minutes remaining in the ninety. He drove a clearance through a ruck of defenders into the bottom corner. With a few minutes remaining he came off to a standing ovation to be replaced by Ideguchi. Job done. Dembele came on for a cameo after his horrendous pre-season injury. Jota went off. Nine game to go. Let’s hope and pray, nine-in-a-row.   

Celtic 1—3 Bodo/Glimt.

Ange Postecoglou flings up a few surprises. Hattate begins on the bench. The rangy Matt O’Riley comes into the team, and looks the part before being taken off. More predictably, Maeda replaces Giakoumakis. Then the Greek forward comes on late in the game, and achieves nothing worth noting. Neither have done enough to be certain starters. But the Japanese internationalist couldn’t find a way around Khaikin, but he pulls a goal back in the second half, only for Vetlessen’s deflected shot off McGregor to make it 3—1, thirty second later after the ball was centred. Celtic fans leaving the stadium with seven  or eight minutes to go of the ninety.  

The third tier of European football. Bodo/Glimt a comfortable win and Celtic third-class. The tie may be already over. But I’m a big fan of the dog’s chance. The Norwegian champions were comfortable on the ball and playing from the back. They edged clear-cut chances and more importantly got the first goal after six minutes. They knocked the ball around the edge of the Celtic box until they found an extra man inside the box. Espejord took a touch and then coolly finished past Hart. A minute later they had another chance. Late in the half a simple throw in and they could have had a second.

Celtic have dominated games, but here it was a midfield struggle. Celtic had eight corners and a few free kicks. But the Bodo keeper didn’t have to make a save. Maeda did more closing down than he had shots on goal. A fresh-air volley was not one he’d want to remember.  His efforts weak and off target. Jota and Abada similarly had similar efforts from outside the box. Abada was taken off, but it could just as easily have been Jota. Near the end of the first-half Carter-Vickers went down from a challenge from the keeper, but the American internationalist was clearly offside. Celtic finished the half with a little bit more of the ball, but still with no shots on goal.

The second and killer goal was just too easy. Taylor, like Starfelt, has been a whipping boy for Celtic fans (by that I mean me). He was beat far too easily by Solbakken, who did little more than run away from him. His ball into the box was standard fare and should have been easily dealt with. But goal scorer Espejord flicked the ball with the outside of his boot. That took out our centre-halfs and Josip. Pellegrino, just outside the six-yard box, finished.

With half an hour to play Celtic were sure to fashion chances. Juranovic swung a cross into the box. Maeda got his bald head on it and it flew into the corner. Then we lost a goal immediately.

Haikin, the Bodo/Glimt keeper who was excellent all night, without being tested much, and was booked for timewasting. He’s out of the next leg. Perhaps it was intentional. He’ll be available for the next round. Celtic won’t be in it.

We’ve won 16, drew 1, and now lost 1. This is the one I’d have chosen to lose. The league is first, second and third. The Scottish Cup fourth or fifth. The third tier of Europe…well, you know, it’s a grand old team to play for. Our strongest team will be out on Sunday against Dundee at Paradise. It’s hard to say who will start. Next week I’d put out the boys. I know that won’t happen. Just a thought.