Celtic 1-1 Midtjylland: Bhoys have it all to do to seal Champions League third qualifying round spot

Conquering the peaks of these Champions League qualifiers is a tough enough business at the best of times. Just try doing it with your legs shackled and your eyes blindfolded.

That’s pretty much the extent of the task Ange Postecoglou faced at Parkhead on Tuesday night.

Already hampered by a lack of new blood in his squad, the Australian must have felt like drawing some with force from Nir Bitton after the Israeli’s ludicrous sending off took the wind out of Celtic’s sails four minutes after Liel Abada had fired them in front.

Evander celebrates after levelling the scoring for FC Midtjylland at Parkhead on Tuesday

It was a howler from Celtic’s Vasilis Barkas, who let Evander’s free-kick slip through his hands

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MATCH FACTS/PLAYER RATINGS

Celtic (4-2-3-1): Barkas 5, Ralston 6, Bitton 3, Welsh 7, Taylor 6, Soro 6, McGregor 7, Christie 7, Turnbull 7 (Rogic 77) Abada 7 (Murray 44) Edouard 5 (Ajeti 77).

Subs: Bain, Hazard, Griffiths, Bolingoli, Urhoghide, Shaw, Forrest, Henderson, Montgomery.

Scorers: Abada 40.

Booked: Bitton.

Sent off: Bitton.

Midtjylland (4-3-3): Lossi 6, Dalsgaard 6, Sviatchenko 6, Hoegh 6, Paulinho 6 (Andersson 87) Anderson 6 (Mabil 73) Nwadike 6 (Madsen 83) Evander 6, Dreyer 4, Brumado 6 (Hansen 87) Sisto 5.

Subs: Cools, Olafsson, Nicolaisen, Thompson, Torp, Dyhr, Stange Lind, Fraulo.

Scorers: Evander 66.

Booked: Dalsgaard, Dreyer, Nwadike.

Sent off: Dreyer.

Referee: Sandro Scharer (Switzerland)

Attendance: 9,000.

Man of the match: Ryan Christie.

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Sometimes there is simply no legislating for the crass stupidity of certain individuals.

With a minute of the first half to be played, Celtic were a goal to the good and beginning to fancy this one.

Andres Dreyer, the Midtjylland midfielder, burst into the penalty box and attempted to win a penalty with a dive so theatrical it belonged in a West End production.

Bitton was peeved. And rightly so. But the Israeli, who was on a booking, lost all sense of perspective by jabbing his finger into the face of his opponent.

A second booking followed by a red was inevitable. A more senseless and selfish act of self harm you will not see on a football field this season.

Bitton aside, a patchwork Celtic side had no failures but the displays of Ryan Christie, David Turnbull and Stephen Welsh were especially noteworthy here.

With his contract expiring in January, all eyes are on how Christie performs in these moments but he was back to his inventive and industrious best.

It was his enterprise that set up Abada for an opener that could yet prove significant in this tie.

The finer details of the culture Postecoglou will seek to create at Celtic largely remain unknown but the club should already be thankful that it evidently does not tolerate excuses.

Midtjylland’s Anders Dreyer received his marching orders in the 56th minute in Glasgow

Had he wished to lean on them, the Australian had a bundle of them here: A lack of fresh faces, no director of football, none of his trusted coaches. All told, he needed Bitton’s moment of madness like a hole in the head.

This was not the result Postecoglou would have wished for on his first competitive game but given the lowered expectations that had preceded the match he will be encouraged by much of what he saw.

The fervent hope for Celtic fans here was that the Danes would struggle to click after their own period of transition with Frank Onyeka only on Tuesday joining Brentford and a new face in the dug-out in Bo Henriksen.

On this evidence, Celtic should not travel to Denmark next week nursing any inferiority complex.

It said much about the glacier rate of change thus far under Postecoglou that Abada, the Israeli winger, was the only new recruit in his first competitive staring line-up.

Absent from competitive games for 16 months, the 9,000 supporters fortunate enough to gain entry were intent on savouring every second. Who could blame them?

Israeli defender Nir Bitton was shown a second yellow card on the brink of half-time

Already on a yellow, Bitton jabbed his finger into the face of Dreyer after he dived in the area

Midtjylland were a physically imposing side. Relentlessly egged on by a shaggy-haired manager dressed for a night on the tiles, they tried to press the life out of a Celtic defence with Bitton, a midfielder, at its heart.

Bitton required treatment up the tunnel following an early crunch with Junior Brumado. Mercifully for Celtic, Ismaila Soro’s stint as a deputy centre-half was short-lived.

With Raphael Onyedika Nwadike, the Danes’ central midfielder, also requiring prolonged treatment, it made for a fractured opening.

It took Celtic 25 minutes to put a cohesive move together. Soro’s thrust forward opened the space up for Christie who fired the ball right to Abada. Odsonne Edouard was alert to the winger’s pass but fired narrowly over on the turn.

Midtjylland were cute and often cynical, getting to much past Swiss referee Sandro Scharer for Celtic’s liking. He’d absolutely no option but to caution Henrik Dalsgaard for a brutal scything of Greg Taylor.

The same applied when Bitton took out Brumado on the half-way line, a yellow card a small price to pay as the Danes broke at pace.

Abada grew into the contest. Latching on to Turnbull’s smart back heel, his cross picked out Christie who struck the upright from six yards out while stretching.

Liel Abada had given Celtic the lead in the 39th minute in the first leg against the Danish side

Abada slots home to give Celtic the early advantage in front of their returning supporters

You could see Celtic growing in that moment. After struggling to get a foothold, they now had the Danes where they wanted them.

Arriving five minutes before the break, the goal underscored the value of shooting on sight. Christie did just that, his left-foot smash forcing Jonas Lossi to spring to his left. Abada was alert to the rebound and calmly converted a chance that was harder than he made it appear.

Who knows what the winger might have gone on to do here. But he was the man sacrificed after Bitton aggressively remonstrated with Dreyer, the former St Mirren player. Dane Murray, who turned 18 last month, was called from the bench for his competitive debut.

Celtic survived their numerical disadvantage for the 11 second half minutes it took for Dreyer to also take the long walk, a second booking for diving added to the one he earned for squaring up to Bitton.

With more space to play, Christie fought for the right to find Soro who in turn picked out McGregor.

The newly appointed skipper advanced and crashed a shot off the upright from 20 yards.

Ange Postecoglou’s Celtic side have it all to do in the second leg in Denmark now

A gem of a pass from Christie sent Edouard bounding towards goal. A clipped finish was not the way to beat Lossi on this occasion. 

Evander went agonisingly close to levelling with a thunderous shot but Celtic’s goal only survived for a few minutes more.

They were undone on 66 minutes through the same source after Welsh was penalised for taking ball plus man. Evander’s powerful free-kick arced from the left side of the box away from the reach of Vasilis Barkas and in off the far post. The Greek may have done better.

The game rather petered out thereafter, save a late Tom Rogic curler which was well fielded by the Danish keeper.

With away goals now scrapped, Celtic are still in this tie, though, thanks – in absolutely no part – to the errant Bitton.

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