Celtic have drawn 1-1 with Midtjylland in the first leg of their Champions League second round qualifying tie.
Liel Abada gave Ange Postecoglou’s side the lead with a debut goal but Evander struck a second half equaliser in a match that saw Celtic’s Nir Bittton and Midtjylland’s Andreas Dreyer sent off.
The sides will now contest the second leg in Denmark next Wednesday to determine who marches on to face PSV or Galatasaray in the next round.
In the build-up to the match Postecoglou had admitted that the squad weren’t where he wanted them yet in terms of personnel or fitness.
Injuries meant that Liel Abada was added to the squad after being left out initially, and the young Israeli winger was handed a first competitive start. The presence of Ryan Christie, Odsonne Edouard, Callum McGregor and others gave some familiarity to the team but a back line of Greg Taylor, Nir Bitton, Stephen Welsh and Anthony Ralston underlined the changes from last season.
After a tentative start, disrupted by injuries to Bitton and then Midtjylland’s Raphael Onyedika after being caught with stray arms in aerial duels, Celtic looked the brighter team, building from the back and taking the game to their opponents.
Edouard had an opportunity that he smashed over the bar and Christie then got on the end of an Abada cross only to see his finish rebound off the post and out. The Scotland international headed high and wide from another Abada cross moments later.
After 38 minutes, Celtic made a breakthrough. Christie carried the ball in from the left and fired in a shot that Jonas Lossl parried and Abada pounced to hit a first time shot into the back of the net.
Celtic had momentum but it didn’t last. Anders Dreyer broke into the Celtic box under close attention from Bitton and went to ground but referee Sando Schrare was unimpressed and showed the Midtjylland attacker a yellow card for diving.
Bitton lambasted Dreyer and followed up by putting his finger in the forward’s face and was shown a second yellow card, then red, and left Celtic down to 10-men with a lead to defend.
After the break Callum McGregor strode forward and hit a rising shot over the bar but Midtjylland were enjoying the bulk of the attacking play early in the half. That changed when Dreyer was penalised for diving again and dismissed with his second yellow card.
With the numbers level, Celtic pushed forward and McGregor hit another long-range shot, cracking the bar this time. David Turnbull and Edouard both had chances but Midtjylland served a warning when Evander flashed a shot just wide.
Minutes later the Danes had their equaliser. A free kick from a narrow angle on the left presented a slim chance but Evander’s shot found the far top corner beyond Vasilis Barkas.
Celtic had a penalty claim for handball as they tried to restore their lead and Christie fired over from just outside the box but time was ticking down. Substitute Tom Rogic curled in a left foot shot that Lossl was equal to.
The hosts continued to push for a winner but will now have all to play for when they travel to Denmark for next week’s second leg.