Celtic have lost their opening Champions League match 3-0 to Real Madrid as the reigning champions showed their quality with a strong second-half showing.
After a goalless first half, in which Callum McGregor hit the post with a powerful shot, Vinicius Jnr, Luka Modric and Eden Hazard scored to ensure the Spanish giants went home with three points.
Celtic will take hearts from their performance, going toe to toe with the elite side and creating a handful of chances.
With his team in strong domestic form and fresh off a 4-0 win over Rangers, it was no surprise that Ange Postecoglou stuck to almost the same starting line-up, his only changes made due to injury with Giorgos Giakoumakis starting ahead of Kyogo Furuhashi and Moritz Jenz in for Carl Starfelt.
In addition to sticking to the same personnel, Postecoglou had insisted he wouldn’t change his team’s forward-thinking style of play. The Australian was true to his word and Celtic took the game to their more-fancied opponents from the off.
Liel Abada had a shot deflected wide within 30 seconds and Celtic had two corners in quick succession as the noise in the stadium built. The home team pressed high and though Karim Benzema had an attempted volley and Luka Modric had a shot blocked, Real Madrid were anything but settled.
After 13 minutes, Celtic carved out a huge chance. Jota picked out a Crossfield pass into the path of Abda but the Israeli’s effort wasn’t up to his usual standard and tamely dropped into Thibault Courtois’ arms.
Regardless of the outcome, it was further evidence of Celtic’s confidence that they could trouble the Madrid defence and soon after a Matt O’Riley effort was deflected for a corner, then Reo Hatate tried his luck from distance.
The big moment of the first half came 21 minutes in. A lay-off to Callum McGregor saw him take aim from outside the area and his powerful shot struck the post and rebounded to safety.
Federico Valverde slammed a shot high and wide and then Real suffered a blow, with Benzema limping off. Any relief for the Celtic players may have been tempered by the sight of Eden Hazard replacing the French forward.
Vinicius Jnr forced Joe Hart into action just before the break but a vital save from the Celtic goalkeeper ensured that it was goalless at half-time.
Daizen Maeda replaced Abada at the restart, with Antonio Rudiger coming on for Madrid in place of Eder Militao.
Maeda had the chance to make an instant impact. O’Riley picked out Juranovic with a perfect cross and when he volleyed the ball back to the centre of goal, Maeda seemed certain to score but fluffed his chance and Courtois gratefully scooped up the ball.
Celtic were continuing to press but Real Madrid were finding their groove and they took the lead on 57 minutes.
Modric flicked the ball to Valverde and his pass picked out Vinicius Jnr, who made simple work of finishing past Hart.
Three minutes later, they punished Celtic again. Jenz blocked a ball into the box but Modric was on to it in a flash and after cutting inside, he hit the ball with the outside of his boot and though Hart got a hand to it, he couldn’t stop the goal-bound shot.
A flurry of substitutions freshened both sides up, but couldn’t change the pattern of play, with Real scoring a third in the 77th minute. Toni Kroos found Dani Cavajal and he played an inviting ball across goal that Hazard had a simple task to knock into the net.
With the result beyond doubt, the visitors were happy to hold possession and though pushed for some consolation, they couldn’t find the goal their efforts merited.
The defending champions took three points but Celtic would take credit form their performance and now look no next weeks trip face Shakhtar Donetsk with interest.
The Ukrainian side beat RB Leipzig 4-1 in Germany, with former Celtic flop Maryan Shved scoring twice.
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