When Celtic left the Stadion Wojska Polskiego, their captain was about to arrive.
“We’ve talked as a team we want to get there and the only way to do that is to get points,” said Callum McGregor.
A five-year Champions League hiatus came to a scintillating end last week with a 3-0 defeat at home to Real Madrid. There were plaudits, but no points, as the Scottish Champions then headed to Shakhtar Donetsk.
in Warsaw, a 1-1 draw was claimed, but in reality it could and probably should have been more given the number of chances created.
But, one point on the board, how have Celtic performed so far, and what is to come?
Push, applause and a point
When the team was drawn, Celtic supporters would be salivating. An exciting date at Real, with a Xakhtar team playing at home in Poland, and a RB Leipzig team that Rangers fell to in the Europa League last year.
Against Real, Ange Postecoglou’s side sprung the traps in a first half full of chances, including McGregor’s stand-up effort. In the end, Real pulled away, with the Celtic coach citing his frustration that his team didn’t push them further.
Fast forward a week and the odds were still stacked against the Ukrainians. Reo Hatate’s deflected effort was the only one to find the net, but Kyogo Furuhashi, Greg Taylor, David Turnbull and Giorgios Giakoumakis all went close.
Of Celtic’s 16 efforts, only six were on target. Their shooting accuracy dropped to 37.5% despite getting inside the 12 box, highlighting how much they flirted with adding to the score with 37 touches in the opposition penalty area.
These numbers are contrasted with excellent home form, where they have scored 25 goals in six Scottish Premiership games. While his rise in appearances will contribute to some of that, what should have been a remarkable effort fell short when Giakoumakis was unmarked in the box.
“The second half I thought we were really good and we created four or five big chances,” McGregor said. “One of those next stages is to put them out there and win the game, but this gives us belief and hopefully that will be there in the games to come.”
The battle for third?
Despite going into the group as a top four team, Celtic would have been confident that at least third place was within reach, with RB Leipzig likely to finish second.
However, Shakhtar’s 4-1 drubbing of the Germans left the door open for the Ukrainians and Celta in the first round. Therefore, there will be more than a hint of frustration that the three points were not claimed in Poland.
Despite a late let-up against Leipzig, he is where everyone expected him to be at the top of Group F with six points from six. Let’s just say they’ll stay there.
By the time they go to the Bernabeu on matchday six, Celtic’s campaign will be made or broken, you’d think.
The double-header against bottom-placed Leipzig, which kicks off in Germany in three weeks’ time, will be a key marker for Postecoglou’s side, especially given that Shakhtar will be in two games against Real.
If they can prevent Leipzig from winning and get the three points in Glasgow, it will be an important step towards some sort of playoff football.
It will then be up to the Ukrainians to do what they have never managed before – stop Celtic from winning at Parkhead. Easy, huh?
“Tonight will give us a little bit more to believe that we can achieve something as a team,” insisted McGregor. “A point is a good result when you’re out here.
“Obviously home games are always going to be important, but tonight it was also essential to get something on the board, and another stage for us to go a bit further.
“It’s just another small mark that we can work on and hopefully we can get that win in the next few days.”