Hopes of enjoying a morale boosting win over Inverness Caley Thistle ahead of the Champions League play-off with Shakhter Karagandy died a death yesterday as Inverness Caley Thistle raced into a 2-0 first half lead.
Taking slightly longer than neighbours Ross County did to open the scoring the SPFL leaders shocked the home support in the 14th minute when Aaron Doran curled a low shot around Fraser Forster into the far corner of the net.
When Richie Foran doubled the lead it looked like a long day ahead for the home side but Charlie Mulgrew halved the deficit before Neil Lennon got to ‘have a word’ with his players at the break.
There was something hard to define missing about the Celtic performance with the players failing to function as a team with confidence lacking. The purpose and drive that were evident throughout last season’s European run and key domestic moments was posted missing alongwith Gary Hooper, Victor Wanyama and Kelvin Wilson.
With Kris Commons, James Forrest, Anthony Stokes and James Forrest missing through injury it was left to Scott Brown, Joe Ledley and Mulgrew to provide leadership.
The key change in the flow of the match came in the 76th minute when Mikael Lustig replaced Virgil van Dijk. With the Swede used at right-back Adam Matthews was pushed one step forward with the impressive former Cardiff City man levelling the scores in the 82nd minute after engineering the ball onto his right side to shoot low past serial time waster Dean Brill in the Inverness goal.
Another Swede, Bahrudin Atajic, provided some welcome variety to Celtic’s attacking play late in the match which could earn him a place on the bench against Shakhter on Wednesday night.
Yesterday’s performance didn’t inspire confidence ahead of Wednesday’s match but as the team demonstrated last season when it comes to the Champions League Celtic are capable of finding a new level of performance.
As Neil Lennon acknowledged afterwards it’ll certainly take a new level of performance to see of Shakhter and set up another Champions League campaign to brighten up the autumn nights.