Celtic crashed out of Europe after losing the second leg of their Europa Conference League playoff tie 2-0 at Bodo/Glimt and 5-1 on aggregate.
Perhaps with one eye on Sunday’s key Scottish Premiership clash at Hibernian, Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou tion the changes for his side’s visit to the Arctic Circle, with the much-changed visitors being overrun from the outset.
Needing to strike first to have any chance of turning the tie around, the visitors made the worst possible start when Ola Solbakken slotted home after just nine minutes at a freezing Aspmyra Stadium.
Bodo/Glimt: :Smits (6), Sampsted (6), Moe (6), Hoibraten (6), Wembangomo (6), Vetlesen (7), Hagen (6), Saltnes (7), Solbakken (9), Espejord (7) , Pellegrino (8)
subs: Larsen (6), Boniface (6), Konradsen (7), Mugisha (6), Koomson (6)
away team: Hart (8), Ralston (5), Welsh (5), Starfelt (5), Scales (5), Rogic (5), Bitton (5), O’Riley (5), Forrest (5), Giakoumakis (5 ), Maeda (5)
subs: Abada (7), McCarthy (6), McGregor (6)
Man of the match: Ola Solbakken
And the Norwegian champions would have been out of sight by half-time had it not been for Celtic’s overworked goalkeeper Joe Hart, who made a string of excellent saves to deny the hosts.
However, as Celtic continued to struggle with both the artificial surface and the sub-zero conditions, Bodo/Glimt struck again with 21 minutes to go after a lovely team move.
Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou made five changes from the team that won 3-2 at home to Dundee in the Scottish Premiership on Sunday.
In came the likes of Nir Bitton, Stephen Welsh, Liam Scales, Tom Rogic and James Forrest, with skipper Callum McGregor, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Josip Juranovic, Reo Hatate and Jota all dropping to the bench.
Hugo Vetlesen started the move, finding Amahl Pellegrino, who then slipped Morten Konradsen down the left side of the box and from the substitute’s inviting cross, there was the unmarked Vetlesen to volley home as the home team progressed into the last 16 of a European competition for just the second time in their history.
Celtic, meanwhile, now turn their attention to Easter Road on Sunday and the race for the Scottish Premiership.
Postecoglou: Celtic deserved to go out
Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou told Celtic TV:
“It’s fair to say we weren’t at the levels we needed to be over the two legs and they deservedly go through,” he said.
“It’s disappointing for us. We certainly wanted to make progress in this competition, but unfortunately our performances haven’t warranted it.
“If you don’t perform at the levels we have been, then we won’t be successful.
“They were probably our least effective two performances in Europe this year, including when we got beat 4-0 by Leverkusen.
“When you are at that level you don’t get the opportunity to progress.
“When you look at our European campaign, ultimately we haven’t succeeded.
“That to me is the bottom line, irrespective of progress or improvement or learning.
“This football club should be making an impact in Europe and it’s my job to make sure we do.”
‘It’s all about Celtic trying to get the league title back now’
Andy Walker on Sky Sports News:
“Celtic were really poor tonight. I expected them to have a better go than this, but when you saw the team selection of Ange Postecoglou, you knew he had one eye on Sunday’s game against Hibs at Easter Road.
“There would have been five, maybe six players on the bench who could have started, and I’m sure will start on the weekend against Hibs, but Celtic never really got going. And in a similar way to the game last week in Glasgow , Bodo/Glimt controlled it right from the word go, got an early goal from the very impressive Solbakken, lovely finish, and they got a second goal in the second half.
“Celtic were a bit better in the second half, but had it not been for Joe Hart, then Celtic could have lost this by four or five goals on the night. So their level of performance has to improve for the game on Sunday against Hibs at Easter Road.
“It is never easy to go to Edinburgh, especially with Shaun Maloney taking up the reins there now and that should be a really good game there on Sunday, but Celtic well beaten tonight.
“That is them now dropped out of the Champions League, dropped out of the Europa League and now dropped out of the Conference League and to be fair to Ange Postecoglou, he has made a really good impact given the shambles Celtic were right at the start of the season.
“He already has a trophy under his belt, he is still in the Scottish Cup, and very much in a title race with Rangers, three points to the good at the moment. And given they play in the early game on Sunday, it gives them the opportunity to go six in front of Rangers before they play Motherwell at Ibrox, so that is undoubtedly where the priorities lie – it is all about Celtic trying to get the league title back now.”
Could European humbling prove a blessing in disguise for Celtic?
While Celtic were given a European lesson by Bodo/Glimt across the two legs of their Europa Conference League play-off tie, maybe come the end of the season they will look back on this comprehensive 5-1 aggregate defeat as a blessing in disguise.
Sure, Postecoglou and his players would have been desperate to progress to Friday’s last-16 draw and keep alive their hopes of an incredible Quadruple this campaign – they have already claimed the Scottish League Cup, while they also lead champions Rangers by three points in the race for the Scottish Premiership and face a quarter-final trip to Dundee United in the Scottish Cup.
However, Celtic’s main focus is on getting their hands back on the title they surrendered to Rangers last season and being dumped out of Europe may just help them in that regard, especially with their city rivals still in the Europa League and facing more energy-sapping games next month.
But having rested five key players for the trip to the Arctic Circle, Postecoglou must now take all three points from Celtic’s tricky-looking trip to Easter Road – live on SkySports Football – on Sunday lunchtime…
Man of the Match – Ola Solbakken
As in the first leg, Solbakken caused the Celtic defense no end of problems, opening the scoring early on with a composed finish into the bottom corner of the net and generally running the show at a snow-covered Aspmyra Stadion.
Solbakken was at the heart of everything the home team did and were in not for an inspired display by Celtic No 1 Joe Hart, as well as some wayward finishing, the quick-footed Norway international would have had more than his solitary opener.
What’s next for Celtic?
Celtic travel to Hibernian in the Scottish Premiership on Sunday, live on SkySports Football. Kick off 12pm.