For the second successive season, Celtic will not be in the Champions League. Neil Lennon’s side looked well-placed to make the play-off round of qualifying after a 1-1 away draw against Cluj last week, but an extraordinary collapse saw them concede four times in the home leg, losing 5-4 on aggregate to the Romanians.
This was a humiliating exit for the Scottish champions, but it’s not the first time that they have suffered such indignity on the continental stage. In fact, this has become something of a pattern for them in recent years.
Here are Celtic’s five worst European fiascos this century.
Artmedia Bratislava, July 2005
This defeat always tops any list of Celtic embarrassments in Europe. It could be argued that the loss to Lincoln Red Imps in Brendan Rodgers’ first game in charge was the Hoops’ worst ever European result, but that was essentially erased by a comfortable second leg result that saw them through regardless.
The 5-0 Champions League qualification defeat to Artmedia Bratislava cost Celtic, though. This was Gordon Strachan’s debut as manager, and fortunately for him things would get better, but this result, despite a 4-0 win in the second leg, cost Celtic their place in Europe for a whole season.
Maribor, August 2014
There had been earlier warnings that Celtic were out of their depth in Europe in 2014-15. The Hoops had already suffered a heavy 6-1 aggregate defeat to Legia Warsaw in Champions League qualification only for Ronny Deila’s side to be given a reprieve due to an administrative error by the Polish side.
This didn’t do much to stem the embarrassment, though. In the next round, Celtic were knocked out by Slovenian side Maribor, losing 1-0 at home after drawing the first leg 1-1 away from Glasgow.
Ronny Deila’s tenure at the club never really recovered from this point. The Norwegian won back-to-back league titles as Celtic boss, but the failure to qualify for the Champions League finished him.
Malmo, August 2015
For 95 minutes of their first leg against Malmo, Celtic looked to be cruising through to the group stages of the Champions League. They led 3-1, but conceded a second goal deep into stoppage time to change the complexion of the whole tie. Deila’s team went on to lose the second leg in Sweden 2-0, dropping into the Europa League.
The aggregate defeat was made all the more humiliating by the fact it was Jo Inge Berget who did all the damage in the first leg, scoring twice for Malmo. Berget was one of Deila’s signings in his first season at Celtic, but became a symbol of how the Norwegian coach wasn’t backed by the club in the transfer market. Berget got the last laugh.
Some clubs ranked higher than Cluj (288th) by UEFA:
FC Midtjylland – 103rd
The New Saints – 179th
Aberdeen – 192nd
Hibs – 222nd
St. Johnstone – 223rd
Inverness CT – 225th
Motherwell – 226th
Crusaders – 234th
Lincoln Red Imps – 243rd
Zawisza Bydgoszcz – 272nd
Cork City – 279th
— James Black (@jamesblack1986) August 13, 2019
Lincoln Red Imps, July 2016
Rodgers would go on to become one of the greatest Celtic managers in recent history, winning seven from seven trophies he entered during his time in Glasgow. But his reign got off to a less than convincing start, losing his first competitive game in charge to part-time Lincoln Red Imps of Gibraltar.
Of course, in the end it didn’t matter much as the Hoops won the second leg 3-0, easing them into the next round of Champions League qualification. But taking this as an individual result, this was a horror show. Celtic looked slow, sluggish and short of ideas. Things certainly changed over the course of Rodgers’ tenure.
Paris Saint-Germain, November 2017
There is no shame to suffering defeat to Paris Saint-Germain, especially away from home. But the manner of this loss made it crushing. Despite the way he left the club, Rodgers is thought of as one of the best managers in Celtic’s history. Domestically, the Northern Irishman was untouchable, leading the Hoops to every trophy he entered.
It was a different story in Europe. Rodgers led Celtic to the Champions League group stages twice, but his team was found to be well out of its depth once they got there. The Hoops had already been dismantled 5-0 at home by PSG and then 3-0 away from home to Bayern Munich. Another manager might have adopted a more pragmatic approach, but Rodgers continued to believe he could take the game to high calibre opposition.
PSG exposed this strategy for a second time with a 7-1 hammering of the Scottish champions.