Old Firm big fish can’t swim outside small pond
Celtic might stick it to Hamilton Academical and Falkirk on a regular basis but AaB Aalborg proved too good for them on Tuesday as a 2-1 win for the Danes ended the Glasgow club’s interest in the Champions League early – again.
Why do Scotland’s finest struggle to make any impact when a similar-sized club like Porto continually do well and Anorthosis Famagusta flourish this year?
The Aalborg defeat should not have come as a shock as Celtic have now managed one draw, and a remarkable 19 defeats from their last 20 Champions League away games.
Barry Robson’s opener last night was their first away goal in the competition for two years but it was almost fated that they should add the Aalborg Stadion to the long list of barren grounds with a Gary Caldwell own goal three minutes from time.
Tuesday’s result also ensured that, despite overcoming their travel travails to reach the knockout phase in the last two seasons, they would finish bottom of their group and not even have a crack at the UEFA Cup, where they reached the final in 2003.
Asked before Tuesday’s game whey Celtic had such a poor return from their Champions League away games, manager Gordon Strachan said: “The other teams have scored more goals than us and we haven’t scored enough. It’s quite simple really.”
My how they must have laughed at the razor wit, and perhaps had another chuckle when the simple formula was repeated a few hours later.
Even after what Strachan somehow described as an “unbelievable defeat”, he found a positive spin by saying: “We don’t need to feel embarrassed because there are a lot of teams around Europe who would like to be worried about their away record in the Champions League but can’t get anywhere near it.”
Rangers, champions of Scotland just the 51 times, did not even get past the qualifying stage this season as they were undone by Lithuanians Kaunas, who coincidentally were knocked out by Aalborg in the next round.
But for suffering Old Firm fans, help is at hand in the form of a return to their never-ending duel for supremacy in the Scottish Premier League this weekend.
And when everyone else is getting excited about the last 16 of the Champions League next year, Rangers and Celtic can fight it out in the Scottish Cup, where they might just add to their combined 102 appearances in the final.
PHOTO: Celtic’s Scott McDonald fights for the ball with AaB Aalborg’s Andreas Johansson (R) during their Champions League match in Denmark, Nov. 25. REUTERS/Henning Bagger/Scanpix