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Julian Taylor: Celtic must learn lesson from lucky Euro escape

Relief: Celtic duo Tom Rogic (left) and Kieran Tierney after progressing in the Europa League
Relief: Celtic duo Tom Rogic (left) and Kieran Tierney after progressing in the Europa League

By Julian Taylor

Somewhere, around the tranquillity of Trondheim in Norway, Tore Reginiussen might well be shortly expecting a discreet parcel of seasonal goodwill, delivered with a Glasgow postmark.

The Rosenborg defender's dramatic equaliser away to RB Leipzig was only a consolation for the Tippelagen outfit, already eliminated from the Europa League - but his intervention made capital for Celtic, who were staring at the exit door of the competition.

Fortuitously bundled into the last 32, Celtic can now look ahead to a new year in Europe.

There would probably have been a kernel of embarrassment for manager Brendan Rodgers for the Scottish champions' reputation especially in the context of failing to qualify for the Champions League, and the outlay of a club record £9m for striker Odsonne Edouard in the summer may have been deemed an act of frivolity.

Relieved Rodgers can now anticipate Monday's draw for the next stage.

In the meantime, the Ulsterman will reflect on the difficulties of sharp contrasts at home and abroad. Somehow, Celtic need to be more prepared for teams - albeit with significantly more quality - coming to Parkhead and being aggressive from the outset, as RB Salzburg were during their 2-1 victory on Thursday night.

This is an obvious break from the assumed normality where Celts enjoy setting the pace of most Premiership games. Other experienced European sides with quality players, like the Austrians, will not be intimidated.

Striker Leigh Griffiths may be missing for a period due to unspecified personal reasons, but Celtic still remain stronger going forward, with James Forrest, Callum McGregor and refuelled Scott Sinclair, compared, crucially, to second-placed Rangers.

It's a major consolation allied to the good fortune from Rosenborg, although the club mood remains a bit offset by the injury to promising Ryan Christie, who could be absent for a while.

In contrast to Celtic's advancement, Rapid Vienna's Allianz Stadion, at the end of a U-bahn metro line in the Austrian capital, was darkly metaphorical for Rangers, who have to extract a collective will beyond their Euro terminus.

That the Light Blues negotiated 14 games only to be squeezed in Europa League Group G remains a notable feat, with a new manager and a new assembly of players.

Yet, within the eventful episodes there are regrets. Ibrox chief Steven Gerrard knows a lack of incision and rudimentary mistakes in the games against Spartak Moscow created a premature ending.

Time for reflection is fleeting, however, and Gerrard is tasked with cajoling towards the comparatively humdrum, starting at home to Hamilton tomorrow.

January recruitment is a priority, as not all of those entering Ibrox recently have impacted. Gerrard has to question his own sense of quiet loyalties.

For example, central defender Joe Worrall, a Nottingham Forest loanee, hasn't ascended to standards and the manager's preference of him over Nikola Katic is perplexing.

Moreover, considering the acute slump in form by Lassana Coulibaly after a bright opening couple of months, it is another matter which needs to be taken out of the player's hands.

Meanwhile, the Ibrox return of Kyle Lafferty is still questionable. Therefore, attacking reinforcements is one main area where Rangers must strengthen in January.

Fortunately, the other, a key cutter type, appears an obvious solution, with Steven Davis expected to return to the Gers from Southampton.

The Light Blues have swollen midfield options, but despite the robust anchoring of Ryan Jack and the drive of Scott Arfield they lack ingenuity which has contributed to defeats in key games. Davis, at least in the short term, can provide missing craft.

The Europa League run has earned Rangers around £8m, softening the disappointing slow drift from Vienna for the club's supporters, but patience remains at Ibrox.

When Celtic arrive on 29 December, though, that virtue may be tested considerably. Rodgers, buoyed by Thursday's jolt of Norse fate, is still in the box seat.

Belfast Telegraph


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