Toni Kroos and Thibaut Courtois admitted to Movistar Plus that Real Madrid struggled away at Ange Postecoglou’s Celtic despite a 3-0 triumph in their Champions League group-stage opening at Parkhead.
If you didn’t know what happened on the green half of Glasgow on Tuesday night, you’d be forgiven for thinking Real Madrid made easy work of the Hoops, given the lopsided result.
But, make no mistake, this was not a re-enactment of the Brendan Rodgers era, when Celtic were beaten into submission by PSG and Bayern Munich.
For the first 50 minutes, the home side not only stood toe-to-toe with the European champions, but they also landed a handful of jabs, leaving this uber-experienced Madrid side glancing strangely punch-drunk.
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“It’s a spectacular atmosphere,” Kroos said at the end.
“We weren’t expecting an easy game.” We knew they were a great team. They defeated Rangers 4-0, indicating that they are a good team. The first half was extremely challenging. The crucial thing was to remain calm and gradually gain control of the game. A well-earned victory.
“The first half was challenging. It’s normal; it’s their style of play. We dominated once we got into the pace of the game.”
In the first 45 minutes, Callum McGregor, Matt O’Riley, and the razor-sharp Reo Hatate outplayed Kroos, Luka Modric, and the £72 million Aurelien Tchouameni, running rings round the their elite-level opponents. McGregor even hit the post from the edge of the box when the score was still 0-0.
And, in truth, Joe Hart was something of a spectator until Vinicius Jr., the scored against Liverpool in the May final, broke Celtic’s rigidity just before the hour.
“They started better in the first half,” says Courtois, who made yet another reflex save after a breathtaking Hatate volley. “But we were better in the second.
“Excellent ambiance. I played here 11 years ago when I was at Atletico Madrid. They always enjoy playing here. It’s encouraging that people support their team and congratulate us. It’s a great gesture.”
How many times has Real Madrid come back from the brink of defeat to score a knockout blow? In many respects, the resulting 3-0 victory was typical Los Blancos; an unremarkable performance punctuated by flashes of star talent.
After Vini’s opener, the superb Luka Modric doubled their advantage almost immediately, before substitute Eden Hazard put the cherry on the cake later on, a tired Celtic team washed aside by a late Real tide.