CELTIC found completing their bid to remain in Europe this season to be every bit as problematic as the British government is discovering it is to leave Europe at the moment.

The first Champions League group game victory at Parkhead in four long years which Brendan Rodgers and his players had hoped to treat their supporters to eluded them on what proved to be a difficult evening. 

The Scottish champions were dominated for lengthy spells of the match by their Belgian rivals and ended up losing due to the own goal which their centre half Jozo Simunovic netted midway through the second half.

For a while, it even looked a distinct possibility they could lose by a greater margin and squander their opportunity to finish third in Group B and progress to the knockout rounds of the Europa League.

Having won 3-0 away from home against the same opponents back in September, that would have been nothing short of a disaster.

In the end, Scott Brown and his team mates got the result which they required to go through. It was, though, far from straightforward, as many had expected it to be given the outcome of the previous meeting, for them.

Prime Minister Theresa May and her cohorts, who have been unable to reach an agreement with the EU in their protracted Brexit talks, would doubtless sympathise with the difficulties which they encountered securing their objective.

Still, Celtic will go into the draw for the last 32 of the Europa League in Nyon in Switzerland on Monday as a result of finishing third in Group B and will play the side they are paired with there in a two-legged tie in February next year.

The cynics, of whom there are a fair few in Scottish football, will scoff at the quality of the opposition Celtic had to overcome hre in order to ensure they will be involved in European football after Christmas.

Anderlecht are in disarray on and off the park and arrived harbouring little hope of winning their first Champions League group game in 10 years.

Expensive signings have failed to live up to expectations.  Poor performances and results have resulted in a change of manager. But they certainly showed why they are seeded above their opponents with a bright showing. They were well worth their win on the night.  

However, nothing can be taken away from Celtic for what they have achieved regardless of the manner in which they stumbled across the finishing line.

The sense of anticipation and excitement inside the stadium as the familiar strains of the tournament anthem Zadoc the Priest blared out of over the public address system before kick-off were tangible.

So, when the visitors nearly opened the scoring in just the second minute it caused a stunned silence to spread around the ground. 

Henry Onyekuru cut the ball back to Sven Kums in the Celtic area and the Anderlecht midfielder unleashed a low shot at goal. Craig Gordon did well to push the shot past his left post for a corner and prevent his side falling immediately behind.

The Belgians continued to dominate. Onyekuru, the Nigerian forward who is on loan from Everton, proved a handful with his directness, pace and trickery on the ball as did Sofianne Hanni and Adrien Trebel.

Gordon saved an acrobatic effort from French winger Trebel in the 17th minute and then held a long-range attempt from the same player after 28 minutes. His outfield team mates failed to create any chances at the other end of the park themselves.

The fact that Hein Vanhaezebrouck’s side needed to win and win comfortably in order to progress while Rodgers’s team could afford to lose by a two goal margin was possibly the reason for the respective displays.

Still, Celtic were as poor as Anderlecht were impressive. Their passing, in particular, was woeful. When Dedryck Boyata played the ball straight to his opposite number Kums four minutes before half-time despite not being under any pressure summed up how far off their best the home side were.  

Perhaps their heavy schedule – they had played Motherwell three times in the space of six days leading up to this tie – had taken a toll on the hosts.

Whatever the reason, their manager had seen quite enough. He made two substitutions at half-time with Olivier Ntcham replacing the flat Stuart Armstrong in midfield and Tom Rogic taking over from the equally subdued Scott Sinclair further forward. The changes had an immediate impact.

Celtic started playing with far greater fluency and urgency. James Forrest and Kieran Tierney came into the game far more on the right and left flanks respectively and the crowd’s mood lifted.

When Anderlecht keeper Frank Boeckx pushed a tame Forrest effort wide in the 56th minute they won their first corner of the match. That told its own sorry story.  

The opening goal six minutes later came very much against the run of play. Simunovic, who had hardly put a foot wrong all game, headed a Dennis Appiah cross into his own net off the inside of the left post under pressure from Pieter Gerkens.

Odsonne Edouard, who had scored a hat-trick four days earlier, took over from Moussa Dembele in the 75th minute in an attempt to add a much-needed cutting edge up front. 

But Hanni tested Gordon with a powerful drive just two minutes later and it was Anderlecht who looked the likelier of the two teams to net in the closing stages.

Securing European football after Christmas is a fine accomplishment for Rodgers and his charges, but they will have to perform better if they are to go further.

HeraldScotland | Sport

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