And just like that, Matchday 1 has come and gone for the Scottish clubs in the group stages of UEFA’s three club competitions.
Three Scottish clubs are representing the SPFL in European Competitions this campaign. Celtic and Rangers are in the Champions League while Hearts feature in the UEFA Europa Conference League.
These three sides faced some tough matches this week. Celtic hosted last year’s champions Real Madrid, Rangers went on the road to face Ajax and Hearts hosted Istanbul Başakşehir.
All three SPFL clubs lost big on Matchday 1 in Europe
Here is a recap of all three games on Matchday 1 of the European competitions featuring SPFL clubs.
Celtic and Rangers lose in Champions League openers
Celtic started this game in an exciting fashion, which featured two corner kicks in the opening minutes of this contest.
Celtic did not sit back as they have done in years prior during Champions League football. Instead, they played with intensity and tried to press Real into making mistakes. This plan worked for the opening half and the start of the second. The issue for Celtic is they did not take advantage of their opportunities when they could have gone in front on multiple occasions.
Unfortunately for Celtic, 10 minutes into the second half, Daizen Maeda missed a great chance to open the score. Then, Real Madrid scored the opening goal just after, courtesy of Vinícius Júnior.
After that goal, Celtic seemed to lose all confidence and Real showed their class as they dominated the rest of the match. Luka Modrić then scored a world-class goal four minutes after the opener.
In the final 15 minutes of the match, Eden Hazard scored to put the champions up 3-0 and that was how the match finished.
Final Conclusion: This match was fun to watch as Celtic threw all they had at the current cup holders for 55 minutes, but once Madrid scored their opening goal, Celtic ran out of steam and Real settled into the match and showed why they are one of the best clubs in the world.
Rangers faced the daunting task of opening their Champions League campaign at the Johan Cruijff ArenA against Ajax. To make matters worse, they were looking to bounce back after getting trounced by Celtic 4-0 in the Glasgow Derby last weekend.
Rangers’ struggles continued as they were no match for their Dutch opponents. Ajax opened the scoring 17 minutes in on a corner courtesy of an Edson Álvarez header.
Ajax continued to attack Rangers. Ajax dominated possession and when they lost the ball, they pressed Rangers with intensity and Rangers could not cope with the pressure. In the few instances when Rangers were on the attack, they were extremely wasteful in taking their opportunities.
Steven Berghuis scored 15 minutes after Ajax’s opener to give them a two-goal lead. Then a minute later, Mohammed Kudus scored on a terrific left-footed shot to extend Ajax’s lead to three.
In the last 20 minutes of the match, Borna Barisic thought he gave Rangers the first goal of their campaign, but VAR stepped in and disallowed the goal due to offsides in the build-up play.
Shortly thereafter, Steven Bergwijn took advantage of a sloppy defensive play by Rangers to give Ajax a commanding 4-0 lead, and the match concluded with that scoreline.
Final Conclusion: This was an abysmal and embarrassing match for Rangers. They were no match against the Dutch champions and need to figure out their struggles immediately as they have lost back-to-back matches by a 4-0 scoreline. Points in this group will be tough to come by for Rangers as they also face Napoli and Liverpool.
Hearts demolished in return to Europe in Conference League at Tynecastle
Istanbul Başakşehir- 4 | Hearts- 0
The first couple of minutes were more of a feeling-out process, but then the sides started trading chances.
Hearts’ had an incredible chance to open the scoring off of a corner around the 21st minute of the game. Peter Haring had a header into a wide-open net cleared out on the goal-line.
About five minutes later, Başakşehir took advantage of a missed Hearts’ clearance and Hasan Ali Kaldırım scored on a terrific shot. Craig Gordon made some beautiful saves during the remainder of the half and Hearts went into the locker room at halftime down1-0.
Başakşehir had a great opportunity to add to their scoring in the opening minutes of the second half but they hit the crossbar.
Başakşehir was then able to find the back of the next and increase their lead off of a corner in the 67th minute. Minutes later, Stefano Okaka scored on a tremendous individual effort to extend Başakşehir’s lead to three. The goal was credited as an own-goal to Stephen Kingsley as it deflected off of him.
In the 82nd minute, Berkay Özcan scored to give Başakşehir an impressive four-goal lead, which made some of the Hearts’ supporters head for the exits. The match ended with this scoreline.
Final Conclusion: This was a tough match for the Tynecastle club in their return to Europe. They started off the game strong and had some great opportunities to score, but couldn’t find the back of the net. Başakşehir were clinical in the final third and took advantage of Hearts’ lapses. Hearts seemed to lose all control after Başakşehir scored their second goal. Hearts need to pick up at least a point next week against RFS before facing Fiorentina in back-to-back matches.
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Scottish sides will look for better results in European Matchday 2 next week. Next Tuesday (Sept. 13) Rangers host Napoli. Then on Wednesday (Sept. 14), Celtic head to Poland to face Shakhtar Donetsk, and finally, on Thursday (Sept. 15), Hearts will be in Latvia to take on RFS.
SPFL Supporters: Do you predict that any SPFL club will advance out of their European group? Leave your comments below!