Ronny Deila has received many plaudits for his stewardship of Celtic, but failure against Malmo over 180 minutes in the Champions League play-off is a distinct blot on the Norwegian coach’s reputation.

For a second year in succession Deila has failed to guide Celtic into the Champions League group stage. And, as with the Maribor farce of last season, Celtic have fallen to a club over whom they should – and do – have many advantages.

Celtic have better players and a bigger squad than Malmo – which is not to disparage the gritty Swedish champions. So what does it say about Deila and his game-plan over these two matches?

A manager carries the can – rightly – even though it is the players on the field who execute the failure. In Nir Bitton, Virgil van Dijk and Stefan Johansen, Celtic had at least three players whose minds seemed to be elsewhere on Tuesday night.

It was shocking to witness how woeful Celtic were in Sweden. The question has to be asked: how can a team of such players bond together as wretchedly as this on the pitch?

Deila cannot wave a magic wand and eradicate every foible of human error on the field – of course he can’t. But a manager can or should ensure that his team is primed, ready, motivated, and up for the challenge on an evening of such importance.

Celtic appeared to be none of these things. In which case, the coach, just like the players, has to assess his own shortcomings.

It is to be hoped that any unwarranted whining does not form a part of Celtic’s explanations. The goal Celtic had chalked off just before half-time – probably wrongly – cannot be allowed to linger and form resentment. Across the 90 minutes in Sweden Celtic had nothing like the panache or aggressive tempo which their opponents brought to their game.

The Scottish champions looked frighteningly vulnerable to a high ball in Malmo, despite a distinct height advantage across their team. It contributed to an inauspicious night for Celtic, a costly one to the club’s coffers, and an occasion once again when Deila’s planning and preparation came up short.

Come May 2016, if Deila and Celtic have a treble nestling in their lap, this abysmal Champions League failure will be long forgotten. But none of that conjecture can take away from a night of gross inadequacy by Celtic’s players and management team.

Virgil van Dijk remains quite a mystery as a lauded centre-half. Sometimes the price for him is hiked up and up - £10m then £12m then £15m – but there are games in which this young Dutchman looks nothing like such a talent.

Can Van Dijk actually attack the incoming high ball as an aggressive centre-back? Malmo, both in Glasgow and at home, have cast some doubt on this.

HeraldScotland: 25/08/15 UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE PLAY-OFF RND 2ND LEG
MALMO v CELTIC
SWEDBANK STADION - MALMO
Celtic defender Virgil Van Dijk cuts a dejected figure at full-time (36576858)

Van Dijk also has that curse of many a rated central defender – his complacency sometimes knows no bounds.

As for Dedryck Boyata, well, the most diplomatic way of putting it is that long-suffering Celtic fans are “prepared to give him time”.

The historic context of this Celtic failure will only add to the club’s discomfort.

Last season’s Champions League qualifying flop weighed heavily on Deila and Celtic, but the truth is, an opening Deila season in the Europa League was a perfect fit for Celtic.

The Norwegian coach was new to his team. He was still finding his feet and knitting his team together. There were gremlins galore, and the chances are, Deila and Celtic were not fit for purpose in the 2014-15 Champions League.

But things had looked different this time round. Deila had seemed to grow in stature, and has a reasonably settled team. This, surely, was the moment for Deila to take Celtic up a level, to compete against the best in Europe.

It is a failure that looks embarrassing for Deila, and will cause some to think again about the merits of the Celtic head coach.

Deila’s record in European games with Celtic now reads: Played 20, Won 8, Drawn 5, Lost 7. These stats include games against such cannon-fodder as Reykavik and Stjarnan.

It seems to cast doubts about Deila’s readiness for the top European arena as a coach. He has now come up short quite a number of times in Glasgow.

Deila, in fact, will have to stand tall and play hard to recover from this setback.