THE aeroplane booked to fly Celtic's party home from Athens next Tuesday night could be so frosty that it might do well to take off.

If the double-treble champions do not make the Champions League group stage, and at half-time in this tie you would make AEK Athens strong favourites for the play-off, it is because someone at Celtic Park hasn't done their job properly.

And that’s not Brendan Rodgers.

The manager’s pre-match public complaint about the lack of signings, his fear of a team going backwards in what wasn’t even a veiled dig at the board turned out to be bang-on the money – and money is the issue.

Celtic are short in quality and they should not be. They need at least one more creative player and two central defenders. The funds have been there all summer. They are still there.

John McGinn, who Rodgers wanted, was confirmed an Aston Villa player 15 minutes before kick-off in Glasgow and that setback along with the lack of replacement for either Stuart Armstrong or Paddy Roberts is why Celtic have at best stood still.

And even Europe’s mid-sized clubs don’t wait around for anyone.

AEK have some fine players but played for most of the second-half with ten men and, remember, this was their first competitive game of the season – but Celtic couldn’t make the most of their possession on a frustrating night.

It just didn’t happen for Odsonne Edouard, sluggish inside the box when cross upon cross was played in and not defended. Tom Rogic was far from sharp and from the start AEK worked out that a central defence of Kristoffer Ajer and Jack Hendry, hardly dripping with European experience, could be Celtic’s weak point.

They had a point. Celtic had a better defence two years. How has this been allowed to happen?

Can Celtic still do it? Yes, but as things stand they are heading, probably, to the Europa League.

Ach, it was a strange evening,

The Green Brigade have crossed a line in the past with their banners but were absolutely spot-on last night. They asked whether the Champions League were having a laugh; a reference to fourth place teams in England, Spain, Germany and Italy an automatic group stage.

The banner of such clubs jumping the queue was a good one. UEFA’s goal to make football only for the richest is nothing short of a scandal.

However, how Celtic would still love to enter that elite club for a third year in a row.

So, too, AEK who within a minute had hurried their way into Celtic’s box, Craig Gordon was forced to gather the ball on his own line, and then it was the home side’s turn to attack with Callum McGregor twice getting into good positions before an excellent Kieran Tierney ball was misjudged by both Edouard and James Forrest.

As frantic starts go, this was something else.

On seven minutes, Tierney’s deflected cross almost fell nicely to Edouard in front of goal but he didn’t react which was a feature of his evening.

McGregor then played a one-two with Edouard at breakneck speed, the Scotland man took on a shot which needed both hands of Vasiileios Barkas to prevent an opener.

The Greek goalkeeper was only delaying. Celtic scored on 17 minutes.

Both teams won and lost the ball in midfield until Rogic took control and superbly sent a cross-field pass to Tierney on the left. He zipped the ball to the foot of McGregor who touched, turned and then beat Barkas with a superb shot.

What a player he has become.

AEK’s response was to begin playing some lovely football, without really threatening, which at times tested a hesitant Celtic central defence.

And the pace didn’t drop. It was exhausting just watching.

A superb ball before the half hour from Tierney, by now enjoying a ridiculously good evening, was asked to be tapped home but nobody saw the question coming. It was a feature of this 90 minutes.

Where is Henrik Larsson when you need him?

Forrest, full of endeavour and determination, was enjoying himself against Helder Lopes and his step-over on 38 minutes bamboozled the left-back but the Celtic winger’s shot was off target.

Celtic’s intensity had dropped and a minute later here was Lopes cutting inside Mikael Lustig and from his right foot tested Craig Gordon with a fine effort which was creeping under the Celtic keeper’s bar.

But AEK were to score just before half-time. Oh, and it stung.

Lustig should have blocked Lopes’s cross from the right, the ball was played into Celtic’s box with some force, clearly nobody had read the situation, with Ajer in particular in no-man’s land, Victor Klonaridis found himself in the right place at exactly the right time and superbly dispatched his shot past a helpless Gordon.

Right, what could Celtic do to fix things? Even with a sympathetic referee they came up short.

A few minutes into the half and Ajer made a tackle from behind to stop Marko Livaja breaking through a gap left by the Norwegian which means the young defender is out of the second leg.

However, there was no time for anyone wearing hoops to feel sorry for themselves. Work had to be done.

There was bizarre moment on 53 minutes. Italian referee Luca Banti had dropped his foam spray, which nobody had noticed, and just as Ntcham was about to shoot, it exploded. The Frenchman to his credit kept his head and the resultant effort was deflected wide.

It was about this time when AEK started time wasting and making fouls. But Konstantinos Galanaopoulos was just a bit too dirty for Mr Banti and his 55th minute hack on Forrest earned him a yellow and then a red, reward for his reaction.

It was a break, perhaps a fortunate one, but could Celtic capitalise? No.

Rodgers changed things on the hour. A shattered Rogic was replaced by Leigh Griffiths, a popular substitution.

Griffiths, Ntcham and McGregor all had half-chances, nothing more, and AEK proved they were adept at making blocks and clearing their lines. The Greeks will really fancy themselves next Tuesday and who can blame them.

And will a big English club come in for one of Rodgers’s better players today? Now that will be interesting.