DAN Petrescu may have been indulging in mind games when he claimed that his CFR Cluj team would need a miracle to overcome Celtic in the Champions League third qualifying round at his pre-match press conference here on Tuesday evening.

Yet, the Romanians will surely require some divine intervention to progress to the play-off against Slavia Prague later this month now after being held to a 1-1 draw at home by their Scottish rivals, and conceding an away goal, in the first leg here last night.

They only scored in the first-half due to an error by the desperately disappointing Boli Bolingoli and showed little during the course of the 90 minutes to suggest they can travel to Glasgow and get the result they need away in front of a hostile crowd of 58,000 on Tuesday.

Bolingoli impressed in Celtic’s emphatic 7-0 win over St Johnstone at Parkhead on Saturday. But this was a far bigger test for the new arrival and he failed to pass it. He gave the ball away within seconds of the game kicking off. That set the tone for a woeful personal display.

Neil Lennon's men, who were knocked out of Europe’s premier club competition at this stage last year by AEK Athens, will have to avoid further needless mistakes at the back in order to go through. They will, though, be quietly confident they can get the job done this time around after this professional performance and fine result.

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Lewis Morgan started for Celtic wide on the left in the absence of both Mikey Johnston, who failed to recover from a slight strain he picked up in training, and Scott Sinclair, who was omitted from the 18 man squad altogether.

The no-show by Sinclair in Transylvania led, with the Premier League and Championship window in England closing at five o’clock this evening, to speculation that he could be set to move on after three years in Scotland. He has made just three substitute’s appearances and played less than 45 minutes of competitive football in the 2019/20 campaign and it will be little surprise if he departs.

Celtic started with purpose and their striker Odsonne Edouard tested Giedrius Arlauskis with a powerful low attempt from just outside the Cluj penalty box which the keeper did well, albeit at the second time of asking, to hold in just the fifth minute.

But the home team showed they too posed a threat up front moments later when Kristoffer Ajer turned a Mario Rondon square ball out for a corner. Andrei Burca headed just over from the ensuing Damjan Dokovic delivery. But the fact the centre half was allowed to rise unchallenged led to a few choice words from the away dugout.

Lennon had anticipated the home team would go direct at every available opportunity and he was proved right. However, Jozo Simunovic and Kristoffer Ajer, that one brief lapse in concentration aside, dealt with whatever was thrown at them comfortably.

Celtic produced the more attractive and composed football going forward. Ryan Christie, who has started the season so brightly with six goals in the first five competitive games, looked dangerous whenever he got on the ball. But Christie and his team mates James Forrest and Morgan were unable to find Edouard ahead of them and capitalise on their possession and pressure.

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Cluj opened the scoring against the run of play just before the half hour mark after Bolingoli failed to deal with a Ciprian Deac pass to Rondon and allowed the Venezualan striker to break through on goal. He did well to slot past Scott Bain from an acute angle. But he should never have been allowed to get into a position to shoot. It was a bad mistake by the left back.

The Belgian defender, a £3.5 million acquisition from Rapid Vienna at the start of last month, did little during the course of the night to suggest he will be an adequate replacement for Kieran Tierney if the Scot, who has been the subject of two failed bids from Arsenal, ends up being sold.

Celtic deserved to draw level eight minutes before half-time when Forrest received a cut back from Emhamed just outside the Cluj box, controlled the ball and stroked a left foot effort beyond Arlauskis and into the net off the inside of the inside of the right upright.

Petrescu was unhappy with Serbian referee Srdjan Jovanovic for some reason and remonstrated animatedly with the match official as the two teams walked across the pitch to their dressing rooms at half-time. It was all highly amusing to Celtic substitute goalkeeper Craig Gordon who patted the Chelsea and Romania great on the head before a security guard intervened.

Lennon wasn’t laughing, though, when Bolingoli failed to clear a Mihai Bordeianu corner six minutes into the second-half and Billel Omrani was allowed to get away a shot on goal inside the Celtic six yard box. Only a fine save by Bain, who showed quick reflexes to get his fingertips to it, kept the scoreline level.

Despite that near thing, Petrescu continued to object to Jovanovic’s handling of proceedings on the touchline and he was shown a yellow card for dissent for his conduct.

His opposite number replaced Morgan, who had worked hard on the left flank without making a huge impact on the game, with Olivier Ntcham in the 67th minute. Christophere Jullien replaced Simunovic soon afterwards when the defender suffered a knock and Nir Bitton came on for Hatem Elhamed and helped his team see out the game.