SO Nir, and yet so far. A moment of madness from Nir Bitton, as well as a moment when goalkeeper Vasilis Barkas’s wrists seemed to fleetingly morph into wet paper towels, may prove to be costly for Celtic in their quest for Champions League football.

They dominated this first leg of this second qualifying round tie against a Midtjylland side who aspire to the status of bang average, and deservedly went ahead as Liel Abada scored on his full debut. As the celebrations kicked off around a rocking Celtic Park, not one of the 9000 supporters in the ground could have foretold what would happen next.

Moments after the opener, Bitton took the bait from an opponent in Anders Dreyer who clearly had an appreciation for the dark arts of the game. Dreyer would later be ordered off too for a dive, but by then, Celtic’s momentum had dissipated.

The absence of the away goals rule means that Evander’s second-half equaliser, which flashed through Barkas’s grasp on the way in, isn’t a total disaster. And neither was the opening night proper for Ange Postecoglou as Celtic manager, with plenty of positives to be garnered. But it could and should have been much better.

Yes, European football is back at Celtic Park.

It wasn’t quite one of the all-time great atmospheres, but it may well be one that lives long in the memory. It felt a lot more like old times as the stadium rocked once more prior to the game, and ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ was belted out before the game as lustily as ever, a year of frustration ebbing away.

There were a couple of surprises in the starting line-up, with Odsonne Edouard and Ryan Christie listed despite their lack of match practice over pre-season. The back four was also boosted by the return of the similarly ring-rusty Bitton. Or so went the theory.

Bo Henriksen came here as a manager under pressure, and his own Midtjylland side were missing many of the regulars that took them to some creditable results in the group stages of this competition last season.

There were some Ange-ball quirks to get used to for the Celtic fans early on, not least of which his instruction to Greg Taylor to drop into a central area to take the ball from Barkas. Taylor looks to still be getting used to it as well, as an early slip almost allowed the Danes in on goal, before Stephen Welsh did enough to snuff out the danger.

There was concern when Bitton was forced off to stop the flow of blood from his nose after taking a knock from a stray elbow, but the visitors then had the exact same issue as Raphael Onyedika went down off the ball and left the field with his face in a towel.

Both men eventually made it back onto the field, and the joined a frantic battle that was high on frenzied pressing and meaty challenges, but a little low on quality and goalmouth action.

New signing Abada was quiet in the first 20 minutes, but he produced a neat turn in the box to get a shot away that fizzed a yard over and hinted at what he could bring to the party.

Some fine play from Ismaila Soro then gave Abada a yard to get his head up and pick a pass for Edouard, but the striker’s shot on the turn also cleared the crossbar.

There is a saying that players don’t help referees with their antics sometimes, but there was then a moment that showed how officials actually contribute to a culture that encourages players to hit the deck, Edouard not getting a clear foul on the edge of the box by attempting to stay on his feet.

Christie then went agonisingly close to giving Celtic the lead twice in quick succession. A neat exchange between Abada and David Turnbull on the right saw the Israeli cross for Christie to toe-poke off the post.

The ball was worked back out to Abada, who then swung another beauty of a ball into the box where Christie flew through the air to head over. The pair would have their moment though, and they soon had Celtic ahead.

Christie drifted in off the left and got a rasping shot away that Jonas Lossl could only parry into the air for the arriving Abada to half-volley into the empty net. Postecoglou gave a visceral roar and punched the air in delight as Celtic Park responded in kind. How these fans had missed moments like this.

How they haven’t missed moments like the one that followed.

Bitton, who had already been booked, tracked the run of Dreyer into the box, and took exception to his opponent hitting the deck too easily. He had a point, but he then raised a pointed finger towards the head of the Midtjylland player, who rocked back as if caught by an uppercut.

It was pitiful from Dreyer, but equally, utter madness from Bitton, who had no need to give referee Sandro Schärer a decision to make. Abada subsequently went from the high of his opening goal to being sacrificed to allow Dane Murray to fill in at centre-half, and Celtic were down to 10. A double bonus for Midtjylland, with Abada the main danger for the hosts.

Fortunately for Celtic, 10 minutes after the restart Dreyer showed that he too was clearly as daft as a brush, and another piece of simulation as he collapsed under a challenge from Welsh saw him receive his second yellow card and the howling derision of the Celtic fans as he traipsed up the tunnel.

New captain Callum McGregor – outstanding on the night - immediately drove forward and crashed a shot off the top of the bar as if to signal the bugle charge,  and Edouard really should have put the Danes to the sword as he galloped through before finishing tamely and allowing Lossl to save.

There was a shot across the bows at the other end as Evander picked up a loose ball and scorched a shot wide with Barkas rooted to the spot and hoping for the best. The midfielder would get it right on his next attempt.

Welsh gave away a careless free-kick out on the Celtic right, and Evander crashed home off the opposite post from the narrowest of angles. The ball however had passed through the gloves of the flapping Barkas en-route, showing that his first season yips have yet to be remedied.

Edouard and Turnbull made way for Albian Ajeti and Tom Rogic, but Celtic couldn’t seize back the initiative, and they will travel to Herning now with it all to play for.