WHEN Celtic were smashing nine goals past Dundee United and four in against Rangers, you would have got long odds on the narrative over the proceeding fortnight being dominated by their lack of a clinical edge.

After hugely encouraging performances against Real Madrid and Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League though, that is exactly what this Celtic team stand accused of, and not only by outside observers.

The manager, Ange Postecoglou, and the players themselves have admitted their own frustrations that those creditable displays have so far yielded just the one point, when it could have been so much more had their normally reliable attackers had their shooting boots on.

If anything, it is the draw against Shakhtar Donetsk in Warsaw on Wednesday night that will hurt them more, given the quality they came up against when the European champions eventually turned it on in matchday one.

Make no mistake, the Ukrainians were there for the taking. Their rope-a-dope performance to stun RB Leipzig in Germany last week may have spooked Celtic a little, who knew they would dominate the ball and that their opponents would look to pick them off on the counter.

Their equaliser apart though, when the talented Mykhaylo Mudryk sped away to hammer home past Joe Hart, the lightning breaks Celtic feared never really materialised.

For all that Celtic appeared to be awaiting Shakhtar’s attempt at a knockout sucker punch, as the game wore on, it became clear they were actually all punched out.

Instead, Celtic swarmed all around their area, and while there was some stout defending on display, the Scottish champions created more than enough chances to win the game. That the only time they have found the net over these two matches is through Reo Hatate’s deflected cross in Warsaw is curious.

If Celtic were hanging on for dear life and playing on the counter, perhaps their inability to find the net could be explained by the step up in level, but they appear to be creating opportunities with almost as much regularity as they do on the domestic front, and quality opportunities at that.

So, why is it that the likes of Kyogo, Giorgos Giakoumakis, Liel Abada, Jota and Daizen Maeda have all passed up chances in these games that they would normally gobble up with ease? Mentally, could the importance of these occasions be getting to them in those critical moments, the pressure causing them to snatch at such glaring openings?

Only the players could tell you that. And they more than likely wouldn’t. But from the outside a case can be made for the argument. Take one of Abada’s early opportunities against Real Madrid, for instance.

The winger has been nothing short of sensational in terms of his output since arriving at the club, finding the net six times already this season in nine appearances from the right wing. But when Jota produced a brilliant pass to put him in behind the Madrid defence, the prospect of running in on Thibaut Courtois seemed to spook him.

Instead of running on with the ball, he took his shot far too early, and the Belgian keeper had a comfortable save.

Then there was Maeda’s miss early in the second half of that same game, kicking the ball off his standing foot when just yards from goal. In fairness, he had only just come off the bench, but even still, it was a gilt-edged opportunity and one you would expect him to tuck away perhaps eight or nine times out of 10.

Moving on to Warsaw, and Kyogo and Matt O’Riley could have had Celtic two up before Hatate’s cross dribbled into the Shakhtar net via the knee of defender Artem Bondarenko.

They failed to build on that lead despite huge territorial domination, and were pegged back after half an hour as a result. Even then though, the second half brought huge chances for Jota and Maeda, but there was always a slip at the wrong moment, or a scuffed connection on the shot, and the opportunities were spurned.

The biggest offender though was Giakoumakis, who was found brilliantly in the area by a Greg Taylor cutback late on.

The striker is an instinctive finisher, so you might argue that if anything, he had too much time to measure his attempt at goal. But he still should have burst the net, rather than graze the outside junction of post and bar with the three points begging to be grasped.

It may be harsh to dig out these Celtic players given how well they have performed as a collective in the opening Champions League games, but the top level in Europe is a harsh environment. Rarely does it present a team seeded fourth, as Celtic are, with such a fighting chance to progress from their section.

Shakhtar winning in Leipzig blew the race for second wide open, and if Celtic can get any sort of result of their own in Germany in their next match, it would give their qualification hopes a massive boost.

With Shakhtar still to play Real Madrid twice and having to visit Glasgow, and Leipzig having already suffered the blow of that home defeat to the Ukrainians, it is all to play for.

Celtic seemed to have settled into this level of football between the boxes with impressive ease, but they have to get over their yips in front of goal. Otherwise, these missed chances could lead to them blowing one of their biggest opportunities in years; knockout stage Champions League football.