Celtic's future may or may not be built on Hart.
But in Denmark it was all about balls and ultimately a distinct lack of them.
Having lost their nerve in last week’s first leg against limited Danish opposition, the Parkhead men blew a lead for the second time in eight days to crash out in extra time and blow any hope of a £40million fighting fund from Europe’s premier competition.
While former England keeper Joe mulls over a potential move north for the second successive summer, he now knows that it won’t involve a return to the Champions League.
If only he’d made the move a year ago then Celtic might not have ended up in such an almighty mess with so much for their new manager to do.
Ange Postecoglou can’t shoulder all the blame for this crushing set-back even if his team went out with a whimper.
At least the Aussie had the courage to drop the £5m klutz of a keeper who had left the tie on a knife-edge last week.
Nor should his young defenders cop the blame, even though the two goals they conceded were almost predictably soft.
To rub salt into the wounds, the first came from Aussie Awer Mabil, shortly after Callum McGregor had fired Celtic into the lead with a stunning volley.
The killer second came in extra time when Raphael Onyedika bulldozed through to lash home from close range. But there were others who went missing in action again when Postecoglou needed them most, with Odsonne Edouard the prime example.
When he had to be prepared to break his back for the cause, the striker could hardly bring himself to break into a jog.
Now the big rebuild continues but against the backdrop of European rubble.
Perhaps Gordon Strachan knew a little more than he was letting on the other day when he tipped Scott Bain to be brought in from the cold for this tie.
The thought of being handed the gloves for a match of such monumental importance might have raised Bain’s internal stress levels. That he was standing there behind a back line which was made up of Anthony Ralston, Stephen Welsh, Dane Murray and Greg Taylor – a defence which has not even grown bum-fluff at this level – might have given him cause to wonder if he was being thrown a hospital pass.
The realisation that Vasilis Barkas would almost certainly have dropped it meant
Postecoglou had been left with pretty much no option but to use his bench and hope for the best.
Celtic’s players opened up as if they were waiting for the Danes to prove they’re nowhere near as mediocre as they made themselves look in the first leg.
Although both David Turnbull and Ryan Christie were prepared to drive at the Midtjylland defence these forward dashes were few and far between.
Turnbull forced an early save from Jonas Lossl with a dipping effort from range, then whipped in a corner which the half-hearted Edouard slashed at but without any hint of conviction.
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The Frenchman’s lacklustre effort flew over the top when it ought to have been forcing Lossl into a far more difficult save.
If Edouard really wanted to he could have powered a way through on to a slipped through ball from Christie in 17 minutes but he gave up the chase and let Lossl smother the danger.
That there was nothing much going on to trouble Bain at the other end confirmed that this Danish outfit weren’t up to much.
Celtic coped with a couple of inswinging corners and Bain clutched a dangerous-looking cross from Evander but that was as much as Midtjylland mustered in a stagnant opening half.
Postecoglou resisted the temptation to change things up at half-time even though it did feel as if this match was crying out for James Forrest, especially given Liel Abada’s lack of impact on the right flank.
But, just two minutes after the restart, the big Aussie was punching the air in delight as captain McGregor came up with a moment of magic.
He was lurking on the edge of the Midtjylland box after Celtic had forced an early corner.
When the ball dropped towards him off a Danish head what followed unfolded almost in slow motion.
A cushioned touch on the chest to make an angle for a shot, then a delicious, rasping left-foot volley which was bulging in the back of Lossl’s net before the keeper had time to get near it. It was a stunning strike and it was also the moment this tie finally caught fire.
The Danes sent on sub Onyedika and the Nigerian’s first contribution was to fizz in a cross which Bain fumbled and allowed to flash across an open goal.
Forrest, having finally replaced Abada moments earlier, blew a gilt-edged chance when he side-footed wide from 12 yards after being played in by Turnbull’s subtle flick.
Less than one minute later it was 1-1 when Celtic’s defence went AWOL. Taylor and Murray allowed Mabil to ghost between them on to a cross and send a free header beyond Bain and inside his right-hand post. With Danish tails up, Celtic were in a spot of bother.
It required a brave block from the impressive Ralston to stop Mabil from firing home.
Forrest wasted another great chance when he raced on to Christie’s pass only to be robbed by a lunging tackle.
Then a heart-stopper in injury time when sub Victor Lind got behind the Celtic defence but volleyed wide.
So we went to extra time but only three minutes of it were required for Onyedika to apply the killer touch. A lack of Hart may not have helped. It’s far from the only quality Celtic are missing.
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