Celtic's under-19 side finished off their NextGen series of matches in real style on Wednesday evening, with a classy and dominant victory over French super-club Olympic Marseille.
There was no chance of progression in this tournament for the Glasgow side, as Barcelona and Marseille had already qualified for the knockout stages; this didn't dampen the enthusiasm of the Hoops players, as they completely dominated their French counterparts from start to finish in this final Group 1 match.
From the first kick of the ball, the home side pushed for the opening goal with wave upon wave of attack penetrating the Marseille defence.
However, it was the visitors that should have broken the deadlock when a slack defensive back-pass by the Celtic back line allowed Marseille a break on goal. Marseille failed to capitalise on their fortunate opportunity, and the game remained goalless.
Despite Celtic's dominance, it was Marseille that looked more like scoring when they broke forward. And but for a tremendous save by the Celtic keeper, Marseille would have taken the lead from a brilliantly struck shot from 20 yards out.
Celtic continued playing a slick passing match and nearly struck gold with a well-manufactured move on the edge of the box that ended with a jinking wee back-heel that eluded the defence. But, the Marseille goalie spotted the move and raced out to save at the feet of the Celtic player before he could pull the trigger and unleash his shot.
It was Filip Twardzik that was running the show for Celtic, and he thought he had scored his side's first goal when he picked up a ball from a rebounded effort after a corner. However, as he ran to celebrate his strike, the referee noticed his near-side assistant standing with his flag up, and the offside decision was called.
Minutes later, the midfielder again went close when he rose at the back post to head goalwards, but watched in agony as his header rebounded against the post and was cleared by the French defence.
Up the other end, Christophe Lowinsky unleashed a dipping, curling thunderbolt snapshot from at least 30 yards out that nearly caught Robbie Thompson out in the home goal, but the young keeper somehow managed to get a hand on it to knock it over and out of danger.
It was a stark warning that the French team—although being outclassed—were still capable of counter-attacking football that struck right at the heart of the Scottish champions.
However, right on the stroke of halftime, Twardzik stepped up yet again to head home; this time, he was onside to give his side the lead as they headed into the break.
The second half started where the first finished off, with the Celtic team on the front foot. And as their constant attacking plied pressure on the Marseille defence, kinks started to appear, and more chances were being created.
As these chances mounted, it appeared it would just be a matter of time before Celtic added another goal. Despite three glorious chances in quick succession, Marseille seemed to be holding out and giving themselves every opportunity to claw themselves back into the match.
Celtic had other ideas, though, and 10 minutes into the second period, a second goal was added when Lewis Toshney met a Marcus Fraser cross from the left wing to slot home from close range, much to the delight of his teammates.
Dylan McGeouch was close to adding another, but an inspired save from Julien Fabri in the Marseille goal dumbfounded all that were watching, as the shot looked goal-bound, and deserved the applause that resounded around Celtic Park for his efforts.
His goalkeeping skills were put to the sword, though, when Paul George added his side's third with a well-powered strike from outside the box that ended the match as a competition.
As the match drew to a conclusion, the Marseille players' frustration caused them to react accordingly and perhaps rather harshly. They lost two players to red cards, but by this time, the game was over for their team, and the remaining players played out the time left on the clock without further incident.
This was a tremendous performance for the Scottish side, and although progression wasn't possible, it proved that the youngsters can cut it with the best youth sides in Europe.
Marc Roseblade is a contributor for Bleacher Report, Ayr United Football Academy and NotJustScottishFootball. All quotes are obtained first-hand unless otherwise stated.