REACHING the latter stages of a European competition has become the holy grail for a Celtic side whose dominance of Scottish football under Brendan Rodgers in the past few years has been absolute.

But their hopes of achieving that elusive ambition died for another year in the city that lays claim to being the home of the chalice that Christ used to serve wine to his disciples at The Last Supper.

The Scottish champions needed some divine intervention to come from behind and triumph in this Europa League last 32 double header after losing the first leg 2-0 in Glasgow last week. None was forthcoming.

The double treble winners started impressively and could quite easily have netted the early goal they were hoping for if they had been more careful with their final ball, if they had been more clinical with their finishing, even if they had just enjoyed slightly more good fortune in the final third.

However, when Jeremy Toljan was sent off by German referee Daniel Aytekin for a second bookable offence eight minutes before half-time – his countryman cautioned him for two fouls on Toni Lato and Goncalo Guedes in the space of 11 minutes – their task became nigh on impossible.

Celtic redeemed themselves to an extent. This was by no means the embarrassment their previous meeting had been. The warm applause they were given by the sizeable travelling support after the final whistle showed how much their efforts had been appreciated. They will, though, have to content themselves with more domestic glory this term after another continental campaign ended in disappointment.

The challenge facing Celtic – they had to win a competitive fixture in Spain for the first time in 18 attempts to go through – became even harder before the match in the Mestalla had even got underway.

Marcelino, the Valencia manager, was able to recall Guedes, his record €40 million summer signing, and Santi Mina, his first choice striker who had missed the first leg due to injury. Los Che were even stronger than they had been seven days earlier thanks to that formidable duo’s presence on the park.

Rodgers changed his formation in a concerted attempt to pull off an upset and named three centre backs – Kristoffer Ajer, Dedryck Boyata and Jozo Simunovic – in his starting line-up. Toljan and Jonny Hayes were deployed as wing backs in a 5-4-1 formation.

It was an understandable move given that he was once again missing Kieran Tierney, that Emilio Izaguirre had played so poorly at Parkhead and that Hayes’ preferred position is winger.

Picking Oliver Burke to play up front ahead of Odsonne Edouard also made perfect sense. Rodgers knew his side would spent long spells on the back foot defending against their La Liga rivals and clearly hoped to use the West Brom loanee’s pace and physicality on the counter attack. It worked to a degree.

It was, though, Hayes who posed the home team the most problems early on. The Irishman, who has only been an occasional starter since moving to his boyhood heroes two years ago, was undaunted by the occasion and the surroundings. He burrowed his way into the opposition area and forced a save from Neto in the third minute.

His tenacity won his side a corner seven minutes later. Ajer got on the end of a Ryan Christie cross and got a shot on target, but his attempt was blocked. It was an encouraging start by Celtic and gave their vocal band of travelling supporters, perched high above the action in the famous old arena, hope.

Rodgers’ charges were far more composed in possession than they had been at their own ground and their passing was a distinct improvement too. That said, Boyata almost gifted Marcelino’s men a goal that would have killed off the tie when he underhit a pass to Simunovic in the 16th minute. Ruben Sobrino should have punished the mistake.

Simunovic had a header at a Christie corner held by Neto and Hayes also struck the side netting. However, when Toljan went off Valencia capitalised on their numerical advantage and pressed forward more. Celtic keeper Scott Bain tipped a Daniel Parejo over his crossbar and then punched a Mina drive clear. Ferran Torres also went close.

Rodgers switched to a back four when Toljan was red carded with Ajer moving across to right back and Hayes dropping back into the left back role. His defenders had to work hard to keep the scoreline level in the second-half as Valencia subjected Celtic to greater pressure. Simunovic cleared the ball off the goal line and Bain was tested by Daniel Wass in the space of four torrid minutes.

Celtic got up the other end of the park and very nearly netted against the run of play in the 62nd minute. Ajer got away from his marker and rose well to meet a Christie free-kick. But his header flew agonisingly wide.

He would rue that near thing eight minutes later. Parejo combined well with Wass and the right back teed up Kevin Gameiro, who had just come on for Sobrino, with a downward header. His team mate swept the ball through Bain’s legs.

Rodgers threw on Edouard for James Forrest and Mikey Johnston for Burke, but there was no prospect of Celtic scoring the three goals they required. Still, they could at least hold their heads high at the end of the 90 minutes.