Celtic Park can be among the most febrile stadiums in the world but this turned out to be a night for cool heads. Buccaneering attacks were largely absent against a Benfica lineup meriting full respect. Instead, Neil Lennon's side showed daring only towards the close of this goalless draw. There may have been no victory but neither was there disillusionment.
It would have been rash for the Celtic players to wallow in the atmosphere, no matter how much the crowd revelled, after a four-year hiatus, in the return of matches with this sort of status. Some of Lennon's squad could be regarded as trainees where events of this sort are concerned. The danger also lay in the risk that Benfica might puncture all the swelling excitement.
Rather than taking great strides, Celtic picked their way carefully through the early stages. Even so, this fixture carried such a sense of heritage that it would have been appropriate to broadcast the game in black and white. Benfica have by far the grander history in the European Cup but Celtic at least took that prize on one occasion.
There is no scope for romance and Lennon's team strove to check their opponents. The defensive midfielder Victor Wanyama had the important task of checking the progress of Benfica's Pablo Aimar. The Celtic goalkeeper also had to do that in a more alarming incident when he had to pull off a save after Rodrigo broke through and shot in the 31st minute.
The stadium may have been in need of a service given the time that has passed since a contest of this sort took place, and the fans did not create the irresistible atmosphere associated with this stadium. Celtic are no longer in an environment where expensive players can be lured. Supporters appreciate that and, before the interval, they were more watchful rather than impassioned.
Benfica will be conscious of restrictions but Portugal's population of 10 million is almost double that of Scotland's. Lennon may have been happy enough to watch his men adapt to an occasion on this level. The aim then was for security, with everyone but the lone striker Miku prepared to drop back and create a barrier when needed. Even so, adventure from Celtic was expected at some moment or other.
Whatever the tendency to take care in an opening fixture, the encounter did develop a little after the interval. Lennon's side appreciated that a win had to be pursued and Benfica would have wanted to exploit any increase in the space they were allowed. An opening almost did come their way early in the second half following a mistake by the Celtic defender Kelvin Wilson near his 18-yard line but he recovered to stop Rodrigo. Benfica's ambitions were on the rise, as they introduced the dangerous Oscar Cardozo to the attack.
Lennon sent on a forward in Gary Hooper to replace the left-back Emilio Izaguirre. It seemed as if Celtic had banked on this late ploy as the best means of snatching a late win. The challenge was great, though, against a purposeful Benfica.