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  • Manager: We'll be better when Europa League comes around

    Manager: We'll be better when Europa League comes around

    By: Paul Cuddihy on 05 Dec, 2017 23:07

  • CELTIC secured European football after Christmas but only after enduring a nervy 90 minutes at Paradise as Anderlecht won 1-0 in the last group-stage game of the UEFA Champions League.

    The Hoops’ 3-0 victory over the Belgian side back in September ultimately proved to be the crucial result in the group for Brendan Rodgers’ side, who finished third and qualified for the last 32 of the UEFA Europa League.

    Speaking after the match, the Celtic manager was pleased to have achieved the target of progress in Europe, although disappointed with the performance and result on the night.

    “I think the context of the game affected our performance, especially in the first-half,” he said. “Anderlecht were much brighter than us and played much quicker. We were poor in our ball possession and needed too many touches in possession, so midway through the first-half we had to change it tactically.

    “I was thankful to go in 0-0 at half-time and in the second-half I thought we were better. Overall, the best team won on the night. We need to be better than what we were tonight but we’ve shown enough over the course of this competition that we can be better.”

    Celtic came out of pot 4 in the draw for the group stages of the UEFA Champions League, but the aim was to secure at least third place in a group which also contained Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich.

    That they have done so represents progress for Brendan Rodgers’ side, who will find out on Monday who they will face in the Europa League when the competition resumes in February next year.

    “Our aim at the beginning of the competition was to play in Europe after Christmas,” the Celtic manager said. “We have immense pride in doing that but it’s hard to feel that after we lost. We have a lot of work to do before we can affect that level. We are through and can look forward to the Europa League come February.

    “We have got to have a touch of realism. There’s going to be much better teams than ourselves. We’ve done absolutely amazing. We were the fourth seeds of the group and there won’t be many that jump up to third place and go through.

    “Tonight is an example of the long way to go and the gap that is between the teams at the top end of European football and below that as well. You have to run alongside that and give the players great credit. The players stuck with it, stayed strong and for that deserve a huge amount of credit.

    “The most important thing is we are sat here and talking about having qualified. For a Scottish team to come out of the Champions League and have European football after Christmas is a huge achievement.

    “Beyond that I’m not really thinking about. Now we can put it to bed for a few months and we’ll be better when we arrive back in February.”

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