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  • Manager: Bhoys lacked bravery on the ball in Zenit loss

    Manager: Bhoys lacked bravery on the ball in Zenit loss

    By: Mark Henderson in St Petersburg on 22 Feb, 2018 21:22

  • BRENDAN Rodgers admitted his team didn’t show enough belief or courage in tonight’s UEFA Europa League defeat away to Zenit St Petersburg, which saw them exit the competition at the last-32 stage.

    Celtic’s 1-0 lead from the first-leg was wiped out by the break as goals from Branislav Ivanovic and Daler Kuzyaev put the hosts in charge.

    As the Scottish champions pushed forward in the second half in search of an away goal, which would have put them through, Aleksandr Kokorin bundled the ball home from Ivanovic’s low cross.

    Speaking after the game, the manager said: “Defensively, we lacked aggression in particular in the first half. We didn’t close the space quickly enough. You talk about defending forward and we didn’t do that well enough, and we conceded poor goals from that.

    “The corner is something that can happen. We got blocked off and they worked it well and found the space and Branislav is outstanding and really powerful in the air. For the second goal, we didn’t engage quick enough from the throw-in. We got too deep and we have to press the guy who is shooting.

    “At 2-0, we still have an opportunity in the game. We said at half-time that everything was too sideways and backwards and that’s about bravery and courage to play.

    “You saw the contrast from last week. In the second half we started off okay but then you concede possession too cheaply and they work ball round for a cross, and then they get the third goal. We shouldn’t be conceding that type of goal.

    “Across the two games, we were much the better in the first game, but in this game, if we played with a bit more courage and belief, we could have maybe got a result.”

    Celtic had reached the knockout stages of the Europa League after finishing third in their UEFA Champions League group.

    Qualifying for the Champions League and then securing European football beyond Christmas had been the Bhoys’ target when they started their continental adventure in the summer. And while they had achieved that goal, the Hoops boss conceded improvement was required for further European progression.  

    “There’s still an awful lot of work for us to do,” he said. “If I take a step back, there has been a lot of positives for us in European football this year over both competitions.

    “We have played very well in some games and showed some great qualities in some games. Of course, we are up against the best of the best, so there's a lot of learning taking place. It’s just consistency really.

    “Last week was an outstanding performance and we came into this game with a great opportunity to come through, but if you don’t start with that aggressive mentality, then it’s really difficult for you.

    “Over the course of both competitions, there have been aspects which have pleased me. We are taking steps forward with a lot of young players.

    "We now have to go away and finish the domestic campaign as well as we possibly can and try to create another piece of history on that front. We then need to try and and be better in Europe like we were this year and take another step forward.”

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