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  • Manager: Celts proved they can earn a positive result in Athens

    Manager: Celts proved they can earn a positive result in Athens

    By: Mark Henderson on 08 Aug, 2018 23:00

  • BRENDAN Rodgers insists Celtic can record a positive result away to AEK Athens and reach the UEFA Champions League play-offs following tonight’s 1-1 home draw in the first-leg. The Hoops deservedly led through Callum McGregor’s accurate finish but Viktor Klonaridis levelled for the Greek title-winners just before the break.

    AEK were then reduced to 10 men early in the second half when Konstantinos Galanopoulos saw red for a second booking. The Scottish champions were already dominating the second half, but the sending off sparked an onslaught on the visitors’ goal.

    And although they created a number of promising positions and had plenty of attempts on goal, the Celts couldn’t fashion a winning goal and had to settle for a share of the spoils.

    Despite not taking a lead to Athens for the second-leg, the manager was still proud of his players’ efforts and, on the evidence of their performance, was confident that they could still progress in the tie.  

    Speaking after the game, the Hoops boss said: “Apart from that one error just before half-time, I would be talking about a fantastic performance. I’m still very proud of how we played and I thought we started the game very well in every element – our shape offensively when we had the ball, along with our defending and pressing, was a real high level.

    “We were in really good control of the game and probably Athens were waiting to half-time to regroup, and then we obviously conceded in the 44th minute.

    “The game didn’t change so much in second half, whether it was 10 or 11 men. They set out in deep block and I suppose there’s a bit of frustration we couldn’t make the final pass count in the final third of the pitch.

    “But, overall, we’re still in a good position. It was always going to be a difficult game over there for us anyway, but certainly after tonight and how we played and the performance, it gives us great hope of going over there and getting a result."

    He continued: “I think we were playing against a good side who can defend well and are strong and we threw everything out there into the game in terms of attacking players.

    “It was just final pass and sometimes that bit of luck you need for it to drop to you, with so many bodies behind. It’s never easy, but the effort of the players and some of the quality they showed was very good. We would’ve liked to have got the second goal but it didn’t come for us.

    “That’s how Athens play and how I think they’ll play like that out there as well. They play deep and compact in a 4-4-2, so the sending off didn’t change that side of it, but it made their mentality a bit more defensive I suppose.

    “We continued to still dominate the ball and get into good areas. We had opportunities but weren’t clinical enough to finish them. We knew they were a good side but we proved we’re also a good side and can go over there and get a good result.”

    And the Hoops boss was adamant his side could score an away goal, though he acknowledged his team would also need to be discplined defensively. 

    “I don’t think there’s any question of that," said the Irishman. "I think we’ll have enough of the ball and we’ve got the players of quality who can score and we won’t have to defend well.

    "It was always going to be a difficult game, whether we were 1-0 up or at one each. But I always felt we were going to have to score there anyway. It’s still very much in the balance. Of course, it swings to them a bit as they’re at home but we certainly know we’ve the quality to go and perform well after seeing that this evening.”

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