Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers said his players had made a “significant improvement” despite a 2-0 home defeat by Barcelona ending their involvement in European competition for the season.
Lionel Messi’s double in Glasgow ensured Rodgers’ side will finish bottom of Champions League Group C.
Celtic had opened the group stage with a 7-0 defeat in Barcelona.
Rodgers said: “The team deserve a big credit. If you look at the first game compared to now, we weren’t fearful.”
Barcelona’s victory, combined with Borussia Monchengladbach’s 1-1 draw with Manchester City, ensured the final group placings are decided with one match to play.
City, who host Celtic on 6 December, will finish second behind group winners Barcelona, with Gladbach dropping into the Europa League in the New Year.
- Messi double knocks Celtic out of Europe
- ‘Celtic gave it the best they could against a vastly superior team’
Rodgers’ men fell behind on Wednesday when Neymar’s chipped pass found Messi and the Argentine drilled low past Craig Gordon.
After Moussa Dembele had a header saved by visiting goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Emilio Izaguirre fouled Luis Suarez and Messi converted the penalty.
“I thought how we pressed the game tactically was very good,” said Rodgers.
“They have huge quality, of course, but they didn’t have anywhere near as many chances as you would normally see. I was very pleased with the performance.
“First goal we’re disappointed with. We just switch off on the edge of the box. It’s the quality and the speed of the movement and the pass that catches us out.”
‘We’ve got better with every game’
Rodgers felt his side were “always in the game” and that Suarez, whom he managed at Liverpool, had been “clever” to win the penalty.
“We had a big chance with the header, another opportunity when we broke away in the second half and then obviously we get punished for the penalty,” he said.
“I didn’t think it was a penalty. What Luis is clever at is he grabs hold of the defender and spins around and looks like he’s pulled to the ground.
“It was a key moment. The referee didn’t give us so much during the night but that’s the way it goes sometimes.”
Celtic, who failed to reach the group stage in the previous two seasons, came through two qualifiers and a play-off this year.
“We had a huge effort in the summer to qualify,” said Rodgers. “This experience was always going to be invaluable, lots of young players in the team that will improve.
“We’ve played three of the best teams in Europe over the course of this competition and we’ve gradually got better with each game.
“We’ve now got to go on and make sure we can get into it next year, and each year the club is in it, it improves on and off the field. That is our ambition.”
Winger Scott Sinclair was withdrawn at half-time and Rodgers said he will be monitored in the build-up to Sunday’s Scottish League Cup final against Aberdeen.
“We didn’t want to take any risks,” he said.
What the papers said…
Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/38087381