BRENDAN RODGERS searched for positives after the latest Champions League setback in Rotterdam last night.

The Hoops did well to keep the contest even for 45 minutes, but the loss of a sloppy free-kick goal in stoppage-time to Calvin Stengs put the visitors on the back-foot.

The second-half descended into chaos with central defender Gustaf Lagerbiekle seeing red after a naive challenge on Igor Paixao which gifted the Dutch a penalty-kick.

Thankfully, Joe Hart threw his team a lifeline by diving to his right to save the effort from the same player who had so theatrically collapsed to get the Swede dismissed and win the award.

Six minutes later, the Hoops were reduced to nine men when Odin Holm was ordered off for a wayward challenge and the hosts took advantage of their numerical superiority when they hammered in a second through Iranian striker Alireza Jahanbakhsh in the 76th minute.

It was a game-changing flashpoint as the substitute, who had come on for Reo Hatate only 11 minutes earlier, saw a straight red.

A clearly concerned Rodgers reflected: “I thought it was harsh on us. For the first 60 minutes of the game we were excellent and there was not too much in it.

“I felt that we were a real threat in the game and we started it really well.

“We progressed the ball well at times and with a little bit more care we might have got ourselves in front.

“Remember, we were playing against a team that has been scoring lots of goals, but defensively we were strong and with the ball, we had the confidence to play.

“We’re bitterly disappointed with the goal right on half-time, we can avoid that. We started the second-half with confidence and we got the two players sent off. For me, it’s inexperience at this level.”

Rodgers, speaking to Celtic TV, continued: “We were in control of the situation and Gustaf has got to get his body there and let it run through to the keeper.

“The same with Odin, he’s a fantastic young player, but he will learn at this level, no matter how committed you are you can’t go to ground.

“At the time I thought it was harsh, but watching it back his studs were up and, unfortunately, he had to go which put the team in a really difficult situation.

“We showed enough and I said before the tournament started I wanted us to be competitive and compete and I think we showed we are going to be able to do that.

“Over the course of six games, if we can get to the last game against Feyenoord with something to play for then at home that will be a great night for us.”

The Irishman added: “I saw confidence which was good. I think we can take can take care of the ball a bit more.

Images courtesy Celtic TV.

“We got into some really good areas and we were a little bit careless on our passing, but we still had the confidence to take the ball and play and give them a problem so that aspect was good to see.

“Then the decision-making, when we arrive in their half don’t be in a rush to make the first pass and again that comes from experience and not rushing the game.

“I saw enough to show we will be competitive in the group.”

Next up are Lazio on Wednesday October 4 at Parkhead. The Italians drew 1-1 with Atletico Madrid in Rome in their opening Group E encounter.


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