CELTIC boss Brendan Rodgers insisted his team were not motivated by “incredible” criticism of previous displays in Europe as they battled Bayern Munich last night.
The Hoops came so close to a deserved point against the Bundesliga giants before eventually going down 2-1 on a memorable Champions League night at Parkhead.
A mix-up in defence presented Kingsley Coman with the opening goal, but Callum McGregor equalised after the interval before Javi Martinez headed in the winner.
The champions took some stick for their performances against Paris Saint-Germain, losing 5-0 at home, and Bayern, going down 3-0 away, but Rodgers hailed his side after their determined display against Jupp Heynckes’ men.
Asked if the criticism had fuelled their positive performance, Rodgers rep;ied: “Not really. We’re stable in terms of where we’re at.
“We played four of the six best teams in the world over these last two campaigns and some of the criticism that the players have come in for is incredible, really.
“But they’ve shown on this occasion that they’re a very honest group. They’re improving and developing. I thought we were outstanding.
“We’re never going to win the Champions League, that’s for sure, but it’s performances like this that show we’re making improvements and that’s what we’ll continue to aim at.”
Left-back Kieran Tierney, midfielder Callum McGregor and winger James Forrest – three home-grown talents – were singled out for praise after their displays.
Rodgers said: “I was very, very proud of the team. It’s good to see a Scottish team go into this level of competition and play with that composure.
“James Forrest plays that role very well – he’s one of the best wide players I’ve worked with, especially how he protects the ball when it comes to him in a tight space.
“I look at Kieran Tierney playing against Arjen Robben and that boy – for 20 years old – is phenomenal. He was outstanding.
“Callum can keep the ball. People maybe wonder why he played in front of others, but he is a player who looks after the ball.
“We still have a bit of work to do on that front at this level, we can give it away loosely at times. But Callum was exceptional.
“The goal was a wonderful example of two Scottish players. If a European player had done what James did, everyone would be raving about it.
“It was an incredible skill to make the pass and then Callum does what he does. Those boys played really well, but it was very much a collective performance.”
Rodgers’ only frustration was the manner of the goals lost, especially the dreadful opener when Dedryck Boyata’s decision to allow a kick from goalkeeper Sven Ulreich to sail past him and allow Coman to get free and roll the ball into an empty net.
He admitted: “We’ve got to deal with it, as simple as that.
“We’ve got good pressure on their goalkeeper, our positioning is good, so we’ve got to head it and defend it.
“Craig Gordon was in a good start position and that, at least, gives him a chance.
“From when the keeper kicks it, you want your goalkeeper high and your defence is in a good line, so head it.”
“Now what we have to do is go on and finish off over these next two games.
“PSG will be a big test for us again, but we come back here for the final group game against Anderlecht and we want to achieve what we set out to achieve, which is to have European football after Christmas.
“If we can do that, it’s a great marker and a great measure of how the players are progressing.
“The idea is to get there, first and foremost. There are still some crack teams who will be involved in that competition after Christmas.
“So for us we want to get there and get there playing a level of football that can allow us to go as far as we possibly can.
“We showed with that performance that we are improving our level at this very high standard.”
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