ISRAELI midfielder Nir Bitton has admitted he feared Celtic were heading for one of the club’s worst-ever results in Europe when Stjarnan opened the scoring in Iceland last night.
Ronny Deila’s men, 2-0 up from the first leg of their Champions League qualifier last week, were stunned when their part-time opponents netted in only seven minutes.
Thankfully, Bitton settled his team’s nerves with a headed first-half equaliser which cancelled out the strike from Karl Finsen. Other goals from Charlie Mulgrew, Leigh Griffiths and Stefan Johansen made it 4-1 on the night and an emphatic 6-1 aggregate victory.
The SPFL champions will now have to make a 7,000-mile round trip to the Azerbaijan capital Baku to face Qarabag a week on Wednesday in the third qualifying round, second leg with the first game in Glasgow next week.The encounters will be real tests for the Parkhead club, but Bitton is just satisfied to be there after what for a time was a nervy night.

He said: “I’m really happy. Not because of my goal, but because we won the game. The goal was a bonus – the most important thing was that we got through to the next round and stayed in the Champions League.

“We were all worried when they scored. We didn’t want to start the game like that and concede a goal so early.

“That wasn’t in the game plan, but sometimes you need to deal with this kind of thing. The most important thing is that we recovered and scored four goals.”

The plastic pitch in Iceland did not help Celtic on the night, Bitton being one of the few who looked close to comfortable on the surface.

He said: “The pitch was difficult, but it’s not an excuse for us. They play on the same pitch as we did. Okay, they are used to it, but, as a professional, you have to be ready for this. We are not 100% yet as this is the beginning of the season, but we will get there.

“The Champions League is the most important thing for us – we want these unbelievable moments at Celtic Park.”

Deila’s men face the dangerous trip to Azerbaijan before they can start thinking about the final hurdle in qualifying for the money-spinning group stages.

Bitton added: “I have never been there. This will be the first time and it will be a difficult tie for me.

“There are no easy games, we have to be prepared and we have to go through to the play-off. We have another game on Saturday against Rennes and we want to keep building.

“It was a justified scoreline at the end as we were the better team and, yes, it gives us more confidence.

“We try to improve every day in training. We have new guys coming in and we try to improve our chemistry,

“But we will do that. We will get better with more training and games together.”

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