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‘THE PROBLEM CELTIC MUST OVERCOME, ‘ HARTSON

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JOHN HARTSON insists Celtic will have to find a remedy for their travel sickness if they hope to make an impact in Europe.

The former Hoops striker reckons his old club can take points off ANY team at Parkhead, but believes they will struggle if they don’t sort out their problems on the road.

In the past two seasons under Ronny Deila, the champions won only two of their 13 games away from home – both against Icelandic opposition, 1-0 against Reykjavik in the Norwegian’s first year in charge and 4-1 over FC Stjarnan last season. They lost five and drew the other six.

Hartson said: “It’s a great achievement for Brendan Rodgers to get the club into the Champions League group stages, especially as it’s the first time in three years they’ve managed it.

“But, obviously, they rode their luck against Be’er Sheva and I thought it was a poor, poor performance from Celtic.

“They didn’t keep the ball long enough and they didn’t have any spells of real possession.

“We could have been looking at a very disappointing night for the club. Ultimately, though, you have got to be happy because they are through and that was the goal when they set out.

“Celtic, though, always seem to struggle in away games and, once again, they didn’t win.

“Look at these qualifiers, for a start. They lost in Gibralter, got a late equaliser against Astana in Khazakhstan and have now been beaten in Israel.

“It’s just a good job that Celtic have such a great crowd behind them at home. They are very difficult to beat at Parkhead and they will get points, I’ve no doubt about that.

“Okay, Celtic won’t win the Champions League, so I think it would be great if they drew one of the really big teams in the group stages today.

“As a former player, I embraced those special nights at Celtic Park under the lights.

“They could do well if they improve their away form because I believe they will take points at home, no matter who they play.

“Celtic Park is such a magical place on these occasions and the crowd really push the team on. However, they must sort things out when they’re on the road.”

Hartson applauded Craig Gordon’s penalty-kick heroics in the 14th minute and absolved the keeper of any blame for the sloppy second goal that left the Israelis looking at one more to torpedo Rodgers’ hopes of reaching the next stage.

The former Welsh international said: “Craig’s penalty save was a real momentum-changer.

“If they had scored at that stage, all of a sudden they would be in the ascendancy, everyone would have wanted the ball, everyone would have been confident.

“Luckily, though, for my old team, the keeper kept it out.

“At the second goal, I thought Craig was very unfortunate and I don’t know what else he was expected to do.

“He got a hold of the ball and Saidy Janko just ran into him. The ball simply popped out of his arms and he couldn’t do anything about it. I don’t think he even saw Janko.”

Hartson added: “Celtic ground it out and they weathered the storm and, thankfully, Be’er Sheva’s finishing wasn’t too good.

“They got in behind once or twice and if they had a little more quality they would have beaten Celtic by more than two.

“Let’s face it, they were a lot better on the night, although, after Brendan changed it to three centre-backs, his players seemed a lot happier with that formation.

“The bottom line is Celtic are through to the Champions League group stages.

“And you better believe Brendan will know the players he wants to bring in and he’ll be onto the owners to tell them who he fancies as he attempts to strengthen his team.”

 
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