ALISTAIR JOHNSTON admits Celtic “made it too easy” for their opponents during their six-goal mauling in Madrid.
The Canadian World Cup right-back reckons the Hoops players must take a good look at themselves after the worst experience of his career at the champions.
However, despite the thumping from a ruthless Atletico Madrid after having Daizen Maeda red-carded in the 22nd minute, Johnson insists the Hoops still have a chance of remaining in Europe after the turn of the year.
Brendan Rodgers’ side have dropped 11 out of a possible 12 points – a home draw with the Spaniards their only comfort – and they face Lazio in Rome on Tuesday November 28 before bringing down the curtain on their Champions League Group E adventure against Feyenoord under the lights in the east end of Glasgow on December 13.
X-CERTIFICATE VIEWING…Alistair Johnston can only watch as Samuel Lino’s shot flies past the helpless Joe Hart for Atletico Madrid’s fourth goal in the 6-0 defeat.
Johnston, who struggled along with his team-mates in the Metropolitan Stadium, said: “It was the toughest defeat in my time at Celtic, for sure.
“In my career, I’ve never had a game like that, where they are just doing whatever they want to you.
“It was frustrating, difficult, because you it feels like you can’t get the ball, you can’t get in their half and it’s wave after wave.
“That is something we were so disappointed with. Even going down to 10 men, we should not have conceded that much territory and chances.
“We need to look at ourselves in the mirror, individually and collectively, and figure out what we want to do – because that was unacceptable.
“If you don’t take anything away from it, then it really was a wasted night. Win or lose, you have take something from every game to grow as a group.”
HELPLESS…Joe Hart is left unprotected by his Celtic defenders as Alvaro Morata slides in to claim No.2.
Johnston, speaking to The Herald, continued: “Atletico have World Cup winners in there and they really punished us.
“You could all see what the level is between ourselves and a team that is aiming to win the tournament, never mind get out of the group.
“For us, we have to look at it and realise there were levels, but there was also things, easy mistakes we made, that we can clean up.
“We know we have to be perfect – or near perfect – to get a result against these teams. Of course, if you go down to 10 you are really putting yourself behind the eight ball.
“Unfortunately, it wasn’t the first time we’ve done that in this campaign. We’ve made it difficult for ourselves. But we played with nine men at Feyenoord for 25 minutes and looked more solid.
“It was a longer period in Madrid, but we made it too easy. We were too passive. That was the frustrating part. We could have showed more with 10 men.
“Of course, you might not score three and turn it around, but we could have dug our heels in a bit more.”
The visitors’ case wasn’t helped by the dismissal of Maeda after the intervention of VAR persuaded a ropey referee to swap a yellow for red and Johnston added: “Daizen was distraught.
DISTRAUGHT…Daizen Maeda hides his face following his red card in Madrid.
“It was a difficult one for him. He played on that edge, but he needs that edge. He is constantly pressing and running into tackles.
“That is what makes him so effective. In Europe, it is reffed a bit differently, so I think that is something we are going to have to look at.
“But we need him to play with that edge, so we can’t take that away from him.
“It was frustrating for him and for us, and it made it a difficult night against a team I expect to go far in this tournament.
”However, there is still something for us to play for in this group.
“We have put a lot of pressure on ourselves to get, not just a result, but three points against Lazio. If we can do that, we give ourselves a chance.
“We are in a difficult position, but I don’t see it as scars. We have the leadership in this team to put it behind us. But we do need to take something positive from Rome.
“Every single match we have had so far, we’ve felt we were in the games. Feyenoord, we went down to 10 and then nine, but we had moments in that game.
“Lazio at home we went toe-to-toe, but gave it away at the end. Atletico, was a special night for everyone and a moment we need to hold on to.
“I believe on our day and if we play a perfect game – which we know we can do – we can go toe-to-toe with any of these teams.
“That is the frustration after picking up just one point in these four games.
“You have to be clinical and ruthless. We have struggled with that in both boxes.”