CARL STARFELT’S reward for hard work in rehab was to be on the receiving end of a 5-1 hammering following almost eight weeks months on the sidelines.

The Swedish international centre-half hirpled off with a knee injury in the 4-0 derby romp against Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s Ibrox outfit on September 3 and missed 12 games before being thrown in against Real Madrid in the Bernabeu in midweek.

Starfelt answered the SOS for the final Champions League encounter against the reigning European kings after Cameron Carter-Vickers called off following a reaction to Livingston’s plastic surface in the Parkhead men’s 3-0 victory on Sunday.

WELCOME BACK, CARL…Swedish defender Starfelt and keeper Joe Hart cannot prevent Vinicius Junior from scoring Real Madrid’s fourth goal in the 5-1 loss.

It was a harsh reintroduction for the £4.2million buy from Rubin Kazan in July last year as the Hoops were turned over by the Spaniards as the curtain came down on the Group F adventure.

The back-four operator admitted: “It was a really tough game to come back from injury. Obviously, they are a really good team.

“But I am really happy to be back on the field. I’ve been working hard for two months to get back to playing games. My body felt better than I thought, so that is a positive.

”The timing of my injury was awful because I basically missed a full European campaign. I got injured three days before the first Champions League game against Real Madrid.

“That was a really hard moment for me personally. I had just come back from an injury – I’d been injured a full pre-season – and then came back and played three games, scored two goals and got injured again.

“Real was my first Champions League game. It was not a good time for me, but these are the things you have to accept in football. There is nothing we can do about it.”

HAPPIER TIMES…Carl Stafelt celebrates his first goal for Celtic in the 5-0 win at Kilmarnock in August. Adding their congratulations are Callum McGregor, Greg Taylor and Josip Juranovic.

Twenty-seven-year-old Starfelt, speaking to The Herald, continued: “I have been working really hard in the gym to get back as soon as possible.

“And I am happy that I at least got to play one game. Even if it didn’t end so good. We are really disappointed with the result, I think we could at least have made it a little bit closer.

“We have learned a lot. It’s really important to get experience of the Champions League.  We need to play in these games because we don’t get that exposure so often when we face Scottish teams.

“It’s very good for us to get these games and, hopefully, we will win the league now and play again next season.

“We should be really disappointed with the results. After the first game, we felt we could have won and could go through. We played Shakhtar and we should have won that game. If we had done that then everything looks different.

“But you can see that what we are doing works in some areas of the game. We came here and tried to play our football and we have to learn something from this.

“We need to be more ruthless in front of goal and also in defending our own goal. The football is there, but the last parts are not quite there yet.”

JOY BHOY…Carl Starfelt enjoys a goal during the 9-0 thrashing of Dundee United, tomorrow’s Premiership opponents at Parkhead.

Starflet added: “I feel pretty good. Physically, I’m not 100 per cent fit. I felt that when I played against Real.

“After the World Cup break you will see me playing my best football and feeling 100 per cent.

“Now all my focus is on domestic football. It’s really important for us to win the league this year and to get into the Champions League again. It is where we want to be.

“Like we did last year, we focus week by week then after the season we see where we are.

“There is a lot of football to be played after the World Cup, a lot of games and I am looking forward to being part of it.”

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