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‘WE WERE DISAPPOINTING, BUT PLAYERS STILL DESERVE CREDIT,’ RODGERS

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BRENDAN RODGERS admitted it was a night of “mixed emotions” after Celtic crashed to their first defeat since last November – but still made it through to the Champions League group stages.

The Hoops boss watched in disbelief as his side collapsed to a 4-3 loss before claiming an 8-4 aggregate triumph over Astana in Kazakhstan.

With Kristoffer Ajer and Nir Bitton paired in central defence, the Parkhead men endured some torrid moments before edging through.

Rodgers breathed a huge sigh of relief and said: “We had a Beer Sheva moment.”

The Irishman was referring to last season when the Celts took a 5-2 lead to Israel before losing 2-0 and squeezing through to the money-spinning group stages.

The Hoops looked comfortable after last week’s 5-0 win and it was 1-1 at the interval after Scotty Sinclair had cancelled out their 25th-minute effort.

But an x-certificate 20-minute spell saw Rodgers’ men concede three times – twice inside two minutes – to send the blood pressure up through the roof.

Thankfully, the visitors regained their composure and scored two in the last 10 minutes through Olivier Ntcham and Leigh Griffiths.

Rodgers said: “On the night, it’s mixed emotions because we didn’t defend well enough and our possession at times wasn’t good enough.

“I said to the players at half-time, we started well, but we were too loose and were not compact enough when we had the ball. That allowed them to press.

“Then we come out and we have that Beer Sheva moment. I thought we were going to get through this without that anxiety.

“All of a sudden, it goes to three, it goes to four and we were working on the sides to try to plug gaps.

“But I must give credit to the players because they were on the ropes for a while, but then they regain their composure – Oli gets an important goal for us and then Griff gets a third.

“We were disappointing tonight, but across the campaign I have had to play right-backs at centre-half, midfielders at centre-half, put kids in, play games without strikers. 

“So, overall, the players have been first class and we can now look forward to the draw.”

NEW CQN PODCAST – PAUL DYKES PRESENTS WITH FORMER CELTIC CAPTAIN ANDY LYNCH AND SPECIAL GUEST PAT STANTON

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