RONNY DEILA last night admitted Celtic got all they deserved in the Champions League this season after crashing out of the tournament in the play-off round to Maribor.
A 75th minute goal from Brazilian striker Marcos Tavares earned the Slovenian champions a 1-0 win at Celtic Park to secure a 2-1 aggregate victory.
It completed a bizarre qualifying campaign on a low note, Celtic unable to make the most of the reprieve handed to them when their 6-1 defeat to Legia Warsaw in the previous round was wiped out because the Polish side fielded a suspended player in the second leg.
“You can say we were very close and should have gone through tonight,” said Deila. “But when you have two chances in the competition like we did and don’t take them, there are no excuses. We are not good enough for the Champions League in the end, we haven’t deserved to get through. That’s the level we are at now and that’s what we have to work from.”
Celtic midfielder Stefan Johansen agreed: “Everybody’s disappointed. We weren’t good enough. We had a chance today but we couldn’t take it. We need to be better as a team.
“They (Maribor) are a good team and it was a good performance by them.
“We got some chances but couldn’t manage to score. It’s a tough day.”
Celtic were jeered at the final whistle last night and a group of supporters gathered at the front entrance to vent their unhappiness at chief executive Peter Lawwell and his fellow board members for the level of investment in the playing squad this summer.
“I understand the fans and I can assure them we will work hard to ensure we are in a better position next year,” said Deila. “We have to be honest, we haven’t been good enough. That’s the truth.
“The club wants to invest in the team. But I have only been here a short time and it’s important we do things in a good way, so we know what we are doing. It is very difficult to get the quality of the players I know the fans want us to get with the salaries that we have.
“But I think we are going to have a signing or two more in this window. Then we will have done a lot in this window and there will be January as well. We need to build up the team so we can be in a whole different situation next year.”
Celtic will now go into Friday’s Europa League draw with Deila keen to try and talk up participation in a competition lacking in both the finance and prestige of the Champions League. “The Europa League is our level now,” he said. “It is also a very good competition and we are going to get some good games there. We want to be one place – that’s the Champions League. Hopefully we can get a new chance next year.”
With Celtic set to progress as long as the tie remained at 1-1, Deila dismissed suggestions he chased the game too recklessly in the second half last night.
“No, I don’t think so,” he said. “If we continued to play like we did in the first half then we would have conceded goals. We needed to get much more out of the players than we got in the first half.
“There was too little energy and too little aggression. In the second half we went out and were more aggressive and got some chances. It was a very even game, they got two chances in the game before the goal comes and they were more effective than us.
“We put more pressure on them at the end of the first half but in the end we didn’t lose because of our defending. We lost because we didn’t create anything. We needed better tempo on the ball and that’s the job we have to start now.”
Maribor coach Ante Simundza insisted Celtic played into his team’s hands by continuing to chase the game even with the 1-1 aggregate scoreline which would have taken them through on the away goals rule. “It is hard for the home team at Celtic Park, because the fans always demand their team to go forward and score goals,” said Simundza. “So I played on that and it went well for us.
“I knew they would try to press the game. Celtic do not like to play against opponents who are good with the passing game. We kept the ball well and that took us to the group stage. I was confident that we could score. I knew we would have to wait until later in the game, but we got the goal to take us into the group stage. It is very important for our club and a great thing for Slovenia. The feeling I have right now is phenomenal.”