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Charlie Mulgrew has eyes on Celtic last 16 spot

Mario Balotelli (R) fights for the ball with Charlie Mulgrew. Picture: AFP

Mario Balotelli (R) fights for the ball with Charlie Mulgrew. Picture: AFP

  • by ANGUS WRIGHT AND ALAN TEMPLE
 

Celtic midfielder Charlie Mulgrew is not satisfied with a creditable defeat in the Champions League as he insisted that the Scottish champions have the belief to qualify for the last 16 following their opening loss to AC Milan.

Celtic looked on course to take at least a point at the San Siro before two late goals consigned them to a 2-0 defeat in their first match in Group H.

And Mulgrew could not hide his disappointment afterwards despite the encouraging performance. “We’re here to compete in this group, not just put in good performances and get beaten and come away happy,” said the Scotland international.

“It’s just a massive disappointment. I thought we played well and maybe just couldn’t take our chances. We never deserved a 2-0, but we know that’s what AC Milan can do.

“It felt quite comfortable and maybe, if we had taken one of our chances, it would have been a different result. But that’s the Champions League for you and we have to pick ourselves up.”

Celtic next face Barcelona, who beat Ajax 4-0 in their opening encounter, as the Catalan giants look to avenge their 2-1 defeat at Parkhead in last season’s competition.

And Mulgrew refused to scale down the club’s ambition of qualifying for the knockout stages for a second season running. “It’s only one game in,” the former Aberdeen and Dundee United player said. “There’s a long way to go. We’ve got to be positive. The next game comes around in a couple of weeks and we’ve got to be ready for that and quickly put this result out our system.

“I think we’re growing well in the competition. There’s a lot of belief in the squad – the manager installs that in us – maybe just a bit of belief missing in front of goal.”

Winger Derk Boerrigter said Celtic would have to be more clinical if they are to have a hope of progressing after describing the defeat as a missed chance.

The former Ajax player, who came on for Adam Matthews in the 75th minute, said: “We played pretty well but the most important thing about a game is to win and if you want to win you need to score. We got a lot of chances but didn’t score. Yeah, it was a missed opportunity.

“Milan has some good players and [we knew] if we didn’t score then they might and they did. We were in control of the midfield with good possession so compliments to the team for that. But, then again, up front you don’t get many chances and when you do, you need to score.”

Milan’s performance came in for some heavy criticism from club legend Ruud Gullit, who insisted they would have been “slaughtered” by a better team than Celtic.

The Serie A giants toiled for much of their Champions League opener and the deflected Christian Zapata strike and close-range effort by Sulley Muntari that secured the win for the Rossoneri did nothing to appease Gullit.

“If Milan had played against a better team they’d have been slaughtered,” said the Dutchman, who starred for Milan for seven years over two spells at the club and who was adamant his old club “didn’t deserve” the three points.

“I am happy for Milan but they have a lot to improve if they want to go further in the tournament. Individual talent is what decided that match, not Milan playing well as a team and Milan didn’t deserve [the win].

“Milan need to learn from this – and Celtic need to learn to take their chances. Football has nothing to do with being fair. Celtic had the chances and didn’t take them and, in the end, it is all about getting the ball in the net, sometimes you need luck – that’s football.”

Meanwhile, Celtic defender Emilio Izaguirre was handed an unwanted memento of his trip to Milan after being officially credited with the first goal on Wednesday night.

Broadcasters initially awarded the strike to Colombian defender Christian Zapata but officials confirmed yesterday that history books will show Celtic’s Honduran full-back got the goal after the wicked deflection.

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