Brendan Rodgers last night took consolation from what he hailed as a “significant improvement” from his Celtic team against Barcelona despite a defeat which has ended their hopes of extending their involvement in Europe this season.
Lionel Messi’s double earned a 2-0 win for Barcelona at Celtic Park which has eliminated Rodgers’ side from the knockout stages of both the Champions League and Europa League. But the Celtic manager was encouraged by a more competitive display from the Scottish champions who were hammered 7-0 by the same opponents at the Nou Camp at the start of the group stage campaign in September.
“If I look back to the first game and to tonight, you are looking for improvement and I thought there was significant improvement,” said Rodgers. “The way we pressed the game was good and we were defensively solid.
“Barcelona didn’t have as many chances as they normally do. I was disappointed with the first goal, we switched off, but they can do that to you. That’s the difference in level. I didn’t think it was a penalty, from which they scored their second goal. Across the team, we had a number of very good performers.
“We had a huge effort to qualify for the group stage over the summer, after two years when the club weren’t there. This was always going to be invaluable for us this season. We weren’t fearful tonight and it’s about maintaining that standard. How do you do that? Issue demands every day in training. We have gradually got better with each game in this group and the challenge is to make sure we get into it next year. Each year the club is in it, it improves and that is our ambition.”
Celtic are now certain to finish bottom of Group C as a consequence of the 1-1 draw between Borussia Monchengladbach and Manchester City in last night’s other fixture. Although Celtic are only three points behind Borussia, the head to head record between the teams favours the German club.