Defence not priority for Celtic, says Ronny Deila

Stefan Scepovic, who scored for Celtic, jostles with Dinamo's Leonardo Sigali. Picture: Darko Bandic/AP
Stefan Scepovic, who scored for Celtic, jostles with Dinamo's Leonardo Sigali. Picture: Darko Bandic/AP
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RONNY Deila has insisted strengthening the Celtic back four in next month’s transfer window is not a priority for him despite his team’s woeful defensive record in Europe this season.

The Scottish champions last night completed their Europa League Group D campaign with a 4-3 defeat by Dinamo Zagreb in Croatia.

Celtic have now conceded 19 goals in 12 European matches during the current campaign but manager Deila is adamant they are already sufficiently well-equipped in defence to face the knockout phase of the Europa League in February.

The draw for the last 32 takes place in Nyon on Monday with Celtic’s possible opponents including Everton, Inter Milan, Athletic Bilbao, Fiorentina and Olympiakos.

While Deila accepts his team defended poorly last night, he was more concerned by what he regarded as a shortage of collective commitment from his team as a whole. “I believe we have the players here who can defend a lot better,” said Deila. “It is more about the formation and way we play.

“We have the players to play good defence. I don’t think that’s the main problem. In this game we were more offensive than we would be away from home normally in Europe and conceded too many goals.

“The team spirit has to be much better. Today we were wide open. Away from home in Europe, you need to be compact and aggressive or you will get punished. That is a lesson we are learning.

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“It was a poor performance. We were not 100 per cent tonight. There was a lack of intensity and aggression.

“I’m disappointed we were not 100 per cent up for the game. Defensively, we gave away too many chances. You should win the game when you score three goals away from home in Europe. Individually there were some bad performances, but also as a team. We dropped back too far and Dinamo got in too many times.

“We have to be a lot, lot better to make an impact in the knockout stage. But we will be. We have some players who didn’t play tonight who will give the team more spirit. So I’m not frightened about that.

“The plans have not changed. The last-32 tie is going to be a totally different game and we will be a much better team than we were tonight.

“We are going to face a good opponent and I’m really looking forward to it.”

Deila took some succour from Stefan Scepovic scoring only his third goal for Celtic and was also encouraged by the contribution of second-half substitutes Darnell Fisher, Liam Henderson and Anthony Stokes. “Scoring three goals was positive and the substitutes were positive when they came on,” he added. “We have to take this with us to the next stage.

“Scepovic had a good game. He scored and almost scored more. He needs to work more on holding the ball up but it was positive for him.

“I’m just disappointed we didn’t have more energy in the game. That’s something we need to get back on Sunday against St Mirren in our next league game.

“Maybe some players felt we were not taking this game so seriously because we were already qualified and left players like Scott Brown at home. But it shouldn’t be like that. If we needed to win, we would have put more into the game. But we went 2-1 up and had an opportunity to win. That’s the most disappointing thing. I’m looking forward to bouncing back on Sunday because I don’t have a very good feeling in my body right now.”

Dinamo Zagreb coach Zoran Mamic felt aggrieved by both the result last night and the overall outcome of Group D which saw his team finish in third place, two points behind Celtic. “For most of the match we were the better team tonight and deserved to win,” said Mamic. “If we had kept this level in all the games, we would have gone through.”

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