RONNY Deila tried to shrug off his dismay at the 95th-minute goal which has left Celtic’s Champions League ambitions hanging in the balance, insisting he has no fears about his team’s ability to finish the job in the second leg of their play-off round tie in Malmö next week.
On a thunderously dramatic evening at Celtic Park, midfielder Jo Inge Berget made a stunning return to the club where he endured a generally miserable loan spell last season.
Berget forced Celtic to settle for a 3-2 first-leg lead, scoring both Malmö’s goals. The second, in the dying seconds, shifted the momentum of a tie the Scottish champions seemed to have under control after Leigh Griffiths’ double and a Nir Bitton goal.
Malmö have an impressive record at their own Swedbank Stadium where they overturned a 2-0 first-leg deficit to defeat Red Bull Salzburg 3-0 in the previous round of Champions League qualifiers. But Deila be lieves Celtic can triumph next Tuesday night and claim a place in the group stage of Europe’s elite club competition.
“Of course we can beat Malmö away, that’s for sure,” said Deila. “They have to attack us because they need to win and that can suit us. It doesn’t scare me. We know they are a good team but we are ahead by one goal. We were also ahead when we played Qarabag in the last round and defended well over there.
“Of course you get disappointed when you concede a goal in the last seconds but it happened and we have to look at it overall. We are one goal ahead and they have to beat us in Malmö. It could be a better result but it is still an okay result. We played well in the first half, especially at the start of the game but it was disappointing in the end.”
Deila was irked by the way Celtic conceded Malmö’s second goal from a corner kick.
“We haven’t conceded goals from set plays this season, that’s one of the first,” he said. “We had two players going for the same challenge and the ball bounced down to their player.
“It doesn’t hurt more because it is Berget who scored. That’s how it is. The first one was a very good shot from him, all credit to him. But we should have stopped the ball getting to him.
“We had enough people in the box to take care of their players. But we scored three goals as well and that’s positive. Of course we are very irritated with the last thing that happened but we have to move on. We had good control of the game and had good chances. I’m very satisfied with that, we now have to produce it in Malmö.”
Deila was gratified by the outcome of his decision to select Griffiths ahead of Nadir Ciftci in the lone striking role for the first time in Europe this season.
“Leigh played well and scored two great goals,” said Deila. “His first goal was very good play and a great finish. The second one showed he is small but good in the air. He has good skills.
“Leigh had played so many games for us and Nadir had been out for 14 days. Leigh had scored goals and is in good shape. It was a good choice.”
Celtic also suffered a potentially significant injury blow when key defender Mikael Lustig was take off on a stretcher with a hamstring problem.
“It doesn’t look good,” admitted Deila. “We have to see how serious it is. He is an important player and we will see tomorrow how bad it is.”
Malmö coach Age Hareide believes his team are now in the driving seat as they look to reach the group stage of the Champions League for the second successive season under his guidance.
“It was a terrible start for us, conceding two goals in ten minutes,” said Hareide. “It didn’t look good at all. I don’t know what happened, we have to look at that.
“Credit to the boys, we got back in and at 2-1 we had control of the match. Celtic started to get tired. We saw that against Inverness, we saw that they don’t have the legs for 90 minutes.
“But then we made silly mistakes and you can’t do that at this level. At 3-1, it looked down again but credit to the boys, we worked very hard to get the goal back at 3-2.
“Now we have a very good chance to beat them at home and we only need one goal.”