Their 2-1 defeat at home to Bayern Munich last night ended any prospect of reaching the last 16 of Europe’s elite club tournament. But Celtic manager Rodgers took huge encouragement from many aspects of his team’s display as they now focus their efforts on ensuring they finish third in Group B and progress to the knockout stages of the Europa League after Christmas.
While he was left to bemoan the defensive frailty which contributed to Kingsley Coman and Javi Martinez scoring for Bayern either side of Callum McGregor’s superbly worked and finished goal for Celtic, Rodgers was gratified by his players’ overall contribution.
“The disappointment in our changing room afterwards shows you how well we played,” said Rodgers, pictured. The level of composure and quality we played with, I was very proud of the team. We caused them lots of problems. Individually, of course, they are world class and you can see that at times.
“We are disappointed with the goals. You get punished at this level. But overall we looked like a proper team who are developing at this level. OK, we are disappointed to have lost, but there were so many positives from the game.
“Now what we have to do is go on and finish it off in our last two games in the group. PSG away next time will be a big test for us again but we come back here for the final group game against Anderlecht and we want to achieve what we set out to achieve, which is to have European football after Christmas. If we can do that it’s a great marker and a great measure of how the players are progressing.
“The idea is to get there, first and foremost. There are still some crack teams who will be involved in the Europa League after Christmas. So we want to get there playing a level of football that can allow us to go as far as we possibly can. I think tonight we showed with that performance that we are improving our level at this very high standard.”
Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes, whose side have secured their place in the last 16 along with PSG with two rounds of fixtures to spare, was generous in his praise of Celtic.
“They played an amazing game tonight, they had a super support and it was a wonderful experience for us here,” said Heynckes.
“We knew it would be a difficult game, we knew it would be challenging but we have to compliment our players for getting the job done with so many changes in our team.”