Brendan Rodgers believes Celtic laid down a marker of their true Champions League potential with their performance in a thrilling 3-3 draw with Manchester City.
The Scottish champions bounced back from their 7-0 drubbing in Barcelona two weeks earlier to lift themselves off the bottom of Group C by taking a potentially priceless point against the English Premier League leaders.
Celtic led three times on a dramatic evening, with Moussa Dembele further enhancing his burgeoning reputation with a double. City equalised each time but were denied an 11th consecutive victory under Pep Guardiola’s management.
“For me it was another big step forward in terms of our improvement as a team,” said Rodgers. “The players were outstanding. You can see a team which has been really aggressive in the way they have been playing and working. Hopefully a night like this gives them a vindication.
“We’ve seen it domestically and, although they wouldn’t have been happy with Barcelona, this was a real good marker and measure of how the players have been improving in a very short period of time.
“Everyone thought this was going to be a hugely difficult game for us. But this club is one of the biggest in the world. In order for us to get better and keep improving, we need to be at this level. There should be a huge pat on the back for Glasgow Celtic tonight, for the performance and the atmosphere. I’m very pleased we got something from the game. Naturally, I feel we should have won the game, but it’s a good step forward for us.
“We were disappointed with the goals we conceded. We can analyse all three and can do better. They had a wee bit of luck on the first one, but the other two we can do better on.
“Apart from that, I thought the performance of the team was absolutely outstanding. At this level, to perform like that, the players deserve a great amount of credit.
“Collectively, we were very good in how we pressed the game. If you are not organised tactically against City, as we’ve seen in many Premier League games, they can really hurt you. I’m sure Pep will recognise it was a difficult night for them. They will be happy with the point.”
Rodgers singled out Dembele for praise, the 20-year-old summer signing from Fulham having taken his goal tally for the season to 12.
“We’re very fortunate to have Moussa,” added Rodgers. “He was coveted by a number of teams before coming to us. He was terrific tonight but he’s been like that since he’s come in to the club.
“I thought he really bullied the back four of Manchester City. But he’s more than that. He showed he has a wonderful touch and agility for third goal. Overall he showed his power and pace. He’s a huge talent.”