Ange Postecoglou can see progress with Celtic score in Leverkusen - but gap still exists

Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou proved both philosophical and hopeful as he reflected on the nature of his side’s 3-2 Europa League defeat away to Bayer Leverkusen.

Leverkusen's Ecuadorian defender Piero Hincapie (L) and Celtic's Scottish midfielder James Forrest vie for the ball (Photo by INA FASSBENDER/AFP via Getty Images)
Leverkusen's Ecuadorian defender Piero Hincapie (L) and Celtic's Scottish midfielder James Forrest vie for the ball (Photo by INA FASSBENDER/AFP via Getty Images)

The loss means Celtic will drop into the Conference League after they complete their Group G campaign at home to Real Betis in a fortnight but Postecoglou maintained that Celtic are putting themselves on an upward trajectory by sticking to their expansive football whatever the challenges placed in front of them in cross-border competition.

Even with his side fighting back from the loss of an early goal to lead 2-1 going into the final eight minute of normal time, Postecoglou didn’t shy away from acknowledging Leverkusen’s late lancing of his side with two goals in five minutes merely betrayed the “gap” that exists between the Parkhead men and their German opponents. But he steadfastly believes that only by continuing to play on the front foot can this be squeezed, citing the contrast with the scoreline in the BayArena and that which ensued from the two teams’ match-up in Glasgow only two months ago.

Indeed, in having netted eight times on the road in their section, Celtic’s goal return in this context has eclipsed any from their three away games across the 14 previous European group campaigns the club have contested in the past two decades.

Celtic's midfielder Nir Biton (L) and goalkeeper Joe Hart. (Photo by Ina Fassbender / AFP) (Photo by INA FASSBENDER/AFP via Getty Images)

“In all our European games we have taken it to some very good opponents,” the Celtic manager said. “We know there is a gap between us and the best but we will bridge that gap if we keep taking it to these sort of opponents. They [Leverkusen] knocked us over 4-0 at home, we gave them a bit of a fright over here, so hopefully next time that gap is even smaller.

“We hung in there. We weren’t able to control the game the way we wanted to because they have quality in their side and are always a threat on the counter-attack so we had to be a bit wary of that. We hung in there, Joe [Hart] made some good saves and the back four worked really hard to keep us in the game. We got our goals but we just couldn’t hang on in the end. It was disappointing for the players, they put in a massive effort.”

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