Brendan Rodgers hailed the maturity and composure of his players last night as they claimed a place in the Champions League play-off round, describing their display in the 1-0 win over Rosenborg as “sensational”.
James Forrest grabbed the precious goal which keeps Celtic’s Champions League ambitions alive, smashing a stunning shot beyond Rosenborg keeper Andre Hansen in the 69th minute of a tense clash.
Celtic progressed 1-0 on aggregate to book their place in tomorrow’s draw, with group stage European football now guaranteed for the club this season in either the Champions League or Europa League.
“It was a big performance,” said the Celtic manager. “What was important for me was to see the maturity and how we are developing as a team. This time last year I was going into these games with a hope we could get through.
“Now we go into them, and play to that level and with that composure, it was sensational really. I’m delighted with the players and how they managed the game, how they kept their nerve and courage to play.
“I’ve got a trust in them that they understand how we play. We have a way of working. We have identified a style of football and have a philosophy in how we defend and attack. The players are comfortable in it now.
“I was comfortable throughout the game. We haven’t conceded a goal yet in the qualifiers. People talk about our creativity but there is a steel to our play as well. At 1-0 you can panic a little, not keep the ball properly, but we controlled that element of the game well. Rosenborg never had any chances after that. It’s big applause to our players because we looked like the team who would go on and get another one.”
The Scottish champions will be seeded in tomorrow’s draw and have five potential opponents – Qarabag of Azerbaijan, who they beat in the third qualifying round in 2015; Astana of Kazakhstan, who they defeated in the same round last year; Croatian champions Rijeka; Czech Republic champions Slavia Prague; or Hapoel Beer-Sheva of Israel, the side they edged past in the play-off round last season.
“When the draw comes there will be one of those anxious moments over the two legs,” said Rodgers. “But 12 months on it’s a different mentality and feel. Whoever we get, it will be a tough game, but my focus now is on Hearts on Saturday.”