RONNY DEILA believes the dismissal of Emilio Izaguirre cost Celtic victory in the Amsterdam Arena last night but refused to blame the Honduran left-back for his actions.
With Celtic leading Ajax 2-1 in their Europa League Group A opener, Izaguirre was sent off in the 73rd minute for a needless second bookable offence. The Scottish champions paid the price when Lasse Schone equalised with six minutes remaining.
Izaguirre will now be suspended for Celtic’s next fixture in the group at home to Fenerbahce – who last night suffered a surprise 3-1 defeat at home to Molde – on 1 October.
Deila preferred to savour the positive aspects of a performance which he felt was the ideal response to the recent shaky form which has seen them slip five points behind Aberdeen at the top of the Premiership.
“Of course the sending-off was the turning point in the game,” Deila said. “We had very good control of the game at that stage.
“I’m quite sure we would have won the game without the red card. We were very comfortable and could also have made better changes later in the game.
“Emilio has no record of a lot of red cards. I personally think he played very well up to that red card. He took out their best player, Anwar El Ghazi, for most of the game. He just has to move on. We do it together as a team.
“It would have been a very difficult decision to take Emilio off after his first booking. He had very good control of El Ghazi – in the first half, he didn’t do anything. But he got caught on the wrong side one time before it.
“I don’t think he touched him so much for the red card. He did very well in 95 per cent of the chances he had against him. The first yellow card I could not understand, but that happened.
“When it was 11 v 11, we had very good control of game. We played well, we created chances and we defended as a team. We had a great attitude and I’m very, very proud of the boys.
“But when we went down to ten men they got more crosses into the box and we had to deal with it. So in the end, if you see the whole game, a draw is OK. It is a very important point away from home.
“It is about attitude, discipline, organisation and the boys showed me today that they want to fight. We put ourselves in a good position with a point away in Amsterdam. Everybody knows we can play good football but today we needed a performance and some confidence through the performance. If you can back that up with points it is much easier. We got a point, we could have got three, it gives us a lot of energy.
“The players have shown great attitude and that they take this competition seriously. They have shown we can bounce back. Now we have to get ready for Sunday against Dundee to start winning again in the league.”
Ajax’s late equaliser came from a free-kick by Schone wide on the left which sailed directly beyond Craig Gordon into the net. But Deila did not feel his goalkeeper was at fault.
“It went through every player, they were too tight and it was a very good delivery,” he said. “We still have to work on that but it is going the right way.”
Ajax coach Frank de Boer expressed his frustration at the result. “Celtic parked two buses in front of us after they made it 2-1,” he said. “But I suppose at 2-1 down, you have to be satisfied with the spirit to come back.”