Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers will tell his players to treat their Madrid mauling in isolation after going down to 10 men early on against a team who are regulars in the Champions League latter stages.
The Scottish champions drew 2-2 with Atletico Madrid in Glasgow two weeks earlier and twice took the lead against Diego Simeone’s team on home soil.
But they conceded a soft goal at Estadio Metropolitano inside six minutes on Tuesday night as Antoine Griezmann capitalised following two poor clearances, and a difficult task became insurmountable when Daizen Maeda was sent off following a VAR review midway through the first half.
Alvaro Morata netted Atletico’s second in first-half stoppage-time and the Spain forward, Griezmann and Samuel Lino all scored spectacular second-half strikes before Saul Niguez added a late sixth.
Celtic and Rodgers have survived such emphatic defeats in the Champions League before – they lost 7-0 to Barcelona in 2016 during an unbeaten domestic season.
Rodgers also admitted his usual 4-3-2 formation when down to 10 men did not work against Simeone’s side – Oh Hyeon-gyu and Kyogo Furuhashi played up front for the bulk of the second half but barely touched the ball.
While there are lessons to be learned from the chastening defeat, Celtic have been very competitive in each Champions League game when they have had a full ratio of players – they lost 2-0 at Feyenoord with nine men in their opening match.
Rodgers, who was critical of the match officials over Maeda’s red card, said: “We have to look at ourselves also, particularly the first two goals. They are avoidable. The timing of the second one was poor from our perspective, so we’ll analyse that and see where we can do better.
“There are still areas we can better, but I’m not going to be too critical of the players playing against that level and quality. This is a level where the front players are a high level and you saw that.”
Celtic can still qualify for the last 16 but will need to beat Lazio in Rome and Feyenoord at home while taking favours off Atletico if they are to squeeze through or even make the Europa League knockout round.
Rodgers said: “You have to take the game in isolation. With the greatest respect, they are players of a different level to ours. Our boys needed to be at maximum in the 2-2 game, but you come away and go to 10 men, you see the challenge.
“We go into the second half and it’s a real uphill challenge against a team that’s going to be looking to win this competition but the players gave everything and I can’t ask for any more in terms of the effort and commitment.
“You see with the quality we were just hanging on in the end.
“When you think of the goals, they were shooting them in from all angles, so they scored some quality goals and they had some luck as well. Everything that probably could have gone against us did so.”
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