Ange Postecoglou saw Celtic’s hopes of European progress end for the season after drawing with Shakhtar Donetsk but says regular qualification can help his side make a Champions League impact.
The Scottish champions only had a slim chance of taking third place in their group and a Europa League spot going into the match at Celtic Park but a 1-1 draw ensured they will finish bottom of the group.
Postecoglou and his players will now play their final game in the competition against Real Madrid in Spain next week before drawing a line under their European involvement for the season.
Though his side only have two points from their five games played so far, the manager continues to be encouraged by his side’s efforts but believes it will take time and experience before Celtic can have serious expectations of progressing in the competition.
Postecoglou says the first priority has to be ensuring that the team is back in the group stages next season, and them applying what has been learned.
“It’s up to us to make sure that we’re in it again next year,” he said. “That’s part of the process.
“You can’t go into this competition every five years and expect to make an impact.
“The first challenge for us is to become a Champions League football club. That means qualifying every year.
“I think with what we’ve gone through this yea, and the way we’ve tested ourselves, there’s no doubt that should we qualify again this group of players will be much better for the experience.
“They’ll understand from the first game what’s required and the levels needed, the understandings and the fine lines between winning or not winning a game.
“So I definitely think this year will help us. The challenge is to qualify again next year, qualify the year after, and consistently be at this level.
“This is a group that’s very, very inexperienced in terms of this level of football. Look at where most of them were playing twelve months ago.
“This is there first time so it would be a missed opportunity if we didn’t qualify next year to use what we’ve gained this time and become a better football club at this level next year.”
Reflecting on the match itself, where Giorgos Giakoumakis gave Celtic a first half lead before Mykhaylo Mudryk equalised with a sole effort just before the hour, Postecoglou said:
“It was a tight game. It was always going to be a tight game, a lot at stake for both teams and I didn’t expect it to be an open affair with a lot of chances.
“For the most part we controlled the game well and played in areas we wanted to. We did create chances and minimised their threat, and scored the goal, and I thought at that stage we were in control.
“Obviously they scored a great goal from a counter-attack which is disappointing for us.
“We had a great chance for Kyogo and they missed a chance after that. It was just a tight football match that you expect at this level.
“I’m disappointed with the outcome but in terms of the players’ effort, I can’t ask any more of them.”