Ange Postecoglou had plenty of praise for his Celtic players despite the defeat against Bayer Leverkusen that ended their Europa League hopes.
Celtic were 2-1 ahead against the group’s top seeds but conceded two late goals to lose 3-2 and they will now play in the Europa Conference League after Christmas.
A penalty from Josip Juranovic and a goal from Jota were the only rewards for Celtic in a thrilling game in Germany where the visitors continued with their attacking approach.
Postecoglou said that Leverkusen’s quality had to be acknowledged but that Celtic had put in a performance much improved from when the sides met in Glasgow.
The Australian had said pre-match that he would continue to take a positive attacking approach and that was how the team would learn. After seeing his team test Leverkusen’s defence repeatedly, he said that would continue to be the way they tackle big games.
“In all our European games we’ve taken it to some very good opponents,” he said. “We know there’s a gap between us and the best but we’ll bridge that gap if we keep taking this approach whenever we play these teams. They knocked us off 4-0 at home but we gave them a bit of a fright here. Hopefully next time the gap’s even smaller.”
Ultimately, he felt that although the nature of the defeat was disappointing, with Europa League progress now ended, there was plenty to be proud of.
“It is a tough one to take,” he said. “We kinda hung in there and gave ourselves a chance to pull off a great result but ultimately they’re a good team and we didn’t finish the game off in the way we could have.
“Credit to the players because Leverkusen are a fantastic team and we came to their back yard and gave them a game.
“We weren’t able to control the game the way we wanted because they have quality in their side and they’re always a threat on the counter-attack so we had to be a bit wary. We hung in there and Joe Hart made some good saves.
“The back four worked really hard to keep us in the game and then we got our goals. We just couldn’t hang on in the end which was disappointing for the players because they put in a massive effort but there’s still a gap between us and them, and that’s what we need to bridge.”