Maribor striker Marcos Tavares silenced Celtic Park as he scored the only goal of the game 15 minutes from time to earn NK Maribor a 2-1 aggregate win, knocking Celtic out of the Champions League.
Speaking after Celtic crashed out of the Champions League, a disheartened Ronny Deila, said: “They got two chances during the game and they were more effective than us but in the end there is only one thing to say and that is we weren’t good enough and we didn’t deserve to go to the Champions League.
“The pressure was too little and there was not enough aggression, but in the second half we were more aggressive and we got some chances as well and it was an even game. We were ready to go and we wanted to go hard and pressure them but I think, again, we were a little bit frightened and wanted to protect too much.
“It’s disappointing. It’s a hard feeling that I have to take with me and the players and the whole staff and the whole club. There are no excuses.
“We have to start building now. We hope we can stand in the same position next year with a whole other feeling than I have now. We had a good enough team to go through but we didn’t do it. I can understand the fans. I can only assure them that we will work hard every day to make sure next year we can sit in a better situation.
“We are a Europe League team at this time and that’s a good competition where we will get some good games there and, again, we want to be one place and that’s in the Champions League and hopefully we will be good enough to get a new chance next year.”
Celtic had the best of the initial exchanges in the first half and they nearly took the lead through Anthony Stokes as he was inches away from getting on the end of an Emilio Izaguirre cross. Before Marko Suler nearly knocked the ball into his own net as he tried to clear a Jo Inge Berget cut back, only to watch with relief as it trundled out for a corner.
Maribor then fired a warning shot off giving Celtic and Craig Gordon a hint of what was set to come later as an Agim Ibraimi shot from 30 yards out had the Celtic keeper at full stretch to make sure it was going wide.
Celtic were showing that they were ripe for the taking at the back, as Efe Ambrose was having a mare of a night as he looked disinterested and fearful of getting injured.
Mitja Viler easily shrugged off the weak attempt at a tackle by Ambrose to fire a shot from 16 yards out which Gordon could only parry against Marcos Tavares, however the striker could not react at this gilt-edged chance and Gordon smothered the ball.
Into the second half and Celtic upped the ante and were on the receiving end of a few hefty challenges from Maribor. One such tackle on Commons led to a Stokes free kick diverted inches wide of Maribor’s goal, much to the despair of the home support.
The best move of the match from Celtic saw Anthony Stokes create space down the left flank beating a defender, before cutting the ball back to Callum McGregor but from six yards his shot rattled the crossbar.
Both Kris Commons and Efe Ambrose went close again for Celtic as the second half began to draw to a close, but a goal for the home side eluded them and their failure to take their chances across the two legs came back to bite Deila’s men as Maribor took the lead silencing the home support.
Maribor captain Marcos Tavares, who had been linked with a move to Celtic, latched onto the ball inside the box after some playground defending by Emilio Izaguirre and Efe Ambrose, to fire past Craig Gordon.
Even after that goal went in and Celtic looked to push forward to find an equaliser, they were bereft of ideas and a 60-year-old who ran out of his Viagra stash had more action in him than most of the Celtic players in the final minutes of Celtic’s biggest game of the season.
There was one final chance of the night and it fell to Celtic defender Virgil van Dijk, who superbly controlled a McGregor cross on his chest, but his low shot was brilliantly saved by Handanovic in the Maribor goal.
It was agony for Celtic and their fans, but ecstasy from the Maribor players and those players who travelled to Glasgow to cheer them on.
At the full-time whistle, angry Celtic fans made their feelings quite clear as they booed and jeered not only the performance, but primarily aimed their criticism at the club’s board – who fans believe have been downsizing and penny-pinching for the past few years.
The defeat is a huge blow to Celtic, both on and off the park, with the club losing out on around £20 million in Champions League revenue as well as playing against the cream of European football. Despite dropping into the Europa League it is scant consolation to Celtic and its fans, as the competition is seen as the ginger haired ugly sister of the hot blonde that is the Champions League.
CELTIC: Gordon; Ambrose, Lustig (Boerrigter 72), van Dijk, Izaguirre; Kayal (Commons 46) Mulgrew, Johansen; McGregor, Stokes, Berget (Matthews 65)
Not Used: Zaluska, Denayer, Bitton, Griffiths
NK MARIBOR: Handanovic; Stojanovic, Rajcevic, Suler, Viler; Vrsic (Bohar 82) Filipovic, Mertelj, Ibrami; Tavares, Mendy (Dervisevic 90+2)
Not Used: Cotman, Mejac, Arghus, Sallalich, , Zahovic