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‘WE LACKED COURAGE AND BELIEF,’ RODGERS

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BRENDAN RODGERS admitted Celtic were bereft of belief and courage as they surrendered 3-0 to Zenit St Petersburg and crashed out of the Europa League last night.

The Hoops’ 1-0 win last week was wiped out by awful defending as the Russians coasted into today’s last-16 draw in Nyon, Switzerland.

Rodgers, who now has to prepare his troops for the vital trip to Aberdeen on Sunday, said: “We were much better than them in the first leg and, if we had played with a little bit more courage and belief, we could maybe have got a result.

“Defensively, we lacked aggression, particularly in the first-half. We didn’t close the space quick enough.

“We talk about defending forward and we just didn’t defend forward well enough. We conceded poor goals from that.

“The corner is one that can happen, we were blocked off, they worked it well and found the space. Branislav Ivanovic is outstanding in the air.

“The second goal, we didn’t engage quickly enough from the throw-in. We’re too deep and have to press the guy who was shooting.

“At 2-0, we still have an opportunity in the game, but everything was too sideways and backwards.

“That’s about bravery and having that courage to play.

“Possession is no good on its own. You have to penetrate and have that creativity. We didn’t have enough quality control to play forward in the first-half.

“We didn’t threaten at all during that first period because we were too negative in our play.

“The second-half was a little better, but you have to defend better and the third one was a very disappointing goal for us to concede.

“When they get to 3-0, they can control the game more without the ball.”

The loss was Celtic’s heaviest defeat in the competition since the 5-1 thumping from Neuchatel Xamax in Switzerland in 1991 when the competition was in the guise of the UEFA Cup.

Liam Brady was manager at the time. The Hoops won 1-0 in the second leg before going out on an embarrassing 5-2 aggregate score to an average Swiss outfit.

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Editor

Acclaimed author Alex Gordon wrote the biography of Scotland international legend Denis Law, entitled 'King and Country'. He is a former columnist with World Soccer magazine and Scottish correspondent of respected European journal L'Equipe.

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