Postecoglou: Celtic better prepared for second leg

Ange Postecoglou insists Celtic cannot help but be better prepared for next week’s Champions League clash with Midtjylland following the 1-1 draw at Parkhead.

The new Hoops boss had voiced concerns over his squad’s fitness and over how long it was taking to get new faces into the club ahead of the first-leg tie against the Danish side but they got off to a positive start.

New signing Liel Abada, the 19-year-old Israeli winger, marked his competitive debut by scoring in the 37th minute only for defender Nir Bitton to be sent off late in the first half for picking up the second of two yellow cards for remonstrating with Anders Dreyer, who was also booked for diving in the box.

Dreyer was sent off 10 minutes into the second half for another dive before Evander levelled for the Danish side with a free-kick to set up nicely next week’s second leg in Denmark.

After an incident-packed first competitive game as Celtic manager, Postecoglou said: “I can’t ask any more of the players. We will be better prepared, no doubt, in eight days’ time

“In fact, I do not think we will ever be as badly prepared as we were tonight going into such an important game and that’s on me.

Liel Labada put Celtic ahead
Image: Liel Abada gave Celtic the lead with a goal on his competitive debut for the club

“It is, I am the manager of the football club. I’m the one that takes that responsibility of providing support for the players and staff. If things aren’t happening, it’s on me to make them happen.

“I have not done a great job so far to be honest because with the disruptions we have had, we have not been able to bring the players in.

“My role is to try and reinforce this squad and to try to prepare this squad for what is ahead, and to their credit, the players didn’t look for excuses tonight.

“They put in a solid shift and I am just disappointed they didn’t get the rewards for what I thought was an outstanding performance.”

Nir Bitton is red carded during a Champions League qualifier between Celtic and FC Midtjylland at Celtic Park
Image: Nir Bitton is red carded during a Champions League qualifier between Celtic and FC Midtjylland at Celtic Park

Asked about Bitton’s sending-off, for putting his finger in the face of Dreyer who went down too easily in the box, Postecoglou said: “I was frustrated at the result, as I said, not the performance, but Nir had already been booked and when you have been booked you have to be careful in your actions.

“When you infringe again, you give the opportunity to the referee to give you another caution.

“It’s disappointing for him more than anything, because he was really keen to put in a strong performance. “He had started the game really well for us, so it’s disappointing for him that he misses the second game as well.”

The former Australia manager also refused to point the finger of blame at ‘keeper Vasilis Barkas for failing to stop Evander’s free-kick.

Evander celebrates after scoring to make it 1-1 during a Champions League qualifier between Celtic and FC Midtjylland
Image: Evander celebrates after scoring to make it 1-1 during a Champions League qualifier between Celtic and FC Midtjylland

He said: “I’m getting a lot of ‘glass half-empty’ questions at the moment. I think there was plenty of positives tonight rather than people looking for little things that potentially didn’t go right.

“I thought it was a decent strike, we limited them to a couple of shots on goal with a really brand-new back four.

“The midfield worked their socks off. The amount of running that (Ismaila) Soro, Callum McGregor and Ryan Christie did was unbelievable.

“There’s nothing I’m disappointed in tonight. I’m frustrated at the result because the players didn’t get the result, I thought they deserved.”

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