Brendan Rodgers has admitted Celtic have a long way to go before they can compete in the Champions League.
Scotland’s champions secured a place in the draw for the last 32 of the Europa League despite a tense, nervous 1-0 defeat by Anderlecht.
Needing a three-goal win to edge third place in Group B, the Belgian champions secured a narrow victory through a Jozo Simunovic own goal in 62 minutes.
Brendan Rodgers has admitted work is needed before they compete in Champions League
Celtic lost to Anderlecht in the Champions league courtesy of Jozo Simunovic’s own goal
Pieter Gerkens grabbed the ball after Simunovic (left) turned the ball past his own goalkeeper
Unseeded in Monday’s draw the Parkhead side now face possibility of a last 32 clash with Atletico Madrid, CSKA Moscow, Arsenal, AC Milan or Lazio.
Admitting his players have to improve hugely to compete at the top level in Europe, however, Rodgers said: ‘The big picture is, having qualified for two Champions League, the ultimate aim was to get into the Europa League and the players have done that.
‘They deserve a huge amount of credit for that – but it was a poor performance.
‘Our technique was poor. The players could not play quickly enough and needed five or six touches on the ball.
‘You have to see the game much quicker when you get to this level. Some of the players were short in their decision-making and we were not so good.
‘Some of them think they are Champions League players but this is a good leveller for some of those guys to reflect on the performance and be better.
The Hoops boss was quick to admit that his side’s performance at Celtic Park was poor
Scotland’s champions secured a place in the draw for the last 32 of the Europa League
‘The context of the game probably affected our performance, especially in the first half, with Anderlecht having to chase the game to make up the goal difference.
‘They were much brighter and quicker than us. We were poor in our ball possession, we couldn’t keep it and needed too many touches.
‘Midway through that first half had to change it tactically to try to stem the flow of the game but I was thankful to get in at 0-0 at half-time.
‘I thought we were better in the second half, we stemmed the flow much better, kept the ball and were a threat ourselves going forward.
‘But there is a story for some of our players in that they have a long way to go before they can call themselves to be players at this level. But we’ve shown over the course of this campaign that we can be better.’
‘They’ve a long way to go before they call themselves to be players at this level,’ said Rodgers
Celtic have now gone eleven games in the Champions and Europa League group stages without a home win.
Still chasing his first win in the Champions League in Glasgow Rodgers witnessed improvement in his team when he replaced Scott Sinclair and Stuart Armstrong with Olivier Ntcham and Tom Rogic at half-time.
Admitting they’re still miles away from Europe’s elite, however, Rodgers called for realism in the Europa League.
‘We have to have a touch of realism. There are going to be much, much better teams in there than ourselves.
‘We have done absolutely amazing . We were fourth seeds in this and over the Champions Leauge there won’t be too many of those who have jumped up to third place and gone through. We have been able to do that.
‘But tonight was an example that there is still a long, long way to go and the gap there is with the really big teams at the very top level of European football and even those who are just below that as well.
Celtic have now gone 11 Champions and Europa League group games without a home win
‘There’s a lot of work to do but you also have to give the players great credit,’ Rodgers added
‘So there is a lot of work for us to do but you also have to give the players great credit because they were playing a better team than us tonight and they stuck with it, they stayed strong and they got the job done. For that they deserve a huge amount of credit.
‘What we have to do is try to somehow bridge the gap.
‘The club hadn’t qualified for the Champions League for a few seasons but in the last couple of seasons we have qualified, which is brilliant for us but we want to then make the next step.
‘Once we have qualified can we have European competition, of course we want the Champions League but we have to be realistic. We’re not going to finish above PSG and Bayern Munich, so could we then challenge the third seeded team in the group which was Anderlecht, who operate on a much greater budge than ourselves.
‘We’ve done that. So next year it doesn’t get any easier, if anything it’ll become more difficult.’