Thursday 19 July 2018

Deila likely to stay despite another European failure

Celtic manager Ronny Deila
Celtic manager Ronny Deila

Roddy Forsyth

Celtic's failure to negotiate the Champions League play-offs from a strong position - for the second year in succession under Ronny Deila - saw a sharp drop in the odds against him being gone from Parkhead by the end of this season.

However, barring a domestic debacle or serious embarrassment in the Europa League, the chances are that the Norwegian will get the chance to make it third time lucky in next summer's Champions League qualifiers.

As for Malmo - who looked almost beyond hope after falling 2-0 behind in the opening minutes of the play-off first leg but recovered to win on a 4-3 aggregate - their fate in today's group stage draw will be monitored enviously by at least one Celtic player.

Kris Commons admitted that he would view the proceedings with frustration.

"Malmo could get three really difficult teams but it's going to be interesting to watch," said Commons. "I'll be watching, certainly, because I'll be thinking, 'That's where we should have been'.

"But it's onwards and upwards for ourselves. We have a game on Saturday that we have to win and then we've got the Europa League and have to mount a charge to do better than we did last year."


The midfielder conceded that Celtic had Champions League group stage football in their grasp within the opening quarter hour of the first leg against Malmo.

However, he contended that the task was never likely to be as simple as it seemed at that stage of the proceedings.

"We couldn't have wished for a better start than to be 2-0 up after 10 minutes in the first game but trying to kill a two-leg tie off after 20 minutes is difficult," he said.

"We kept pushing for goals and ended up conceding one.

"You have to realise what kind of situation you're in. It's not an SPFL game where you can keep enforcing pressure. That Malmo team had some quality players.

"Scoring two goals at Celtic Park is not an easy thing to do and when we gave them a chance to come away with 3-2, they thought they had won it.

"We realistically thought that this was a great opportunity for us to go through if we were at the top of our game. And at this level, if you're not quite at it and you're a couple of players down, you are found wanting."

In truth, Celtic never looked as though they would match Malmo after Markus Rosenberg netted the opening goal from a corner midway through the first half.

Although Deila's players were aggrieved that what looked like a cast-iron equaliser from Nir Biton was disallowed, despite the fact that Kari Arnason deliberately handled the ball before it fell to the Israeli, Commons was not inclined to excuse his team's failings.

"Sometimes when you come into a game in front you're not quite thinking that you're going to have to go out and get goals," he said. "Ideally you want to keep a clean sheet and stay strong but their first goal took the wind out of our sails and we then didn't get the goal up at their end.

"It just felt that in the first half things weren't going the way we wanted them to do and their fans were quite lively and put us under pressure."

Commons, however, was most exasperated by the belief that the Scottish champions had been ambushed by an essentially inferior team.

"I feel a lot of emotion - upset and frustrated," he said. "It's another year without Champions League football, another chance missed." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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