Saturday 15 December 2018

Rodgers: We made hard work of draw

Sudava 1-1 Celtic

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers with his players after the match. Photo: REUTERS/Ints Kalnins
Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers with his players after the match. Photo: REUTERS/Ints Kalnins

Ronnie Esplin

Celtic moved a step closer to the Europa League group stage with a 1-1 draw against Suduva in the first leg of their play-off in Lithuania although defensive concerns continue.

Midfielder Olivier Ntcham got the visitors off to a perfect start in the ARVI Football Arena when he headed in a Mikey Johnston cross in the third minute.

Celtic's Moussa Dembele shoots at goal. Photo: REUTERS/Ints Kalnins
Celtic's Moussa Dembele shoots at goal. Photo: REUTERS/Ints Kalnins

However, Ovidijus Verbickas levelled in the 13th minute with a headed goal which frustrated Brendan Rodgers, the Hoops boss having lamented poor defending in the Champions League qualifying exit at AEK Athens last week.

The picturesque surroundings of a 6,500-capacity stadium which had seats to spare belied the importance of the match to Celtic, keen to re-establish their European credibility.

Dominated

Home keeper Ivan Kardum pulled off a series of saves, notably from James Forrest and Johnston, as the visitors dominated the first half.

FK Suduva's Julius Kasparavicius shoots at goal. Photo: REUTERS/Ints Kalnins
FK Suduva's Julius Kasparavicius shoots at goal. Photo: REUTERS/Ints Kalnins

But Craig Gordon had to make a couple of crucial blocks after the break, with the draw leaving the Scottish champions some work to do next week although they should finish the job off in Glasgow.

"I felt for the supporters tonight," Rodgers said after the game.

"They've come all the way out here. Probably trains, buses and everything. It's a disappointing performance for them. They saw a goal but we have to be much better than that.

"I thought we made real hard work of it. We didn't really play with the tempo and intensity that we wanted.

"Listen, collectively we can do better. We're controlling lots of the game but in the last round we had four shots on target against us over two games where we were clearly the better team, but conceded three goals, so it had to stop."

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