Celtic continued on their quest to qualify for the Champions League group stages last night, though disappointingly had to settle for a 1-1 draw at home to AEK Athens in the third-qualifying round first-leg.
Callum McGregor fired the hosts in front after 17 minutes, but the Greek champions stubbornly equalised just before half-time. They were a man short after 57 minutes following midfielder Konstantinos Galanopoulos’ second yellow card and subsequent sending off.
Brendan Rodgers knows his side have what it takes to fight back in Athens next week, but is aware a lot of work is required if things are to go according to plan.
As quoted by The Independent, the Irishman had his say on the match:
Apart from that one error we made just before half-time, and (if) we were sat here at 1-0, we would be talking about a fantastic performance. We started the game so well. Our shape, our pressing was at a high level and we were in control of the game and probably Athens were waiting for half-time to regroup – and we concede. The only bit of frustration was we couldn’t make that final pass count but overall, we are still in a really good position. We always knew it would be a difficult game over there anyway but certainly after tonight and the performance, it gives us great hope to go out there and get a result. We knew they were a good side but we proved that we are also a good side and can go over there and get a result.
We can score over there, I don’t think there is any question of that. We also have to defend well, as well. It was always going to be a difficult game for us, at 1-0 up or 1-1, we always thought we would have to go there and score. It is still very much in the balance. Of course, it swings to them as they are at home but we certainly know we have the quality to go and perform, after seeing that this evening.
Kristoffer Ajer picked up a booking in last night’s tie, meaning he is unavailable for the second-leg on Tuesday through suspension.
The Athens Olympic Stadium is where AEK play their football and that is where Celtic must score in next week’s crunch tie.