Brendan Rodgers bemoans Celtic’s lack of quality as they exit European stage

By Sports Desk November 28, 2023

Brendan Rodgers bemoaned a lack of quality after Celtic’s interest in Europe ended with a 2-0 defeat in the Champions League by Lazio in Rome.

The Hoops went into the make-or-break game with one point from four Group E matches but were undone with two late goals from the home side’s classy substitute Ciro Immobile.

Celtic were awarded a penalty in added time for a push on substitute Oh Hyeon-gyu inside the box but it was overturned when VAR intervened and sent referee Halil Umut Meler to the pitchside monitor for another look.

The Parkhead outfit, without Luis Palma, Daizen Maeda, Reo Hatate and Liel Abada through suspension or injury, will finish bottom in their Champions League group for the second consecutive season.

Rodgers was quoted on bbc.co.uk/sport saying: “It’s the overall quality. We need to have our very best players available.

“What makes the difference is that bit of experience and genuine quality. That’s something we can hopefully resolve over the next couple of windows.

“This group has gained more experience and shown they can compete in some games – but we need to add quality. That’s the glaring thing that stands out.

“Sadly for us, over the course of all the games, we’ve been hampered with our squad and availability. At this level, for us, that’s the very minimum.

“But I have to commend the players that have been playing. They have given everything. The game was very competitive right the way through.

“We lose two goals but the effort and commitment was there.

“In the last 20 minutes we looked like the team that could go on and get the result, but we gave away two poor goals.

“The first one, we’re in a great position up the pitch and we lose possession and never recover our shape. Then they get a bit of luck with the deflection. That was a tough one to take.

“For the second goal, we obviously need to be stronger and better.”

The Scottish champions finished on two points in the Champions League last season and they have their final match at home to Feyenoord next month to improve on that tally.

Rodgers said: “We want to finish on a high. We want to win in front of our own supporters.

“Our support has been incredible, travelling all round Europe. They haven’t seen us win and we’d love to give them that victory at home and finish off with a positive result.”

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    Joe Hart believes announcing his retirement from football will end speculation about his future with Celtic.

    The former England and Manchester City goalkeeper will be 37 when his three-year contract expires in the summer.

    Hart made his first-team debut for Shrewsbury in April 2004 and won 75 caps for England.

    He followed Sir Kenny Dalglish and Andrei Kanchelskis in claiming winners’ medals in the three major trophies in England and Scotland when Celtic won the Scottish Cup last season but this will be his final season as he looks to help Brendan Rodgers plan for the future.

    “This is something I have thought about for a while,” Hart told Celtic TV.

    “There’s no right or wrong time is there but the way this club works is that I’m playing out at the moment. There’s so much on it. There’s so much heart and soul poured into what we’re doing as a football club.

    “But with the grand scheme of the club, with the support base, and the conversations that go on around it, there’s obviously a conversation around the goalkeeping position for next season.

    “So I just think it was really important that with the blessing of the club – I’ve had the conversations with the club with Brendan, with Stevie Woods (goalkeeping coach) – that we get the message out, it takes one thing off the table that people need to speculate over.

    “I’m definitely not going to be there next season. I’m not going to be available to play football next season.

    “So I want to take that off the table and then we can talk about why and then push forward.”

    Hart still feels “great” physically and he stressed his commitment to the Parkhead club as they look to defend their cinch Premiership title and the Scottish Gas Scottish Cup.

    With 13 league fixtures remaining, the Hoops are two points behind Old Firm rivals Rangers and Hart, who joined the Scottish champions from Tottenham in 2021, promised Hoops fans he remains up for the fight.

    He said: “Mentally I’m in that one place that I like to be, I’m in a place of clarity. Obviously, I’ve thought about this a lot.

    “I think the right the right time is now. I’ve got the clarity of mind that I was able to go to the club and explain my position and them totally understand.

    “I think the hardest thing for me once I’d made the decision was to explain that although I intend on finishing from June onwards, I’m so up for it. I’m so still so involved and still so committed.

    “And I thank the club for that. I think Brendan and Stevie Woods for understanding where my mind was at and understanding me as a person.

    “So I appreciate the open mindedness of the club and hopefully the open mindedness of the fans when they see this and understand that this is not someone who’s checking out, this is someone who’s just letting people know because they think it’s important.

    “I’m not retiring from working. I just won’t be a goalkeeper anymore.

    “All I want to do now is focus. I want to focus on the job in hand, representing this amazing club that I play for and living my heart and soul on the field.”

  • Celtic goalkeeper Joe Hart set to retire at end of the season Celtic goalkeeper Joe Hart set to retire at end of the season

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    The former England and Manchester City player will be 37 when his three-year contract expires in the summer.

    Hart made his first-team debut for Shrewsbury in April 2004 and won 75 caps for England.

    He followed Sir Kenny Dalglish and Andrei Kanchelskis in claiming winners’ medals in the three major trophies in England and Scotland when Celtic won the Scottish Cup last season.

    Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers said on the club’s official website: “Joe has enjoyed a phenomenal career and I know will be huge miss to the game when he finally retires from playing football in the summer.

    “For all he has done in football, Joe deserves huge praise and congratulations, he has been such a brilliant asset to Celtic of course and the wider game at the highest levels, domestically and internationally.

    “But more than that, he is a tremendous man, just brilliant to work with, someone who I know has been a great team-mate to so many throughout his career and a player who never gives anything but his absolute best. Each and every day his work ethic is an example to all in football.

    “I totally understand and respect Joe’s reasons for making this announcement and for being clear to the club and our fans on his future.

    “I also know he will continue to work right through this season with the same intensity, commitment and drive which he has always been known for.”

  • Declan Rice feels Arsenal must find Champions League ‘savvy’ after loss at Porto Declan Rice feels Arsenal must find Champions League ‘savvy’ after loss at Porto

    Declan Rice admits Arsenal need to find their Champions League “savvy” as Mikel Arteta’s young side continue to learn on the job.

    The Gunners lost the first leg of their last 16 tie away to Porto on Wednesday night as Galeno’s brilliant last-gasp strike earned the hosts a 1-0 victory.

    It extends Arsenal’s wretched record in Champions League knockout games – they still have not won outside of the group stages since 2010, having exited at the last-16 stage for seven consecutive years under Arsene Wenger.

    Arteta secured a return to the top table of European football for the first time since 2017 but Arsenal’s hopes of progressing further suffered a blow at the Estadio do Dragao.

    From their starting XI in Porto, only Kai Havertz had any previous experience of playing a Champions League knockout game and Rice conceded that lack of nous cost Arsenal late on.

    “I think the last minute is probably a bit of inexperience,” he replied when asked if Arteta’s young team were on a steep learning curve.

    “Just probably having a bit more savviness, in terms of it’s the 93rd minute, you look up at the clock, it’s 0-0, we gave a ball away on the edge of our box twice and then he bends one in the top bins.

    “So we have got to have a bit of savviness to see out the game, because if you can’t win, definitely don’t lose – especially in a knockout game. But look, we are still positive. It is half-time in a two-leg tie and we will be ready for the next leg.

    “You look at our team, we are such a young group. Some of us have not played in the Champions League before, so it is all about learning on the job.

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    They are back in Premier League action as they host Newcastle on Saturday.

    “Look, we have lost games this year and drawn games, and I have seen the changing room after and it’s been really bad when we have lost and drawn games,” added England international Rice.

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