Rodgers: Celtic still in tie
Brendan Rodgers insists Celtic’s Champions League quest is far from over following the 1-1 draw against AEK Athens in the first leg of their Champions League third qualifier at Parkhead.
Midfielder Callum McGregor drove in a 17th-minute opener but that good work was undone two minutes before the break when Victor Klonaridis fired in a breakaway equaliser.
The visitors were reduced to 10 men in the 57th minute when Konstantinos Galanopoulos picked up a second yellow card from Italian referee Luca Banti for tripping James Forrest, but the Hoops failed to take advantage against a well-organised Greek side and have a big task ahead of them in the return game in Athens next Tuesday night.
However, Rodgers, with some defiance, said: “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.”
He added: “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.”
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AEK’s new boss Marinos Ouzounidis, in charge for the first time in a competitive game, was reluctant to read too much into the result.
“It was a very good result for us but nothing is done,” he said. “It is important that we are better next week. We were better at the beginning of the second half but after the red card things changed.
“It was normal to deal with more pressure and it was not possible for us to get so many counter-attacks. The possibilities are now in our favour.”