By Lewis Laird
Celtic midfielder Matt O’Riley has delivered an honest assessment of the Bhoys’ performance in the Champions League this season.
The Hoops European hopes came to an end on Tuesday evening, as Ange Postecoglou’s side were held to a second 1-1 draw by Shakhtar Donetsk.
For the most part, it has been a positive group stage campaign in terms of performance. But, there has been major frustration with the end results.
After five games, Celtic sit bottom of the group on two points, still awaiting a first win in the competition in five years, following on from our long absence.
Speaking in the immediate aftermath of Tuesday’s draw, Ange Postecoglou and his Celtic squad were asked for their verdict on this season’s group stage.
Midfielder, Matt O’Riley, was one of the players speaking with the media, as he provided an honest assessment and his thoughts on how the Hoops performed.
The 21-year-old insisted that the squad have played some good football over the piece. However, it is a feeling of frustration after their lack of clinical edge in front of goal, as he vowed that the players would come back stronger.
He said [BT Sport]: “We’ll try to be back next year with a bit more ruthless in front of goal. I had a chance towards the end that I put past the post. To be honest, if that was in the Scottish league, I reckon we’d score them. Maybe there’s a bit more anxiety.
“There’s a lot to learn, but we’ll go back to the training ground to make sure we are more ruthless because our finishing, our passing, everything has to be sharper when you transition to this level. You saw it in the Real Madrid game, they get one chance, and they punish you.
“We had more chances than Shakhtar again. They obviously had one massive one they missed, but we had plenty to punish them.
“It was a disappointing Champions League campaign, especially given some of the football we’ve played. I’m gutted for our fans; they turn up every single time and make crazy amounts of noise. Next year we will have learned a lot from this and be in a better place for sure.”
Despite the positive signs throughout this group stage, it has undoubtedly been a huge frustration for supporters and players.
Ange Postecoglou’s squad would have been desperate to showcase their European credentials. However, they failed to pick up three points from their first five games.
Following on from the game, it was clear to see the disappointment on the player’s faces and in their assessment of the Bhoys European campaign.
Although we now have to sit on that disappointment until next season, in terms of looking to bounce back in Europe, it could prove to be a good thing in the long run.
The 57-year-old and his players will be desperate to have another crack at this competition, and having first-hand experience can only help going forward.
Of course, before we can think of that, it is crucially important we achieve the success required in domestic action to secure qualification once again.
So, the focus switches back to the league over the coming months as we look to learn from our first Champions League experience as a squad and come back stronger.
In other news, “That’s our challenge”; Ange Postecoglou outlines the vital Celtic UCL learning curve.
By Lewis Laird