Ange Postecoglou praises Celtic's Dutch courage after seeing off AZ

Ange Postecoglou praises Celtic’s courage for battling into Europa League group stages after throwing away early lead against AZ Alkmaar but progress 3-2 on aggregate

  • Ange Postecoglou was pleased with his Celtic team for overcoming AZ Alkmaar
  • Kyogo Furuhashi gave Celtic a dream start but a Joe Hart error roused AZ
  • Carl Starfelt’s own goal then had Celtic against the wall but they survived
  • There is no let up for the Bhoys as they face Rangers in the Old Firm on Sunday 

Ange Postecoglou praised Celtic for finding the Dutch courage to battle their way into the group stages of the Europa League.

Kyogo Furuhashi’s seventh goal in seven games gave the Parkhead side a dream start and a 3-0 aggregate lead over AZ Alkmaar after two minutes and ten seconds.

Shell-shocked by a calamitous defensive error from new keeper Joe Hart and an own goal from Carl Starfelt, however, panic set in before and after half-time.

Celtic boss Ange Postecoglou praised his side for seeing out a difficult tie with AZ Alkmaar

Joe Hart (pictured) made a goalkeeping howler but rescued his side with some fine saves

Forced to calm the fear coursing through his side at half-time, Postecoglou admitted his transitional team are still far from the finished article.

Relieved to come through a test of nerve, Odsonne Edouard’s introduction for the last half hour played a huge part in securing a place in today’s Europa League group draw. The downside came when injuries to Talisman Furuhashi and left-back Greg Taylor made both doubts for Sunday’s Old Firm game at Ibrox

‘We just lost belief,’ admitted the former Australia boss. ‘Our evolution as a team will depend on how we overcome the challenges we face. Tonight the challenge was how we would respond to the individual mistakes we made.

‘We didn’t react well to that initially. In the last 30 minutes of the first half we second-guessed ourselves, we got apprehensive and we worried about making another mistake. We had to break through that barrier.

‘I told the players that fear is the biggest impediment to progress and we had to eliminate that from our game. Mistakes will happen: we just have to respond better to them and believe in our football.’

Handed the perfect start with Furuhashi’s early strike veteran keeper Hart dithered over a defensive clearance and gifted AZ an equaliser. When new £4million defender Starfelt sliced the ball into his own net AZ threatened to capitalise on Celtic’s collapse.

‘They are two human beings, they are going to make mistakes.

‘What was more important for me was what we did after and how we reacted.

‘Mistakes will happen: we just have to respond better and believe in our football’, he said

‘We lost our way a bit in the first half trying to recover from that and they got momentum.

‘We started the game well, we scored the goal and started playing really brightly.

‘But the two goals set us back.

‘The second half we dug in when we had to.

‘Joe was obviously disappointed with the first half mistake. But he made a couple of outstanding saves.

‘Carl defended really strongly in the second half.

‘Mistakes are a part of football, it’s the reaction to them that’s important.

‘It was a different type of performance. In the second half we had to dig in.

‘When you give away two goals, you know the opposition’s going to have confidence and momentum.

‘But it’s great we showed that resilience and the players got their rewards for it.’

Stephen Welsh (left) and David Turnbull (right) celebrate Celtic qualifying for the group stage

The loss of left-back Taylor to a shoulder injury could see young Adam Montgomery pitched in against Rangers. Star signing Furuhashi is also a doubt after limping off minutes from the end.

‘We’ll just have to see about Greg. He’s got a shoulder problem but as yet we don’t know the extent of it.

‘Obviously, we’ve got a pretty quick turnaround and we’ll just have to see if he recovers in time.

‘I thought Monty was outstanding coming on, a young player, knowing that we’re going to have defend a fair bit of the game.

‘The rest of them I think…Kyogo got a bit of a knock.

‘We put in a big shift, so it’s going to be about recovery now over the next 24, 48 hours.’

Japanese winger Kyogo Furuhashi has scored seven goals in his last seven games for Celtic

Benched from the start Odsonne Edouard remains a subject of intense transfer speculation in the final days of the window. His importance emphasised by a game-changing performance as a substitute for the final half hour, however, the Frenchman could now start at Ibrox.

‘We’ll assess that. Odsonne came on and did a job for us again – he held the ball up well so he can definitely be an option for Sunday.’

Shamrock Rovers defender Liam Scales is expected to join before the deadline. Despite the brutal exposure of defensive fragilities, the Celtic boss insists there is no cause for panic signings.

‘I get it that people tend to look at things in isolation and two players made mistakes tonight but that’s not how I view it. I look at the overall picture and thought that, for the most part, we defended okay and it was individual errors which cost us: their goals didn’t come from defensive breakdowns.

‘Both of those players recovered from those errors and went on to contribute to our victory.

‘We’ll keep working on things. I’ve already said we’re not the finished product – we can’t be at this stage. You need to keep things in perspective: it’s been a massive month for us and we have yet another big game on Sunday.’

Praised for the attacking football which brought 24 goals in their previous six games Celtic had to show another side by seeing out a testing night.

‘Listen, it’s not always going to be plain sailing, passing teams off the pitch, scoring five goals,’ said captain Calum McGregor.

‘It is important for us to learn from the experience tonight.

‘It is great that we got through, but it doesn’t really mean anything if you don’t learn from it.

‘When you come up against opponents who want to press you then you have to move that wee bit quicker, you have to trust yourself, trust your mate on the ball. In the second-half there was probably a 20 minute spell where we steadied the ship a little bit and we got through the game.’

‘Obviously we know how important group stage football is to the club, what it brings to the club, how important it is to the supporters. The competition has now got less teams in it so the quality of the opposition is now higher. It is great for us to still be in the mix and be in the group stages.’

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