Brendan Rodgers claimed there was “no embarrassment” in losing his first game as Celtic boss 1-0 against part-time Lincoln Red Imps in the first leg of their Champions League qualifier at the Victoria Stadium.
The Parkhead side were stunned when striker Lee Casciaro, who had scored Gibraltar’s first international goal against Scotland at Hampden in 2015, sensationally put the part-timers ahead in the 47th minute.
Hoops striker Leigh Griffiths hit woodwork twice as the visitors battled back but the home side held out for a result which ranks as the most embarrassing in Celtic’s European history, although the Scottish champions will fancy their chances in the return game in Glasgow next week.
Asked if there were red faces in the dressing room, the former Liverpool boss, who took over from Ronny Deila in May, said: “No. There is obvious disappointment.
“There is no embarrassment. It was a tough game in tough conditions. We didn’t take our chances, they took their chance.
“We dominated and created enough chances to score. Sometimes it can happen, obviously with the pitch, an awkward bounce and all of a sudden the player is in, it’s into the floor and goes in.
“We have seen enough to see that we can get through in the second leg. Of course you are disappointed to lose.
“It was difficult, of course. They set up 5-4-1. And it doesn’t matter the team, the level. Teams have good organisation, 11 players behind the ball.
“Throw the pitch into that, it’s very, very tough for the players.
“But we created enough chances, their keeper made fantastic saves. It gives us a bit of work to do in the second leg.”
Apropos of nothing, we will just leave this here.
Rodgers’ message to Celtic fans, over 300 of whom were in the tiny stadium which was not full to its 2,000 capacity, was to “stay calm”.
He said: “Celtic fans expect us to get through into the group stages. It was disappointing but the players gave everything they had.
“The message to them (fans) is to stay calm. This is a good group of players, they are working hard and in a week’s time we will need them.
“I always thought this qualification phase would be based on the second leg at home, so we will need that support and hopefully get the job done next week.
“They were never in command. We were the team with dominance. What we lacked was the final touch, the final ball.
“I’m not really (shocked). I’ve been around the game often enough, I know these results can happen. We stay calm. We need to put in a performance next week,
“The result here complicates it a bit for us. We move on to next week.”
Lincoln Red Imps captain Roy Chipolina stood behind his comments earlier in the week when he said victory over Celtic would be the biggest shock in European football.
He said: “I think so. When you look at the history of both clubs. Nothing has changed, Celtic are still a massive club and they are still favourites in the tie, but I don’t think anyone expected us to be going over to Glasgow with a 1-0 lead.
“We will be going over there more confident than we thought, trying to put the same shift again and, if miracles can happen again, we will knock Celtic out of the Champions League.
“It’s just crazy and even when we go over for the second leg I don’t think the lads will even believe that we have actually beaten Celtic. It is just unbelievable.
“Tactically we did exactly as the gaffer said. We knew Celtic would have most of the possession and the plan was to frustrate them and the longer the game went on the more frustrated they would become and hopefully open up at the back.
“We knew that if we got the chance, with Lee up front, he would put it away and that’s exactly what he did.
“But we don’t want to get carried away. We know Celtic will be up for the game when we go over, we are going to have to put in 10 times the shift that we put in here if we are to go through. Let’s hope we do it.”