Celtic went out of the Champions League in the third qualifying round, losing 3-2 on aggregate to AEK Athens after a 2-1 defeat in Greece
Brendan Rodgers claimed his central defender Dedryck Boyata had been fit to play despite missing Celtic's defeat here in Athens that set them out of the Champions League.
The Belgian international, subject of a failed PS9m bid by Fulham before the English transfer window closed, had posted a video of him receiving treatment before the game. His agent, Jacques Lichtenstein, was quoted this week saying that as his client is in the final year of his contract, he could not risk playing when not 100%.
After the narrow defeat in the third qualifier, where a late Scott Sinclair goal reduced the deficit after goals from Rodrigo Galo and Marko Livaja had set the home side 2-0 up, Rodgers, who was also without the suspended defender Kristoffer Ajer, said:” My concentration until I get back is only with the players that are here. But yes, Dedryck would have been fit to play.
” He has been with us on the journey now for a couple of years and helped us get to this position and someone of his quality, a World Cup semi-finalist in our team, certainly would have helped .”
Celtic now face a Europa League play-off when they will play the Latvian side Spartaks Jurmala or Suduva from Lithuania, a huge blow for the club who will miss out on the prestige- not to mention the vast sums of money- to be earned in the Champs League.
Within six minutes Celtic were trailing to a Galo strike and it appeared a forlorn task for the visitors when the Croatian striker Livaja headed in a second five minutes after the break.
Rodgers was critical of his side's defending.” We confessed a soft objective against Livingston and Alashkert and against Hearts we devoted away a goal ,” he said.” We are not get been set up and fantastic objectives scored against us, it is concentration and basic defending. But we will go away and work with the players we have, try to improve and build them better.
Sinclair, on as a substitute, pulled a aim back in the 78 th minute but despite a grand finale the Scottish champions could not fashion a second that would have put them through on away goals.
The 70,000 -capacity stadium was around half-full but the home fans roared when Niklas Hult, at the second attempt, got his cross past Mikael Lustig to the midfielder Galo, who swept it past Craig Gordon from 12 yards.
Celtic almost confessed a second soon after when Viktor Klonaridis, who scored in the first leg last week, burst into the box but toe-poked a shot wide.
Having taken the result, however, AEK Athens sat back and Celtic took control with Tom Rogic and Leigh Griffiths having efforts on goal before the latter sent a penalty Callum McGregor cross inches past the post from eight yards out.
Jack Hendry headed a Griffiths corner over the bar just before the interval but any positivity Celtic's response elicited evaporated early in the second half when Galo's free-kick to the back post was headed back across objective by Vassilis Lampropoulos for Livaja to head past Gordon.
Celtic answered positively again and merely a brilliant save by Vassilis Barkas prevented Simunovic's header from a Kieran Tierney cross speeding in at the near post.