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Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers reveals he knew they’d lose to Zenit before kick-off

CELTIC crashed out of the Europa League in calamitous style against Zenit St Petersburg in Russia.

The Hoops’ 1-0 lead from the first leg of the last-32 clash at Parkhead last week was wiped out before half an hour had been played with Brendan Rodgers’ side culpable.

Returning defender Branislav Ivanovic, celebrating his 34th birthday, put Zenit in front with a header from a poorly defended corner in the eighth minute, before attacker Daler Kuzyaev fired in a long-range drive in the 27th minute which had Parkhead keeper Dorus de Vries grasping air.

Still, a goal was all Celtic needed to go through to the last-16 but in the 61st minute striker Aleksandr Kokorin, who had previously scored against the Hoops for Dinamo Moscow, made it 3-0 on the night and 3-1 on aggregate.

Rodgers admitted he had a bad feeling about the night even before Ivanovic levelled the aggregate score. “We have a lot of young players who are finding their feet at this level,” said the Celtic manager.

“Moussa Dembele was very good, aggressive, Olivier Ntcham was good, Scott Brown always is, he is excellent for the team. But I just thought defensively, as a back line, we didn’t press the game or squeeze the space.”

The stadium’s roof was closed over which was good news for the players and 50,492 supporters, including several hundred in green and white, in light of the sub-zero temperatures outside.

The Scottish champions looked at ease from kick-off in a subdued atmosphere, only to be stunned by the loss of that early goal by a Zenit side who looked rusty last week in their first competitive game in two months due to Russia’s winter break.

And despite looking no better than decent they were fit enough and good enough to recover the tie – although they were given some help by the visitors.

And Rodgers was naturally disappointed with the goals his side conceded at the Krestovsky Stadium.

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“Last week I think we showed that when our concentration is at its best and we defend forward we can defend really well,” he said.

“Tonight I thought, in particular in the first half, we weren’t aggressive enough and a little bit passive.

“The goals we gave away were really disappointing goals from that aspect.

“So yeah, a disappointing end – a bit better in the second half – but defensively we gave away three very poor goals.”

Source: www.express.co.uk

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