Celtic may have lost the game, but midfielder Ryan Christie has described the experience of playing against Valencia as a footballing education.
The 23-year-old Scot has been arguably the domestic game’s standout talent this season, with his performances for both the Hoops and the national team drawing praise from all quarters.
However, as the player himself was happy to concede, he was unable to land a glove on the Spaniards’ star Dani Parejo on Thursday night.
The Valencia captain, Man of the Match for Valencia in a 2-2 draw away at Barcelona earlier in the month, was the fulcrum of all that was good about the visitors’ dominant display.
“Going into the game, one of the things you’re looking forward to is coming up against top-class players,” said Christie.
“And while we’re all really deflated and disappointed at the result, when you look back at it you need to make sure it’s not just a defeat, it’s something to learn from.
“When you go into games like that, you need to move the ball so much faster.
“European football is so much slicker – you need to be careful with your passing.
“And while we started OK, we just lost composure on the ball at times.
“We started the game perfectly in our eyes, the first 15-20 minutes we dominated possession and looked like we could be a threat going forward.
“But, to be fair to Valencia, they came with a really good game plan. For a team to be playing 4-4-2, you’d think we could open them up, but we found it so difficult to break them down and find spaces in their midfield.
“We can only blame ourselves, though, because at times our discipline on the ball and lack of control when we actually had it cost us in the end.
“I wouldn’t say we took risks – it was just towards the end of the first half and into the second when they were dropping off the game more that we were forcing it, trying to break them down, and that’s when the mistakes came.
“It was two counterattacks that we lost the goals from.”
With the Hoops having already been floored at their own ground in the first leg, this Thursday’s return at the Mestalla stadium looks treacherous in the extreme.
“We’re disappointed because we wanted a result at home, but it’s a learning curve for us,” said Christie.
“They punished us for every mistake we made and we need to take the lessons from that.
“Although we don’t have much time to think about it, we’ll turn it around and be positive by the time we get to the game over there.
“If we get an early goal out there it changes everything. So we’re far from completely out of it, although obviously we’ve given ourselves a hard task.”
Before they head for Spain, Celtic have today’s short trip to Kilmarnock to negotiate and a return to Rugby Park – a ground where they lost, back in September.
“It’s been a hard place to go, and not just for us,” he said. “We’re desperate to win, though. Not just for the sake of the league but also to bounce back from the loss to Valencia.
“It’s always nice after a disappointment like that to have a game so quickly because all you want to do is get back out there.
“We’re disappointed, but the best thing we can do is win to push us on in the league and give us a bit of momentum going into the second leg.
“Killie have played well at home, but we’re more than confident going there.
“Before Valencia, and since the winter break, we’ve scored a lot of goals and not conceded any. So it’s back to the league and we need to continue that amazing form.
“We can’t get caught up on what happened on Thursday night, we need to brush it aside and go again in the league.
“And of course, having lost there last year, we have a desire to go and rectify that. So we’ll be up for it, chasing all three points.”