BRENDAN RODGERS urged Celtic fans to “stay calm” after his first game as manager ended in defeat against part-timers Lincoln Red Imps in Gibraltar.
Rodgers’ side laboured in the heat and on the plastic pitch during a goalless first 45 minutes at Victoria Stadium before being stunned by Lee Casciaro’s strike two minutes after the break.
But despite the humiliating defeat, former Liverpool boss Rodgers is confident of overturning the result at Parkhead.
Rodgers said: “There is no embarrassment. It was a tough game in tough conditions. We didn’t take our chances, they took their chance.
“We have seen enough to see that we can get through in the second leg. Of course you are disappointed to lose.
“Celtic fans expect us to get through into the group stages. The message to them is to stay calm. This is a good group of players, they are working hard and in a week’s time we will need (the fans).
“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.”
Casciaro, who back in 2015 at Hampden Park scored Gibraltar’s first competitive international goal against Scotland, was asked if Rodgers should be embarrassed by the defeat and said: “No not really.
“They have only been training for the past two or three weeks, pre-season, we’ve been training close to two months already,” the 34-year-old Ministry of Defence policeman told BBC Radio Five Live.
“The weather benefited us and the pitch benefited us because they are not used to playing on an artificial pitch.
“We have got another 90 minutes to go and we will see if we can inflict more wounds on Celtic. We have just got to enjoy ourselves and we will see what happens.”
Casciaro said he was looking forward to playing the second leg at Celtic Park on July 20.
“It is an historic pitch but we’ve got to enjoy ourselves as this doesn’t happen very often for us. We’ve got to enjoy every moment, especially on these occasions.”
Following the victory Casciaro admitted beating Celtic had been a dream result for the team of part-timers.
“It is an amazing night. It is a great story. I will never forget this.
“This is something people dream about. This result is a remarkable thing for football.
“We have only been in UEFA for three years and so to get this win against Celtic, a big club, is something we will cherish for the rest of our lives.
“We knew they would press us and leave gaps at the back. So any loose ball or defensive lapse would mean I would get a chance. Lucky enough I scored.
“I have been lucky enough to score at Hampden Park so if I could score at Celtic it would be unimaginable.
“This goal means more because we won. We lost 6-1 to Scotland so scoring that day wasn’t beneficial for me. Scoring against Celtic and winning is the main aim of football
“The second leg will be harder and quicker. The weather will benefit them and we are not used to playing on grass pitches. But we will see what we can do.”
Celtic’s shock Euro defeats
MTK Budapest 4 Celtic 0: European Cup Winners Cup, 1963-64
Celtic appeared to be cruising to their first European final after a double from Stevie Chalmers and a Jimmy Johnstone strike gave them a three-goal lead over MTK Budapest in the first leg. But, after over five months out with a serious knee injury, Hungary international Karoly Sandor produced an impromptu masterclass to help his MTK team clinch a 4-0 win in the Nep Stadium.
Ajax 3 Celtic 0: European Cup, 1970-71
Celtic were looking to reach a second successive European Cup final as they travelled to Amsterdam in the quarter-final – four years after winning the trophy. But Jock Stein’s team were taught a lesson by one of the greatest club sides ever. With Johan Cruyff pulling the strings for the Dutch champions, Ajax ran out comfortable 3-0 winners, leaving the Hoops with an insurmountable task in the second leg.
SW Innsbruck 3 Celtic 0: European Cup, 1977-78
Tommy Burns had given Celtic hope of European Cup success when his 78th-minute strike earned a 2-1 first-leg win at Parkhead. But the Hoops found themselves running up a hill backwards as early as the fourth minute in Austria when the home side opened the scoring. Celtic’s European hopes were ended by half-time after two further strikes from Innsbruck. To rub salt in the wound, Andy Lynch was dismissed with nine minutes left for hitting an opponent.
Neuchatel Xamax 5 Celtic 1: UEFA Cup 1991-92
The Swiss side stunned the Hoops with four goals inside the first 55 minutes before defender Brian O’Neil grabbed a goal back for Liam Brady’s team. But a further strike from Hossan Hassan – his fourth of the game – ensured a 5-1 defeat for the Bhoys.
Basle 2 Celtic 0: Champions League qualifier, 2002-03
Celtic appeared to be in pole position to qualify for the lucrative Champions League group stages after a 3-1 win at Parkhead. But the Swiss team were grateful for an early away goal by Christian Gimenez before the second leg at the St Jakob Stadium. Gimenez was again on hand with a goal in the 18th minute of the second leg before Hakan Yakin scored the second four minutes later.
Artmedia Bratislava 5 Celtic 0: Champions League qualifier, 2005-06.
Gordon Strachan endured a disastrous start to his tenure as Celtic manager when his side slumped to a humiliating five-goal drubbing to the Slovakians. Juraj Halenar scored a hat-trick, while Blazej Vascak and Martin Mikulic claimed a goal apiece. Celtic did restore some pride in the return leg in Glasgow, but a brave 4-0 win was not enough to prevent an early European exit.
Legia Warsaw 4 Celtic 1: Champions League qualifier, 2014-15.
Callum McGregor gave Ronny Deila’s side an early lead, but Celtic suffered a major Champions League setback thanks to a double from Miroslav Radovic. Efe Ambrose was sent off and Celtic avoided further embarrassment when the Poles missed two penalties. Celtic lost the second leg 2-0 at Murrayfield but were gifted an extraordinary reprieve when Legia inadvertently fielded a suspended player following an administrative blunder. But Deila’s side could not take advantage as they lost to Maribor in the play-offs.
Lincoln Red Imps 1 Celtic 0: Champions League qualifier, 2016-17.
Another calamitous managerial debut as Brendan Rodgers endured an awful start to his reign. Poor defending from Ambrose allowed Lee Casciaro to score two minutes after the break as Gibraltar’s semi-professional champions scored a sensational first-leg win and inflicted arguably the most embarrassing result in Celtic’s history. The only positive is that Celtic have a chance to turn it around.