Celtic goalkeeper Craig Gordon feels he answered his critics last night by making a vital contribution to the club’s qualification to the Europa League, despite the 1-0 defeat to Anderlecht.
Gordon could do nothing about the own goal from Jozo Simunovic that separated the sides, and was otherwise solid throughout, with his early save from Anderlecht attacker Sven Kums particularly crucial towards the outcome of the evening.
The Scotland ‘keeper admits he has found it peculiar at times that he has been questioned, but he was pleased to have answered back in his own way with his showing last night.
“There have been a few [critics],” Gordon said. “I just keep playing.
“I’ve found it quite strange at times – but that’s football. Playing for a big club, everyone’s going to have an opinion. I have to get on with it, keep playing and do my best for the team.
“I’m pleased to have contributed tonight, I think I’ve made some good contributions over the last few weeks – and we’re still going strong.
“It was important to make a few saves, especially early on. We didn’t want to lose a goal and the one early I was fortunate to be able to block it with my legs.
“It was vital at that stage as it would have given them a lift. I managed to make a few saves in the first half and stem the flow to get to half-time at 0-0.
“It gave us the chance to make a few changes and apart from the goal I thought we contained them a lot better and got the job done.
“It’s always good to make saves at vital times when momentum is swinging, and I was pleased with the one near the end.
“They were starting to tire but if they were searching for one goal it might have given them some energy.”
Gordon says that his confidence wasn’t affected by the hidings that Celtic took at times in this season’s Champions League group stages at the hands of Paris Saint Germain, as 12 goals flew past him in just two games.
“It’s not really been a problem,” he said. “I feel I’ve still been doing a good job for the team.
“As a goalkeeper, you’re going to go through stages where you lose goals. You just have to keep playing. I’ve been at it long enough now to realise that these times come.
“On the other side of that, I could now go seven or eight games without losing a goal. We’re good enough to do that.”
As satisfied as Gordon was with his own contribution on the night, he is under no illusions that the overall performance of the Celtic team was below the standard expected. And if they didn’t realise it, manager Brendan Rodgers wasn’t slow in pointing that fact out.
“He wasn’t happy,” admitted Gordon. “And I think we all realised that. He wasn’t happy at half-time and wasn’t happy at full-time.
“But he did remind us that the bigger picture was to qualify. There were just a number of things he wasn’t happy with.
“There have been a few occasions when he’s been unhappy with us. Not too many. He wasn’t over the top. He wasn’t happy and we realised that.
“We know that, if we’re not performing at the top levels, then at this club you are able to be replaced. Because the standard has been so high over the past couple of years – and he’s not going to accept anyone dropping those standards.
“We have to make sure we maintain those standards week in, week out, to stay in the team – and stay at the club.”
Once the dust has settled on the disappointment of this defeat and the manner of Celtic’s display, the cold, hard fact is that they have met their objective with qualification for the Europa League, no matter how they got there.
And Gordon feels that the high standard of their section will set them in good stead come the last 32 of that competition in the new year.
“The Champions League prepares you for the Europa League,” he said.
“Now we’re back to knock-out football, like the qualifiers. That changes the dynamics of the tie.
“We did well in the qualifiers, the knock-out football needed to get to the Champions League, in the last two years.
“So, hopefully we can get back to that and progress. Let’s see who we get.”