Weakened Celtic should have done better, manager Deila says

Alistair WATSON
AFP
Inverness players celebrate scoring a goal during a football match in Glasgow, Scotland, on November 27, 2010
Inverness players celebrate scoring a goal during a football match in Glasgow, Scotland, on November 27, 2010 (AFP Photo/Andy Buchanan)

Glasgow (AFP) - Celtic manager Ronny Deila defended his decision to field a weakened side in their shock 1-0 defeat by Inverness Caledonian Thistle on Saturday in the Scottish Premiership.

The Hoops boss made no fewer than 10 changes from their midweek Champions League play-off first leg draw against NK Maribor in Slovenia, as he rested several top team stars ahead of Tuesday's crucial return at Celtic Park.

However, the gamble failed to pay off as teenager Eoghan O'Connell's own goal in the 65th minute handed Inverness their first win at home against Celtic since May 2011.

The Celtic manager conceded he had may have made a mistake in making so many switches but felt the side he fielded should still have be able to pick up the three points.

"Maybe it was my fault because I changed too many players at the same time but I thought the team we put on the pitch today was capable of winning and could have won the game today," Deila, whose side slipped to fifth in the league table, admitted.

"It was a lot of pressure on some young players. They worked hard but it wasn't good enough today.

"I think in the first half we had three big chances and didn't score. In the second half we didn't get the chances we wanted.

"They scored and in the last 20 minutes we were very passive and a little bit too afraid to lose. I wanted more intensity and we should have picked up the tempo but we didn't manage to do it and that's the most disappointing thing.

"I got a lot of answers and learned a lot about the players that came in but we hoped to win the game and we didn't so that was disappointing."

After being handed a Champions League lifeline when Legia Warsaw were thrown out for fielding an ineligible player in the second leg of their third round qualifying round match, the Hoops now stand on the verge of qualifying for the lucrative group stages of the competition.

And Deila, who was a surprise choice when he left Norwegian minnows Stromsgodset to replace Neil Lennon at Celtic Park in the summer, says his decision to rest so many players for the defeat to Inverness will be justified if they can progress past NK Maribor.

"We must learn from this and now it is important to look forward to Tuesday night. We must put on a good performance and go through to the next stage of the Champions League," the Celtic manager, whose side had a 26-match unbeaten run at the start of last season, said.

"We will see on Tuesday if I regret making too many changes, but of course it will be worth it if we win."

The victory sends league leaders Inverness four points clear of Celtic, albeit they have played a game more than the Glasgow giants, as they equalled their club record of five consecutive clean sheets.

The Hoops had scored in their previous 58 league matches but they lacked the invention and urgency to find a way past a disciplined Inverness defence.

"To beat Celtic and keep a clean sheet is different class," Inverness manager John Hughes said.

"I thought we rode our luck in the first half and they had one or two chances which hit the woodwork but you need luck when you are playing against Celtic.

"On another day Celtic could have won that football match, no doubt about it. But take nothing away from my boys as they still had to go and do the business and I felt we played some lovely stuff at times."

Elsewhere, newly-promoted Hamilton moved up to second with a 2-1 win away to Partick Thistle, Ross County lost their fourth game in a row after a 2-1 defeat to Dundee United, Dundee remain undefeated following a 1-0 win over pointless St Mirren, Kilmarnock won 2-0 against Motherwell while St Johnstone defeated Aberdeen 1-0.