‘We played so badly we made them look good’

IN­TER­VIEW Dutch de­fender is coy on his Park­head fu­ture after say­ing that Celtic’s Europa League dis­play was their worst per­for­mance of the sea­son

The Herald - Herald Sport - - SPFL PREMIERSHIP - GRAEME MACPHER­SON

VIR­GIL VAN DIJK la­belled Celtic’s Europa League per­for­mance against As­tra Gi­urgiu on Thurs­day night as “the worst of the sea­son” and felt the team needed to find a greater de­gree of con­sis­tency.

The Dutch de­fender, who was also not en­tirely dis­mis­sive of spec­u­la­tion link­ing him with a Jan­uary trans­fer to Arse­nal, felt Celtic had made their Ro­ma­nian op­po­nents “look good” with a dis­play that was er­ratic, hes­i­tant and un­con­vinc­ing. Goals from Ste­fan Sce­povic, his first for the club, and Ste­fan Jo­hansen paved the way for an even­tual 2-1 vic­tory that presents Celtic with the op­por­tu­nity to qual­ify for the knock-out phase of the com­pe­ti­tion in the re­turn fix­ture with As­tra in a fort­night.

Van Dijk, though, stressed that Celtic would have to play a lot bet­ter if they are to em­bark on a win­ning run, start­ing with to­mor­row’s home match against Kil­marnock.

“It was our worst game of the sea­son I think,” said the Dutch­man. “We were so bad that we made them look good. Ev­ery chance they got was due to a mis­take by us. What was the prob­lem? I have no clue. But at the end of the day foot­ball is about win­ning. We won the game and that is the most im­por­tant thing.

“But we know we can play bet­ter. We need to for­get this game. Of course, the fans want to see good foot­ball, en­ter­tain­ing foot­ball, but it didn’t work out the other night. We still have con­fi­dence in our­selves. We will work hard and train hard to get ready for Sun­day.”

On the back of a re­sound­ing 5-0 de­feat of Ross County, Van Dijk was at a loss as to why Celtic weren’t able to put in another high-oc­tane per­for­mance in mid­week. And he ad­mit­ted the team has strug­gled to gain any real mo­men­tum this sea­son.

“Yeah, it has been a lit­tle bit in­con­sis­tent. We need to get a lit­tle bit of con­sis­tency in our play. But it takes a lit­tle bit of time. There were a lot of changes this sea­son with past years. It takes time. The most im­por­tant thing is win­ning.

“Of course, we want to play great foot­ball, for the fans but for our­selves as well. We want to make it easy for our­selves as well.

“We know that ev­ery home game in the Scot­tish Premier­ship our op­po­nents are go­ing to sit and wait un­til they can counter at­tack. We need to be sharp on the ball, keep the ball, cre­ate a lot of chances and score goals. That is what we’re ca­pa­ble of and need to do.”

Arse­nal have been linked with a move for Van Dijk and he was coy about his fu­ture prospects. “Arse­nal are an amaz­ing club. It’s a big club with a great his­tory. But so are Celtic and I’m very happy here just now.

“I just want to play well and we will see what hap­pens in the fu­ture. There are sto­ries but un­til there are bids or any­thing I can’t say any­thing. I still have a con­tract and there is no bid­ding right now.

“The way it looks, I’ll still be here. I have am­bi­tions but Celtic is an amaz­ing club with a lot of his­tory. There is no rush to leave but you never know in the fu­ture.”

Scott Brown, mean­while, praised the per­for­mance of Craig Gor­don after the goal­keeper pulled off a num­ber of im­pres­sive saves, in the first half es­pe­cially, to keep As­tra at bay.

“I knew how good Craig was from the time we played to­gether at Scot­land,” said the Celtic cap­tain. “And now his shot stop­ping, re­ac­tions and his abil­ity to come for crosses just seems to be get­ting bet­ter and bet­ter.

“Ev­ery­one has been say­ing things about his kick­ing but that’s bril­liant, too. He’s calm and com­posed as well. We’ve al­ways got that belief that if some­one gets one on one with him that he’ll make the save.

“He doesn’t look like a guy that’s been out for two years. He’s kept him­self fit as well and has been do­ing a lot of gym work out­side train­ing which I’m sure has helped him. Who’d have thought we’d get a £9m keeper for noth­ing, but it’s a great bit of business. He’s come in and lifted the camp as well as he’s a great lad.”

Pic­ture: SNS

WANTED MAN: On Arse­nal’s re­ported in­ter­est, Vir­gil van Dijk says that he just wants to play well and he will ‘see what hap­pens in the fu­ture’.

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