Donati focuses on away day blues to secure Celtic progress

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Massimo Donati's San Siro return did not go as planned but Celtic's Italian midfielder had plenty of cause to celebrate after his side qualified for the next round of the Champions League despite a 1-0 defeat to Milan.

The former Rossoneri player, who scored a last-minute winner against Shakhtar Donetsk last week, joined his team-mates in celebration after confirmation that Benfica's 2-1 triumph over the Ukrainian side guaranteed Celtic second place in Group D behind Milan.

"I am pleased to have returned to the San Siro but I don't feel in any way nostalgic because I am living a wonderful experience, I am at a fantastic club and everything is going great," he said. "I think we held Milan well in the first half but once Milan scored it became very difficult for us because when the Rossoneri lead, it is really hard to get back in the game."

Celtic's fate was left in the hands of Benfica, but Donati said: "We didn't know the result of the other game while on the pitch and we didn't play to settle for the draw, simply because that notion is not a part of this club. We played with the idea of getting a positive result but we found little spaces in the first half and it was difficult to react once Milan took the lead."

Although Celtic are now through to the knockout stages, Donati believes his team must improve especially on the road. While Celtic won all their group games in Glasgow they failed to collect a point on their travels.

"It's difficult to explain why we don't seem to perform as well when we play away than when playing at home," said Donati. "I guess the fact that at home we have great atmosphere, that the fans give us an added strength and the edge to get a positive result may be the reason. It's evident that we perform differently and it is something we must improve on if we wish to go far in this competition."

Celtic striker Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink is confident Gordon Strachan's team will continue to improve. Of the 14 players who played in the San Siro, only Aiden McGeady and Stephen McManus had appeared under Strachan's predecessor Martin O'Neill. And McManus has grown from bit-part player to club captain under Strachan.

Vennegoor of Hesselink, at 29, is one of the more experienced players in the side who lead the Scottish Premier League as they chase their third title since the manager took over in 2005.

"I really think we can progress together, because we are a really young team," said the Dutchman, who arrived at Parkhead in a 3.4m deal in August last year. It's been an incredible change in three years, but I really hope this team can grow together and become better.

"We have great young players in the team, we have a bit of experience and I think we can do a lot. We have achieved a lot as a team already, but we want to keep going."

Vennegoor of Hesselink, who came off the bench in Italy, experienced the benefits of developing a team over time at his previous club, PSV Eindhoven.

The Holland international won four titles in six seasons and made the last four of the Champions League in 2005. "At PSV, we had a team that had time to develop," the striker told the Celtic View. "Guus Hiddink became manager in 2002 and he changed some things.

"We had experience, we had young players and we built a good side reaching the semi-finals of the Champions League. When you play with each other for a long time, you become stronger. You know the tactics, you know the style of the players and you grow together.

"As a team, if you all play at a certain level in games, with one or two playing exceptionally well, there is so much that you can achieve."

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