Celtic aim to bounce back from 'horrible' beginning

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The Independent Online

The Celtic midfielder Shunsuke Nakamura has described the early battering the Scottish champions received from Shakhtar Donetsk in the Olympiyskiy Stadium on Tuesday night as "horrible".

Celtic approached their first Group D match of this Champions League campaign determined to end their dismal away record in the competition which had left them looking for their first win after 13 attempts. However, Shakhtar stormed into a two-goal lead inside eight minutes. An uncharacteristic mistake by Celtic captain Stephen McManus after five minutes allowed Brazilian midfielder Fernandinho to give his fellow countryman Brandao the chance to grab the opener from the edge of the area.

That calamity was followed three minutes later when Italian striker Cristiano Lucarelli headed past Celtic goalkeeper Artur Boruc for the second.

Nakamura, who was eventually withdrawn in the second half, was as shell-shocked as the rest of the Celtic players.

He said: "The first 10 minutes were horrible. We conceded two goals early in the game, we were especially disappointed to lose the first goal. And the Brazilian players were so good, especially in midfield.

"That was the most important part of the pitch for Shakhtar and they kept the ball for most of the game."

Defender Gary Caldwell bemoaned his side's dismal start to the match but tried to take some positives from the way Celtic reacted to their setbacks. He said: "We went there full of hope because we thought we could get something but we threw the game away in the first 10 minutes. Losing two goals is going to crucify you and we have to learn and we will learn.

"It can be very easy to throw the towel in but we are not a team that does that. We rolled our sleeves up and dug in and gave it a gallant effort but it wasn't to be. In the Champions League you are playing the best teams in Europe.

"They know how to pass the ball and keep it and we found it difficult," Caldwell added. "To be fair to the lads we had a go at them and if we had scored with Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink's chance or Chris Killen's chance then you never know. But we dug in and that's something we can take out the game."

Celtic's next Champions League game sees them welcome Italian giants Milan to Parkhead in a fortnight's time. The holders of the trophy needed extra-time to beat Celtic in the last 16 of the tournament last season, Kaka's goal separating the two sides.

Celtic midfielder Massimo Donati will try and shrug off the disappointment of Tuesday but knows the next game against Milan will be no less difficult. He said: "Shakhtar are a very good team and now we have to see what happens in the game against Milan, who are the best team in the world. There was a lack of concentration against Shakhtar but nothing is impossible."

McManus is determined to bounce back and stressed there would be no panic after a 2-0 defeat against the expensively-assembled Ukrainians – who were able to bring £14m Mexican signing Nery Castillo off the bench.

He said: "On a personal level I know I made mistakes and I also understand I'll make a lot more before my career is finished. It was a disappointing result but one defeat doesn't cripple Celtic so far as the rest of the group is concerned.

"There's no one in that dressing room feeling sorry for themselves. We have a strong bunch of lads and I can assure you we'll all be pulling in the same direction after a result like this."

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