Celtic vs Hapoel Be'er Sheva: Brendan Rodgers praises major shareholder after surviving Champions League scare
The Hoops lost 2-0 to Israeli outfit Hapoel Be’er Sheva in the Turner stadium but a 5-4 aggregate score ultimately vindicated the Parkhead board’s decision to appoint the high-profile former Liverpool boss as successor to Ronny Deila in May with European football’s elite club competition a priority.
It is the first time in three years that Celtic will be in among the top teams of Europe for the group stage draw, which takes place on Thursday.
Rodgers said: “I am immensely proud.
“I am so proud for the football club, firstly for Dermot, Peter and the board. It is great for them.
“They stuck their neck out in the summer and the club has a real positive feel to it at the moment and this was always, hopefully, going to keep that momentum going so it is a huge step for us.
“I am absolutely delighted for the players, the work they have put in, the mentality and honesty they show and they have got their rewards.
“I am delighted for my coaching staff and the team of people around us because they have had to worked very hard with not many days off, finding ways in which to improve the team in a short space of time and obviously the supporters.
“It is an incredible moment for them, they are going to be back in amongst Europe’s elite and it is where Celtic belongs.”
Most people thought the hard work was done last week when Celtic won 5-2 at Parkhead.
However, in a pulsating second leg, Hoops goalkeeper Craig Gordon saved a penalty in the 15th minute from Maharan Radi, before substitute Ben Sahar headed the Israeli champions into the lead.
The rattled Hoops lost a second in the 48th minute when a mix-up between Saidy Janko and Gordon allowed Romania international Ovidiu Hoban the easiest of chances and Rodgers’ men had to “tough it out”.
He said: “You have to take into consideration the mentality of the players in the last couple of seasons where it has been so tough for them to go out at this stage.
“So there was probably a lot of nerves and tension in the game for them which is understandable.
“We have only been together a short period of time.
“We have made huge strides as a team and a club in every way and as you cans see we need a lot more work on the training field.
“But with that, improvements will come.
“Tuesday night was really about getting through and all the plaudits go to the players for getting through.”