Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou admitted “perseverance” was key as he assessed his side’s struggle to convert performances into Champions League points and Daizen Maeda’s problems in front of goal.
Maeda missed two good chances on Tuesday night as Celtic suffered a 2-0 home defeat by RB Leipzig that ended their hopes of reaching the knockout rounds with two games to go.
The Japanese forward has also shattered against Real Madrid and Shakhtar Donetsk, scoring just one goal in 17 appearances in all competitions this season.
Postecoglou pointed out that the 24-year-old is still a work in progress and he will continue to support him in his development.
“It’s just perseverance,” he said. “I know people look at the end product – and he’s had a bit of bad luck a few times, but he works a tremendous amount.
“We’ve had a feeling since last week that they could pose a threat on the right flank and I thought his defensive work was excellent. And that helps us as a team.
“But he needs to learn the other side of the game at that level, which is really important to complete the end product.
“He keeps coming into those positions every game he plays but goals elude him.
“But we can’t scrap it just because it’s not the finished product. We just have to persevere.
“All of our players apart from Joe (Hart) when you look at them in terms of age and experience this is a huge leap for everyone.
“I’m very ambitious about how I want to play our football and that will be a test for them.
“But I won’t let our path discourage me. If anything, I am encouraged that we must continue on this path.”
Maeda is far from the only culprit in front of goal in Europe and Celtic were unlucky again as both Matt O’Riley and Greg Taylor found the frame against the German side.
Celtic have taken a point and scored two goals in four Group F games and would need to beat Shakhtar and then achieve at least a draw against Real Madrid in Spain to have any hope of reaching the Europa League.
Postecoglou admits there’s no guarantee they’ll start converting their chances.
“That’s the unknown, but I think the worst thing you can do is cringe at what we did because we didn’t succeed right away,” he said.
“My theory on this stuff is that you have to persevere and walk that path.
“If we’re being outplayed and not creating chances, then that’s a different mindset that we need. But I think we’re very close to becoming a really good team at this level.
“This process cannot be accelerated just because I want to. You still have to go through the steps and the players have to get the experiences.
“The worst thing you can do is be really close and suddenly shy away from it because the results aren’t there and the exam or whatever and miss the opportunity to be a really good football team.
“That’s why we do what we do. We’ll never be able to become one of those bigger clubs, but we can do it. That’s my theory, every time you go out there you get a little bit closer.
“I have a feeling we’re going to do that. The results don’t show it, but the way I see football – and what we’re trying to do as a club – I think we’re on the right track.”