Ronny Deila's delight as Celtic battle through to play-offs
Ronny Deila praised the battling qualities of his Celtic side after they won through to the Champions League play off with a 1-0 aggregate win over Qarabag in Baku.
The Parkhead men led from the first leg of the third round qualifier through a Dedryck Boyata goal and more than held their own in the return game at the Tofiq Bahramov Stadium, despite surrendering possession for large spells and seeing out five nervy minutes of added time.
Afterwards the Norwegian boss, who passed up two chances to get into European football's elite club competition last season after taking over from Neil Lennon, said: "I'm very, very happy.
"It was an exciting game, right to the end there was so much nerves. I am proud of the team spirit that we had tonight.
"The midfield won balls all over the pitch and the defence was tight behind them.
"Defensively we were very, very good, and offensively we should have punished them more when we won the ball in so many good situations.
"But it was hot out there and the players got tired against a good team when they kept the ball. I'm just very happy and proud of the boys.
"Last season we talked about losing too many goals. In the league we were very good in defence and now we have also done it in Europe and that is a very good improvement."
Deila was quick to praise Qarabag, claiming they are as good as anyone left in the qualifying section of the tournament.
He said: "I admire Qarabag. I think they are a very, very good football team, the way they play I hope to see Celtic play like that in the future with no fear on the ball - attacking football.
"That's what we want to do in Europe so a lot of credit to them. But you saw that we were a team, staying together with good communication and a lot of discipline.
"They had a lot of legs, a lot of running all over the pitch for 90 minutes, winning balls all over, and then we can improve the play as well."
In an open first half, the visitors gave as good as they got and amid a dearth of clear-cut chances at either end, Hoops keeper Craig Gordon make a fine save from Brazilian midfielder Richard Almeida.
The home side, playing in front of an enthusiastic crowd of close to 30,000, enjoyed plenty of possession again after the break but most of it in front of a resolute Hoops defence with the Scotland keeper seeing little action as Deila's side worked all the way to keep their lead intact.
Indeed, they might have snatched a goal in the closing minutes but midfielder Stefan Johansen fired past the post from 12 yards after being set up by Stuart Armstrong.
The draw for the play-off round takes place tomorrow.
QARABAG: Sehic, Qurbanov, Huseynov, Sadiqov, Agolli, Quintana Sosa (Tagiyev 84), Garayev, Almeida de Oliveira, El Jadeyaoui (Mammadov 74), Poepon (Ismayilov 64), Dos Santos Silva. Subs: Valiyev, Mustafayev, Yunuszada, Diniyev
celtic: Gordon, Lustig, Boyata, Van Dijk, Izaguirre, Brown, Bitton, Mackay-Steven (Commons 79), Johansen, Armstrong (Forrest 84), Ciftci (Griffiths 67). Subs: Ambrose Emuobo, Rogic, Janko, Bailly
Man of the match: Craig Gordon
Match rating: 6/10
Referee: Martin Strömbergsson (Swe)