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Monday 26 September 2016

Gordon relishes champion challenge

Celtic goalkeeper Craig Gordon is looking forward to this evening’s Champions League group
stage draw. Photo: Jeff Holmes/PA Wire
Celtic goalkeeper Craig Gordon is looking forward to this evening’s Champions League group stage draw. Photo: Jeff Holmes/PA Wire

Champions League football has been a "long time coming" for Celtic goalkeeper Craig Gordon but he cannot wait to experience it.

The 33-year-old spent two years battling against a knee injury with most people believing they had seen the last of the him before he signed for the Hoops in the summer of 2014.

However, Gordon came back as good as ever and, after winning his place back in the Scotland set-up, he now has the Champions League group stages to look forward to for the first time in his career after the 5-4 aggregate play-off win over Israeli side Hapoel Be'er Sheva.

The former Hearts and Sunderland number one told broadcast media that his football resurrection seems complete.

He said: "Yes, it probably does to be honest. That was one of my aims when I came to Celtic. I had a few disappointments along the way but if you keep trying and giving it your all, it is nice when the good nights come along like Tuesday night and we will celebrate it well.

"To reach what is probably the best club competition in the world, it is pretty good, especially from where I have come from, and now I want to go there and prove I am capable of playing at that level. I am 33 now and this will be my first taste of it so it is great to finally get here."

Pivotal

Gordon, whose first-half penalty save in Israel ultimately proved pivotal, added: "We have had a long road, a difficult challenge, a new manager coming in and we have settled into a way of playing."

The Scottish champions had to battle to get through to this evening's draw even after taking what looked a commanding 5-2 lead to the Turner Stadium.

Gordon saved Maharan Radi's spot-kick before substitute Ben Sahar headed the Israeli champions ahead.

Celtic 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, but the visitors saw the game out.

"We gave ourselves a great opportunity last week and Tuesday night was about fighting to make sure we held on to that," Gordon said.

"Although we made it very difficult for ourselves, we managed to do it.

"It is really exciting and I can't wait to get started. It is brilliant, a great achievement for everybody here and we managed to make it.

"It was a very difficult night for us, we had to really fight to get through."

On the penalty save, Gordon said: "It was not before time, I haven't saved too many and it was a pretty important one, especially that early in the game.

"It gave us a bit of a lift although we still conceded soon after that, it certainly gave us a lift and something to hold on to. So I am delighted to play a part in that and it was a great team effort.

"They worked so hard, especially in last 10 minutes."

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