ANGE Postecoglou tonight admitted that Celtic are still not at a level where they can compete with European football’s elite after seeing Bayer Leverkusen score two late goals to deny them a famous win and a Europa League last 16 spot.

The Glasgow club fought back bravely after falling behind to a Robert Andrich goal in the first-half in their penultimate Group G match in the Bay Arena and took the lead thanks to a Josip Juranovic penalty and a Jota strike.

However, Callum McGregor and his team mates, who were bidding to becoming the first Parkhead side to record a victory on German soil, conceded to Andrich and Moussa Diaby in the last eight minutes and lost 3-2.  

Real Betis beat Ferencvaros 2-0 in Spain to secure second spot in the section and Celtic, who are assured third place, will now drop into the Europa Conference League after Christmas.

“We gave ourselves a chance of pulling off a great result, but ultimately we couldn’t handle it at the end and they obviously got the two late goals,” said Postecoglou. 

“Disappointing, definitely, disappointing for my players. But at the same time it’s a great learning tool for us in our development.

“We know we’re not at this level yet, but we came here tonight and we were determined to take it to a good opponent and I thought we did that.”

Postecoglou took off James Forrest, Kyogo Furuhashi and Jota, his entire front three, in the last 20 minutes and put on Liel Abada, Albian Ajeti and Mikey Johnston.

The Greek-Australian coach admitted his substitutes had been unable to make the impact he hoped they would and had allowed Gerardo Seone’s side back into the match.

“It wasn’t so much that it went wrong,” he said. “I think obviously they were coming at us and they have some real quality in their team.

“I just felt that we lost a little bit of our composure at the end and maybe there was some tiredness. Guys coming on didn’t have the impact we wanted because we had some opportunities to create something ourselves and our decision-making wasn’t great and we allowed the pressure to build up on us.

“They are a good team and if you keep giving them opportunities they are going to take them.

“We were trying to hold on, but we just needed to be a bit more composed particularly when we had the ball, to control the game a bit better. But it’s easy for me to say.

“We hung in there unbelievably well, Joe Hart made some unbelievable saves. We were really resilient defensively, but they got the better of us at the end.”

Asked about Celtic’s chances in the Conference League, Postecoglou said: “My main thoughts are around how do we get to this level? This is where we want to be. It’s not that we are disappointed we are in the Conference League, but we want to be competing at this level with these teams.

“I felt with all the group games we were slowly became a better side at dealing with the best teams in this competition.

“How do we bridge that gap? I want us playing against the best in the best competitions. There is still a little gap there and we have to still build from that.

“The Conference will maybe give us an opportunity to play in different conditions against good teams. There is a lot at stake in European football. Can we still hold up and stand up against the best? That’s what’s important to me.

“We came here to test ourselves, to find out where we are at, and I think we did.”