Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink told uefa.com Celtic FC could leave Italy with heads held high after "fighting like men" to push AC Milan all the way in the last 16.
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Striker Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink insisted Celtic FC could walk away from San Siro with heads held high following Wednesday's extra-time defeat by AC Milan.
'Fought like men'
Against all expectations the Scottish champions defended stubbornly over two goalless 90 minutes, only to fall to a moment of magic by Kaká. "We're proud of each other," Vennegoor of Hesselink told uefa.com. "I think if we'd have passed the ball a little bit better we might have created more chances but we took it to extra time and I think we did a great job as a team because we were the underdogs. We didn't create a lot but we fought like men and I'm proud."
Although Kaká's 93rd-minute strike proved to be the winner, an equaliser would have sent the visitors through on away goals, a fact that left the Dutch striker frustrated at what might have been. He said: "We were in it right until the last minute of extra time because we only had to score one goal. We were hoping it would fall our way and it didn't - that's what's disappointing. You can look back and bring out the missed passes but we're proud of each other.
"You don't often see many chances in games like this because Milan are a difficult side to play against," Vennegoor of Hesselink continued. "You know it's going to be hard with a lot of defenders around you and they put us under a lot of pressure so we had to defend a little bit more. You dig in for the team and hope the ball falls your way but there's nothing we can do now."
The 28-year-old's frustration will be all the greater having lost a UEFA Champions League semi-final to the same team two seasons ago when he was at PSV Eindhoven. However, Vennegoor of Hesselink was generous in defeat, saying: "Milan are top-class players, I've played against them a few times. They have players like Kaká, [Paolo] Maldini, [Gennaro] Gattuso, I could go on. They are world class and definitely have a chance of winning the competition. I wish them well. If they win then at least we can say we were beaten by the winners."
Goalkeeper Artur Boruc kept Milan at bay with a series of fine saves but the Polish goalkeeper was tearful long after the final whistle. "I suppose we should feel proud," he told uefa.com. "We've been beaten and that hurts but it's the first time we've got through to the last 16 and it's a good achievement. It's great fun to play in the UEFA Champions League."