Sport

Brendan Rodgers stays grounded as Celtic go six points clear

Callum McGregor celebrates scoring Celtic's first goal in the win over St Johnstone
By Ronnie Esplin, Press Association Sport

Ladbrokes Premiership: Celtic 2 St Johnstone 0

BRENDAN Rodgers played down the six-point gap Celtic opened up at the top of the Ladbrokes Premiership with a 2-0 over St Johnstone at Parkhead.

The home side struggled to break down the defensively diligent Saints in the first half of the rearranged fixture.

But seven minutes after the break Callum McGregor powered a drive in from 25 yards before fellow midfielder Ryan Christie curled in a second to ensure a less frustrating second period.

The victory puts pressure on chasing Rangers and Kilmarnock with Aberdeen a further two points behind in fourth place.

Rodgers, who revealed on-loan Leicester defender Filip Benkovic is out for four to five weeks with an ankle injury, said: "It is still very early, there is still a lot more games to go.

"We are just entering into the beginning of February soon.

"We have looked at that free game for the last two months, everyone has looked at it and thought are they going to win it because they are playing against a good side and we did that and played very well.

"It is six points which is nice, a good goal difference, clean sheets, defending very well but still a way to go."

Rodgers explained the injury to Benkovic meant Jack Hendry may not go out on loan, although midfielder Lewis Morgan is expected to join Sunderland on a temporary basis.

The Carnlough man said: "I think initially four to five weeks (for Benkovic).

"He will have his ankle in a boot for the next couple of weeks and then we will assess it after four weeks and it will take a week to 10 days to get back into training rhythm again.

"It is disappointing but Jozo Simunovic came in and was excellent tonight, concentrated, alert, defended well, passed it well and when he is like that he is a very good player."

Ukrainian forward Maryan Shved, who has had a medical at Celtic with a view to signing from Karpaty Lviv, was watching from the stand.

Rodgers does not expect to be "overly busy" before the transfer window closes on Thursday night although he hopes to get another player in.

He said: "I spoke to him before the game. The medical is done. He will go back to Ukraine to finish off the season and come back in April to train."

Rodgers is keen to see 33-year-old skipper Scott Brown sign a new contract after the midfielder reportedly turned down the chance to join newly-formed Australian club Western Melbourne.

He said: "He is very happy here. He has been a brilliant captain so hopefully he will sign."

Saints boss Tommy Wright was pleased with his players' efforts.

He said: "It was a hard night for us but we knew it was going to be. I thought we frustrated them the first half.

"We had to be organised and disciplined and we were but we had to be good on the ball because if you don't take care of the ball here it makes for a long night and that was the one aspect that was failing.

"But I can't fault the players for effort and work-rate."

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