Brendan Rodgers gives ‘brilliant' Celtic the thumbs up
BRENDAN Rodgers paid tribute to his Celtic players after they moved top of the Ladbrokes Premiership on Saturday following the long haul to Israel in midweek.
The Hoops qualified for the Champions League for the first time in three seasons on Tuesday night with a 5-4 aggregate win over Hapoel Be’er Sheva, after losing 2-0 in a nerve-ridden night at the Turner stadium.
Returning to Celtic Park to face last season’s runners-up Aberdeen, the home side showed little signs of fatigue in a 4-1 win, with the Parkhead boss saying: “I take my hat off to them, I thought they were brilliant.”
First-half goals from Leigh Griffiths and James Forrest, one either side of an Adam Rooney leveller, had the champions ahead at the break. Celtic kept pushing forward in the second half and with three minutes remaining winger Scott Sinclair grabbed the third with a penalty after being challenged by Dons defender Mark Reynolds, who was sent off for picking up a second yellow card, before midfielder Tom Rogic added the fourth with a fine free-kick.
With Barcelona, Manchester City and Borussia Monchengladbach to face in the group stages of the Champions League, Celtic go into the international break one point above Old Firm rivals Rangers at the top of the league and with a game in hand over the Ibrox men.
Rodgers, who is hopeful of adding to his squad before the transfer window closes, said: “When you think of all the exertion that the players have put in, to score another two late goals when Aberdeen were trying to push, really shows that physical and mental fitness of the players.
“After all the travel and all the emotion of this week, to be as convincing as we were for the majority of the game makes us really pleased.
“We sit here in the quarter-final of the Betfred Cup, ahead with three wins out of three in the league and to have qualified for the Champions League, we have to be happy.”
Aberdeen captain Ryan Jack missed the trip to Glasgow with a virus and will have his knee problem addressed during the international break.
Dons manager Derek McInnes said: “He was passed fit to play but virus got a hold of him. He will now go in for an operation, we expect, at the beginning of the week.”
McInnes took the positives from his side’s performances although after goalless draws against St Johnstone and Hearts, the defeat left them with five points from four games.
He said: “The improvements are clear with Celtic this season, with their (new) manager, the signings they have made and the confidence he has put into the team and the confidence from the stands.
“So for me, that was a decent reference because I see the improvement in my team, that we can win games like this.
“And that gives me every encouragement going forward.
“We have had a tough start; Celtic, St Johnstone and Hearts is tough but I am confident that we have a lot to look forward to as a team.”