Soccer

Brendan Rodgers: Celtic too negative in their passing during loss at Kilmarnock

Kilmarnock’s Matty Kennedy celebrates his late winner (Steve Welsh/PA)
Kilmarnock’s Matty Kennedy celebrates his late winner (Steve Welsh/PA) Kilmarnock’s Matty Kennedy celebrates his late winner (Steve Welsh/PA)

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers admitted his side were too negative in their passing in the second half at Rugby Park after Kilmarnock came from behind to win 2-1.

Matt O’Riley netted from close range to earn Celtic a deserved half-time lead but Killie had missed two excellent chances and they created plenty more opportunities after the interval.

They were eventually rewarded when Nat Phillips converted Brad Lyons’ cross into his own net in the 75th minute and the home side took further confidence before Matty Kennedy finished off a counter-attack with three minutes left.

Rodgers said: “I thought in the first half we were very good. We played at a good speed and created opportunities. We could have maybe have been more than 1-0 up by half-time.

“But in the second half we never got started. You expect a wee bit of pressure for 10 or 15 minutes, which we weathered at set-pieces and corners. But we never passed the ball.

“We were under a bit more pressure, sure, but you have to be resistant to that pressure. We weren’t able to make passes to take us up the pitch and that was the biggest disappointment of the second half. We couldn’t sustain any attacking threat in the game.

“When you play Kilmarnock it’s quite a direct game so you have to be able to win the first, second and third balls. But we didn’t do that.”

Rodgers was angrier than he had ever been as a manager when his side trailed against St Johnstone at half-time seven days earlier before coming back to win. But he was more measured in his response after a first cinch Premiership defeat of the season.

“The players know themselves,” Rodgers said. “We spoke after the game about how this isn’t how we want to do.

“In the second half we played their game instead of playing our game. I thought we got rid of the ball in the second half instead of passing it. And there is a big difference.

“We ended up being too negative in our passing. If you play a team that’s pressing and right up against you there, you’ve got to pass the ball forward. Because that forward pass eliminates pressure. And we weren’t able, for some reason, to do that.”

Rodgers has now lost 10 domestic games over two spells as Celtic manager and four of them have been at Rugby Park.

“I thought the pitch was all right for an AstroTurf surface,” he said. “When you get rain, it makes it slick, and it was actually good, but in the British game you have to have that adaptability.”

Killie manager Derek McInnes had harsh words for his players at half-time in a bid to get them to the levels they showed when beating Celtic in the Viaplay Cup in August.

“I had to give the players a wee reminder of the team that we need to be, particularly at Rugby Park, the team we needed to be against Celtic,” he said.

“Celtic came and dominated the ball and dictated the play. They were almost playing with us really, with the ball. They were just kind of coaxing us into mistakes.

“Even when we got the ball we looked unsure of ourselves.

“We had to be braver, we had to take a step forward and I thought Stuart Findlay was immense at the back. We had to defend a lot of space behind us and with that comes that element of risk.

“We had big performances second half when it was the total reverse of the first. It was everything I wanted from my team.

“I thought we passed up too many opportunities before we did score and thankfully when we did get the goal you could just sniff the victory, you could feel it. More importantly my players felt it and thankfully we got the second goal that I felt we deserved.

“I’m delighted we managed to turn it round because coming from behind is always difficult when you play against a team like Celtic.”