Rodgers impressed by gritty Celtic

Brendan Rodgers

Brendan Rodgers praised Celtic’s resilience as they preserved their 15-month unbeaten domestic run by coming from behind to draw 1-1 with St Johnstone.

Rodgers’ side were stunned to find themselves behind at Parkhead on Saturday when Steven MacLean took advantage of a slack clearance from goalkeeper Craig Gordon to grab a 40th-minute opener.

However, the Scottish champions, unbeaten in domestic action since May 2016, got the equaliser their pressure deserved when substitute Callum McGregor struck 11 minutes from time.

And after a draining trip to Kazakhstan in midweek, where Celtic booked a Champions League group stage berth with an 8-4 aggregate win over FC Astana, Hoops boss Rodgers was delighted his side battled to maintain their unbeaten run.

“Coming back from a Champions League game, St Johnstone are a very tough team to play against. We were a bit slow in the first half and I think the travelling had a real affect on us,” Rodgers said.

“I felt we lacked that bit of speed and energy in our game. But the reaction we were looking for from half-time was amazing.

“We brought some more energy into the team and changed our system and that gave us a little bit of impetus for about 15 minutes.

“We then put more risk in the game and changed the shape and in that last 25 minutes we created so many opportunities that I just felt it was a matter of time.

“But credit to St Johnstone for the way they defended and the way their goalkeeper made some good saves.

“Okay, we always plan to win, but if you can’t, you’re looking for desire and reaction from your team and I thought in the second half it was amazing.”

– Proud –

The draw ended Celtic’s perfect start to the season and saw them fall two points behind Aberdeen, 4-3 winners at Partick Thistle, at the top of the table.

But Rodgers wasn’t too despondent and praised his players for their excellent start to the campaign.

“I can be nothing but proud of the team and everything they put into it,” he said.

“We’ve won three and drawn one in the league, qualified for the Champions League and are in the quarter-finals of the (League) Cup so it’s been a good start.”

St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright was proud of his players as they came close to ending Celtic’s 53-match undefeated record.

“I thought it was a great performance. The goal came from pressing them high up and not letting them play from the back all the time,” said Wright, whose unbeaten side are level on points with Celtic.

“We knew we were going to be under pressure in the second half but we defended well.

“Their goal was a wee bit fortuitous in how it breaks to Celtic but it was a great finish.

“At that stage you are hoping you can hold on as we deserved something out of the game for the amount of effort we put in.”

Rangers, who have just four points from three games, will hope to close the gap on the leaders when they travel to Ross County on Sunday.

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