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Brendan Rodgers praises Celtic for ‘magnificent’ performance under pressure

SoccerNews in Scottish Premier League 25 Feb 2024

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Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers praised his side for dealing with the pressure after coming from behind to snatch a last-gasp win over Motherwell.

Motherwell deservedly led at half-time through Blair Spittal’s impressive goal but substitute Adam Idah quickly headed Celtic level after the break.

Celtic forced Motherwell back in the final quarter of the game and the pressure told four minutes into stoppage time when Idah stabbed home Alistair Johnston’s pass.

Luis Palma quickly added another to seal a 3-1 victory which cut the gap at the top of the table back to two points.

Rangers had moved five in front with a 5-0 win over Hearts on Saturday and Celtic faced a big challenge at half-time after dropping four points in their previous three league matches.

Rodgers admitted there was an anxiety in his side’s first-half passing but he added: “It was more the football and the performance, we were arriving into areas too early which gave players less options on the ball, that meant the passes were longer and they were looking into depth too much.

“Sometimes that happens in the game, so at half-time it was just about staying calm, reinforce the good bits of the game, but actually where we needed to adapt in order to connect the game.

“That is what this team is about. It’s about running and connecting the game fast, lots of passes, getting it out to the sides, making runs in behind, getting crosses into the box from half space wide areas.

“Technically, we needed to make some adjustments, but all at the same time, stay calm. Stay calm, because it’s one goal in it and I know this team and I know this club.

“The players were magnificent second half, I’ve got to say, under the pressure of being behind. They dealt with it really well.”

Rodgers was delighted with the impact of his subs with Yang Hyun-jun and Cameron Carter-Vickers coming off the bench to good effect following the half-time introduction of Idah for Kyogo Furuhashi.

“He scores two brilliant goals,” Rodgers said. “His first one is an amazing header – it’s a great cross by Greg (Taylor) but his header is absolutely brilliant. And then obviously he makes his first-post run and gets the second one.

“I think the guys coming into the game made a really good impact. Yang was good, he gave us the width and attacked on the outside and created space for the passes inside. Palma comes in and scores a goal as well, gets into the second post for the cross.”

On Carter-Vickers, Rodgers added: “You see when he comes into the game, there’s no trouble.

“The big guy up front (Theo Bair) gave us a problem in the first half with his strength and his size, and Cam comes in and just controls that side of it and allows us to play and get forward quicker, because he’s controlling that along with Scalesy (Liam Scales). So, him coming back is huge for us.”

Motherwell manager Stuart Kettlewell was frustrated over the “miscommunication” that saw two players dragged to the ball to leave Johnston free to set up Idah’s second.

And he will work on getting his players conditioned for 90 minutes after taking off four young players and Dan Casey, who pulled up after making a sliding tackle.

“Once we start to see one or two feeling for hamstrings and thighs, it shows the opposition can grow momentum,” he said.

“Ideally, how we were performing defensively, I would rather keep that structure and personnel on there. But I felt we were forced into one or two changes through necessity.

“One or two young guys in the team, even the senior players, we have to work towards being able to condition ourselves to play 96 minutes.

“It’s not just your body, it’s your head and being switched on to it. I have to identify what I felt cost us at least a point.”

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