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Brendan Rodgers says Celtic are coming alive at the right time

SoccerNews in Scottish Premier League 13 Apr 2024

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Brendan Rodgers feels Celtic are coming alive at the right time after an impressive second-half display against St Mirren gave them a 3-0 win which sends them four points clear in the cinch Premiership.

The champions struggled to create chances in a ponderous first-half display which saw St Mirren create the better openings.

But Celtic upped their intensity at the start of the second half and Reo Hatate produced a classy finish with the outside of his boot in the 52nd minute.

Kyogo Furuhashi and substitute Adam Idah both headed home to complete a 3-0 victory which keeps the destiny of the title in their hands as well as Rangers, who are due to play twice before the split.

Rodgers, whose team face Aberdeen in the Scottish Gas Scottish Cup semi-finals next weekend, said: “I really look forward to this period, this is when Celtic comes alive. Five games to go, trophies at stake, Scottish Cup at stake, so bring it on.”

Rodgers, whose side led for the vast majority of last weekend’s 3-3 draw with Rangers, added: “We’re in a really good position and when you know that everything is with you – and you decide what your destiny is.

“That’s why the result at Ibrox was huge for us, as well as the performance. We played really well last week and when we had to bite down on the gum-shield, we were tough and (have) seen it through in a difficult environment.

“That bodes well for us. We know we can play football, play with speed, and we can score goals. We’ve also shown a steeliness which will be important in the run-in.”

Although Celtic have lost Daizen Maeda to a hamstring problem, the return to fitness of Hatate and Callum McGregor has been a major boost.

On Hatate, Rodgers said: “We are trying to build him up and he was outstanding at Ibrox. When he went off, we lost a wee bit in midfield.

“But he’s had a really good week’s training and he got his goal, which will be great for his confidence. He’s a huge player for us.

“Reo had come back a few times and broke down while away with the Japanese squad. He was devastated at that.

“We have to be careful with all the players. We have to manage him and Callum, who was more like himself and had a fantastic cameo .

“But with Reo, or any top player, you try to have the right plan for him which allows him to peak at the right time.”

On Maeda, Rodgers said: “I’m not sure Daizen will feature too much, it’s such a small window now. I’m not sure if he will feature before the end of the season.”

St Mirren manager Stephen Robinson bemoaned the injuries which disrupted his side’s positive first-half display. Elvis Bwomono went off following a head knock midway through the opening half and others would soon follow.

“We were excellent for 45 minutes and then we can get undone by two excellent goals,” Robinson said.

“Kyogo’s movement for the second goal was fantastic and the delivery as well. And the first goal was a super finish. That’s the difference in levels. The first one wasn’t a clear opportunity but they made the best of it.

“The two injuries before and at half-time stopped a bit of our momentum. It takes players time to get into the rhythm and the shape. Scott Tanser and Elvis going off seemed to stop our rhythm and then Greg Kiltie and Richard Taylor have to come off too.

“We maybe had five enforced changes that we didn’t want to have to make. Sometimes Lady Luck isn’t shining on you.

“Credit to Celtic for the quality they showed when they needed to. That’s the difference in levels.”

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