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We have to be better – Brendan Rodgers says Celtic’s penalty record must improve

SoccerNews in Scottish Premier League 25 Nov 2023

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Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers is still looking for answers to their penalty problem after Luis Palma missed from 12 yards in a 1-1 draw with Motherwell.

The Hoops missed three penalties last season and Palma followed David Turnbull and Reo Hatate in missing from the spot since Rodgers returned.

Turnbull did convert a penalty in the 86th minute after Palma went off, but Jonathan Obika headed a last-minute equaliser.

Palma scored from the spot against Aberdeen last time out, but Liam Kelly dived to his right to parry in the 66th minute and deny Celtic a platform to look for further goals.

Rodgers said: “I was looking before I came in here that there have been a number of penalties missed.

“These are decisive moments in games and you have to be ready to take them. You are never always going to be three, four, five up in games. You get that opportunity, you have to take it.

“It is something that the players who are going to be the penalty takers are working on every day.

“We have to stay focused on that because it is a skill. You can’t replicate the pressure, but penalties are a skill and a skill we have to be better at.

“The keeper’s made a decent save. It’s all about variety with penalty takers. I know he practised (on Friday), he didn’t go that side, he was working on the keeper’s left.

“But that is the choice he made. He is brave enough to take them.”

Rodgers felt the cinch Premiership leaders were missing “that little bit of freshness and zip in the final third” as they moved nine points ahead of Rangers, who have two games in hand.

He added: “We should win the game. Obviously we had enough of the ball. We got into a lot of good areas and obviously (had) chances to be more comfortable. It is always a danger when you are not.

“But credit to Motherwell, they defended really well and we never had enough to break them down.

“But when we did get the opportunity to go in front then every moment after that is a decisive one. I think it was probably their only effort in the second half and we never defended it, which was a surprise because we have been defending set-pieces well.”

Motherwell manager Stuart Kettlewell did not feel Celtic should have had a second penalty after Calum Butcher was penalised for holding Mikey Johnston.

Kettlewell attended a meeting with the Scottish Football Association’s referees department on Thursday where it was explained that such incidents would only be punished if the attacking player has a chance of getting on the ball.

He said: “If the officials are telling me something when I go and sit for two-and-a-half hours with chief executives and managers when that exact incident came up in one of the clips and there were conversations around whether the player was going to get on the end of it and whether every contact in the box is a penalty.

“From the angle I’ve seen Calum Butcher is adamant he didn’t pull the jersey. His palm is resting on the waist.

“The guys from Celtic will maybe think it’s justified, but I think it’s incredibly soft.”

It was only Motherwell’s third point from 10 games and Kettlewell said: “It indicates to everyone how together we are as a football club and a group of players. They gave us absolutely everything out there.

“A lot of people will say we should be looking to be more progressive and to create more chances in the game. Well, that was everything that I asked of the players.

“Of course we want to try to win games, but to concede that second penalty and go behind we showed brilliant personality and character to get ourselves back into the game.”

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