Rodgers hails Celtic side’s character

Glasgow (AFP) – Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers praised his side’s hunger for success as they extended their unbeaten start to the defence of their Scottish Premiership title with a 2-0 win over Motherwell on Saturday.

Celtic maintained their four point lead over Aberdeen at the top of the table thanks to a first-half strike from Scott Sinclair and a late penalty from Moussa Dembele.

The in-form French striker, who took his tally to 13 goals for the season, won the penalty after chasing down what looked like a lost cause only to reach the ball before Motherwell stopper Craig Samson, who hauled him down.

Rodgers, whose side host Borussia Monchengladbach in a Champions League clash on Wednesday before facing Old Firm rivals Rangers for a place in the League Cup final on Sunday, hailed the desire shown by his players ahead of what could be a crucial week in their season.

“It was a very good win on the back of being separated for a couple of weeks,” said Rodgers.

“I said to the players before the game that for us to succeed it’s not just about us being hungry for success it’s about being starving,” added the Northern Irishman.

Rodgers, whose side redeemed themselves with a 3-3 draw with Manchester City after opening their Champions League group campaign were thrashed 7-0 by Barcelona, said the spirit shown by his team had impressed him.  

“You have to really push yourself in moments when you think things are gone and you have to fight,” he said.

“That was a perfect example of the spirit in the team. They will chase everything and the penalty was from absolute desire to get there before the keeper.

“That looked like it was dead and was going to go through to the keeper but he (Dembele) made it something. The best strikers do that and create something out of nothing or make something for themselves.

“He made the penalty through his endeavour. Forget about his quality; that’s about a mindset to get there and he tucked it away very well.”

With one eye on Wednesday’s crucial Champions League clash, Rodgers made three changes with Cristian Gamboa and Stuart Armstrong replacing the injured Mikel Lustig and Nir Bitton while Liam Henderson was handed his first start of the season in place of Australian international Tom Rogic.

“Today was about the squad,” Rodgers said.

“I had to leave Tom Rogic out totally. The guy has been to Saudi Arabia and then Melbourne and he only came back Thursday morning and as soon as he landed he came straight to the training ground.

“To be fair to him it’s a long season and we had to ensure he’s totally recovered so we left him out totally.

“I’ve wanted to see young Liam for a period of time because I think he’s a talent but it’s been hard to get him in.

“But I felt today was a good day for that and I thought he was excellent in the game tactically — thinking about the game and playing with his brain -– and physically he was very good.

“Stuart Armstrong came in and did very well and young Gamboa hasn’t had a lot of opportunities. It’s probably been a little unfair as his first game was at the Nou Camp (the Barcelona game).

However, the Celtic manager revealed he should have a full squad to choose from for the match against the German cracks.

“Bitton and Lustig should train tomorrow (Sunday) with the team. I think it was maybe a push too far today so they should hopefully be OK for Wednesday,” said Rodgers.

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