Midnight specials pay off for Celtic match-winner


Glasgow (AFP) – Belgian defender Dedryck Boyata scored the only goal in Celtic’s 1-0 win over Aberdeen and then revealed late night training sessions had helped him force his way back into the team.

His second half header was enough to seal an 18th consecutive league victory and ensure Celtic’s unblemished start domestically stretched to 28 games.

Brendan Rodgers’ team are also a huge 25 points ahead at the top of the Scottish Premiership table.

“I’ve been through some tough moments and coming back with an injury, and also missing the Euros,” the Belgian said.

“Even back after the injury you have to get the fitness back. From there, the team is playing well and then you’re trying to get a place in the team.

“When I wasn’t playing, I was going back to the training ground after training and on my days off and was running on the treadmills until midnight, sometimes 1am. I’ve been working very hard and now it’s paying off.” 

Rodgers singled out Boyata for praise as he scored his second goal in four games since returning to the starting XI this month.

The Belgian, who also scored the winner against St Johnstone last week, helped the Hoops to another clean sheet.

“He was outstanding again. He deserves all the credit because it was a difficult period for him when he first came in from Manchester City with a lot of expectations,” the Celtic boss said.

“But he’s really worked hard over the period of the last three months when he’s returned to fitness and he’s just had to stay patient.

“He’s a wonderful guy and he understands exactly what I’m looking for from a centre-half.

“He’s aggressive and defends forward and wins his duels in the air and he’s comfortable on the ball.

“In the box he’s a real threat and it looks like he’ll score every time he’s in there.

“It was a wonderful header and he defended well when he had to.”

Rodgers says he can’t ask any more of his players as they extended their lead at the top.

The Glasgow giants are 25 points clear of Rangers, who lost further ground on their rivals following a 4-1 hammering by Hearts.

Rodgers’ side have dropped just two points in 23 matches following a 2-2 draw with Inverness in September and have won 18 league matches in a row.

But the Celtic manager joked that there was always room for improvement.

“We should have beaten Inverness,” Rodgers jokingly said when asked if his side were ahead of schedule in his plans for the club.

“Listen, I can’t ask for more. Goodness me, they are doing remarkably well.

“I always walk round to give thanks to the supporters and I now look up on a Wednesday evening against St Johnstone and against Aberdeen and the place is packed.

“That’s the best compliment the players can get. There’s that real connection now between them and the team. It’s very much one.

“I said to the players before the game that it was February 3 last year they played against Aberdeen. It was away of course, but they lost the game and Aberdeen went three points just behind Celtic.

“I said to them ‘If you win this game tonight then in less than a year you go 27 points in front of them’.

“That difference and how you create it means you cannot go soft and you have to push and you’ve got to keep fighting.

“You can’t ask any more of what they are doing at the moment.

“We’re building and it’s still very early. We have to improve and we have to be better but they’ve shown a wonderful appetite for self-improvement and to keep going.”

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