BRENDAN RODGERS and his skipper Callum McGregor were singing from the same hymn sheet after Celtic’s 3-1 win over Abereen at Pittodrie yesterday.

The champions had to remain resolute to overcome a committed and determined Dons side who proved right from the start they had no intention of being bit-part players in the continuing Hoops success story.

Goals from Liel Abada, Kyogo Furuhashi and Matt O’Riley got the job done in enemy territory, but the Hoops had to surmount other problems as rock-like centre-back Cameron Carter-Vickers departed proceedings at half-time with a hamstring problem.

HERE WE GO…Callum McGregor leads out Joe Hart and Co for another eventful encounter at Pittodrie.

Stephen Welsh, who made only five first-team appearances last season, took the USA World Cup defender’s place in the heart of the rearguard alongside Maik Nawrocki, signed last month from Legia Warsaw and making only his second league outing for the Parkhead team.

Reo Hatate, who had taken over from David Turnbull after the interval, also saw his participation curtailed to 25 minutes before he limped off with a calf strain and Norwegian new Bhoy Odin Thiago Holm was pitched into his midfield berth.

South Korean Yang Hyun-jun also arrived on the scene as 70th-minute substitute for Abada and weaved some magic to set up No.3.

Both the manager and his captain hailed the players for digging deep to manufacture three points in the north-east in a confrontation which was fraught with anxiety until O’Riley, who delivered a Man-of-the-Match performance, swept the third goal into the Dons net.

A beaming Rodgers said: “I like Stephen. He is a Celtic boy, he wants to be at the club, I want him to be at the club.

“I said to him I can’t guarantee how many games you are going to play, he may play 40 games in the season, but I know he is always ready.

ONE…Liel Abada slams in the breakthrough goal against the Dons.

“It was really well done by him and by Odin who is going to really show his talent as he goes through his time at Celtic.

“He’s a fantastic footballer, he’s got an edge, he can see a pass, he can move well. And Yang set up the third goal with a great bit of skill. I was really pleased for all the boys who came into the game and contributed.”

McGregor, speaking to the Daily Record, echoed his gaffer’s sentiments and said: “I thought Stephen was outstanding when he came on.

“He really calmed the game. He saw the pictures, could see the passes and that settled us and got us playing into our rhythm. I think Stephen has been outstanding.

“It is always difficult. You come in, you play well, you drop out the team, you come back, you drop out the team again. You have to be resilient, especially as an academy player.

TWO…Kyogo Furuhashi celebrates doubling the Hoops’ advantage.

“It is always easy for the club to go and buy players and it is a real challenge for the homegrown ones. But Welshy’s attitude has been outstanding and his quality is getting better.

“He is growing in stature. He is a player who can be really important for us, as well.”

The influential anchorman continued: “You have to have that sort of siege mentality. To see that two games into the season is outstanding. I thought Rocki was outstanding and then the other boys coming on, they were excellent, as well.

“It’s always tough here, 20-25 minutes to go, you’ve got to come on and be part of the group and show your personality, show your mentality. It’s a real collective effort and it has to be every time you come here. You can never ever carry passengers.

THREE…a big hand for Matt O’Riley.

“When it’s 2-1, they are always in the game and you have to defend strongly, which we did. You have to look after each other, you have to look after yourself. When you cross the line, you have to be together, especially in a Celtic team.

“That type of character and resilience and togetherness should hopefully stand us in good stead.”

McGregor also praised two regular contributors to the team’s cause when he added: “Kyogo’s finish is outstanding and, to be fair, even Matt’s finish at the end there, on a sticky pitch was good.

“They are two players who have been outstanding for us and it is great to see them in good form.”


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