CELTIC’S spirited bounce back from back-to-back defeats has seen the team win four games on the trot, score 10 goals and concede only one to restore their eight-point advantage at the Premiership pinnacle.

It’s nothing to sneeze at as Brendan Rodgers leads his side into a welcome winter shutdown after admitting he has been fighting a battle of his own.

The Hoops boss beamed as goals from Daizen Maeda, Matt O’Riley and Greg Taylor overcame St Mirren in Paisley in the champions’ first game of 2024.

SHAKE ON IT…Brendan Rodgers with St Mirren boss Stephen Robinson before the kick-off.

Asked if the three-week pause had come at the wrong time with his team picking up momentum, the Irishman admitted: “Probably not. I have had flu and a cold for about a month, it has just been so busy.

“I think it’s a nice small period now for the players to recover because physically the demands are so much, especially how we want them to play and how intense we want them to be.

“So, that will be nice for them to recover and then we will get back and we have loads of time to do a lot of work and be ready for our first Cup game.”

Rodgers, speaking to the Daily Record, continued: “Those results against Kilmarnock and Hearts, it was about learning from those.

“I think you can see the difference in the team and how they are working. And sometimes you need that. To have success you need to have that bit of adversity.

“How the players have responded to that has been fantastic. Their mentality, their attitude, the speed, the tempo of the games is what we want as well with much more creativity. The second part of the season I am excited about.”

NUMBER ONE…Daizen Maeda is congratulated by Paulo Bernardo, Luis Palma and Kyogo Furuhashi after his opening goal in 54 SECONDS.

NUMBER TWO…Matt O’Riley is all smiles after tucking away his effort in the sixth minute.

NUMBER THREE…Greg Taylor runs away in triumph after leaving keeper Zak Hemming helpless in the 60th minute.

Scotland’s title kings are in pursuit of their twelfth crown in 13 years and picked up three crucial points from the weekend derby to add to the six gathered with successive wins over Livingston and Dundee.

The Hoops gaffer added: “It can always be a tricky game mentally and physically after a Rangers game, but I thought we dealt with it really well and we made the start we wanted to in the first 10 minutes.

“It was good tempo, good speed so that set us up well in the game.

”I think you can see that the team is getting better and improving.”

The hosts’ cause wasn’t helped when they had striker Toyosi Olusanya red-carded just before the interval following a dangerous challenge on Joe Hart as both plunged in as a left-wing cross arrived in the box.

Paisley coach Stephen Robinson admitted the sending-off had no bearing on the final result and he had no excuses.

The three-goal margin could have been far wider if the Hoops had taken some of the chances that came their way while keeper Zak Hemming played a hero’s role by denying Liel Abada twice, Oh Hyeon-gyu, Paulo Bernardo and Yang Hyun-jun in a one-sided second period.

Liam Scales also hit the woodwork with a flashing header from an O’Riley setpiece while Kyogo Furuhashi, the derby matchwinner, had an incredible miss from six yards when he nodded wide of the target when it looked as though he must score.

No complaints, though, as the ship has been steadied and set sail once again in the direction of the 54th championship in the club’s history.

Now the manager can attempt to get back to full strength and his players can take a rest before the action restarts with the visit of Buckie Thistle in the Scottish Cup Fourth Round tie on Sunday January 21.


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