BRENDAN RODGERS has called for Celtic fans to have faith in his players after Moussa Dembele’s stoppage-time penalty-kick against Astana fired the Hoops into the Champions League play-off draw tomorrow.
Leigh Griffiths also netted from the spot in the first-half before Agim Ibraimi levelled with the Kazakhstan team’s only shot on target to make it 2-2 on aggregate. It was left to the new Bhoy to strike the vital goal to send Parkhead into ecstasy.
Rodgers hailed the 52,000 crowd for the atmosphere generated in the stadium, but called for patience after admitting the players were “on edge” at times.
He said: “The supporters were unbelievable for us, but the only thing I can say is that they need to show a little bit of patience, as well.
“I am a Celtic supporter, I know what they want and I know how desperately they want it, but they put the players on edge at times.
“In modern football, European football, domestic football, teams are organised. So, if you can’t play forward and you can’t play sideways, you have to come back. But when you come back, you shouldn’t be on edge because you come back.
“We have to circulate the ball to get out the other side to try to provoke them to be disorganised and to, hopefully, score a goal.
“So, I hope going forward, instead of having that edginess, trust the players, trust our game model and how we work and as we saw here, eventually we can get there.
“But, apart from that, it was a wonderful atmosphere and brilliant support and again they helped push us over the line.”
Rodgers, who revealed winger Patrick Roberts came off with a tight hamstring, insisted his side deserved to get through the tie against the Kazakhstan champions.
He said: “We started the game with a great intensity and restricted them to very few chances and at the end of the first-half we got the goal we deserved. We started the second-half well and then we make a mistake and their guy had a great finish.
“Then it is a test of our character again and these players respond to the challenge, they were absolutely brilliant. They stayed calm, worked the ball again and also showed their fitness to keep pushing to score.
“So, a 2-1 victory, we thoroughly deserved to get through. It is the final step. There was always going to be three tough rounds. The guys who have had the experience up here tell me that sometimes the first two rounds are more difficult. But that was a difficult test for us and I think we deserved to go through.
“We have one final step to go and we will see what Friday brings us, but, certainly, it gives the players great belief and, hopefully, gives the supporters belief.”
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