BRENDAN RODGERS praised the quality of his Celtic players in the 3-0 romp against Hearts at a pulsating Parkhead that moved the champions six points ahead at the Premiership pinnacle.

The Hoops boss poisitively purred over a performance that saw Kyogo Furuhashi claim two trademark opportunist efforts in the first-half while the sublime Matt O’Riley sealed the triumph with an unstoppable penalty-kick.

Rodgers’ men were taking on a team who had enjoyed success in the previous two meetings between the sides, home and away, but there was no chance of an unlikely hat-trick for the men from Edinburgh.

Kyogo headed in the opener following a neat ball into the box by Reo Hatate and the Japanese speedster doubled the advantage when he first-timed an exquisite diagonal pass from O’Riley behind Zander Clark, the Tynecastle keeper who kept the score down with some remarkable stops.

BACK IN THE GOAL ROUTINE…Kyogo Furuhashi celebrates his first strike against Hearts.

However, the giant netminder had no chance when the Danish international playmaker, who strolled majestically through this confrontation, thrashed his spot-kick into the roof of the net following a handball by Lawrence Shankland.

Referee Kevin Clancy, who appeared to have a clear view of the incident, missed the moment and was instructed by VAR assisant Nick Walsh to review the situation on his touchline monitor.

The whistler returned to the pitch to point to the spot for the inevitable punishment and O’Riley made no mistake.

With three league games to go, Rodgers said: “It was very important and a very good performance. We were a wee bit loose at the beginning of the game, which gave them a couple of corners, and in our pressing structure we weren’t aggressive enough.

“But once we got that foothold in the game, we were absolutely outstanding.

“Hearts are a good side, Steven’s done well with them and they work the ball well. They play a shape that, if you’re not organised with it, they’ve got good players who can play.

“So, you expect at times for them to have a little bit of the ball, but with what he had to do, Joe Hart did it very well.”

EAR WE GO…Kyogo Furuhashi and his team-mates celebrate the Japanese ace’s second goal in the 3-0 win over Hearts at Parkhead.

The Hoops gaffer, speaking to Celtic TV, continued: “I thought the two goals in the first-half were real quality and it was just instinctive from Kyogo in the box.

“Big credit goes to Gavin Strachan and Greg Wallace who were looking at the set-pieces – and I thought today we were really dangerous from our set-pieces – and we got the first goal from the second phase.

“Then Matt O’Riley, who was outstanding the whole game, produced a wonderful pass and it was a great finish from Kyogo. And then Matt scores the penalty with real class and quality.

“So, all-round, the attitude of the team was really good, the energy in the stadium was absolutely brilliant and that’s exactly what we need.”

MATT FINISH…midfield mastermind Matt O’Riley looks pleased after rifling No.3 past the despondent Zander Clark from the penalty spot.

The fans rallied to the cause and there will be another 60,000 capacity crowd packed into Parkhead for the visit of Philippe Clement’s Ibrox outfit on Saturday.

Rodgers took the time to applaud the efforts of the supporters and added: “That’s the difference when you play for Celtic and the crowd are then with you.

“I’ve always said the crowd are an extension to this team and when they have that focus and that urge and support to the team, you see the difference it makes.

“So, I thought it was a great day all-round for us, a really good performance, a good result and a clean sheet, which is important.

“We’ll have a little bit of recovery, we’ll analyse this performance and see where we could have been better in moments, but we’ll have a really good week’s training and look forward to that.

“It should be an amazing atmosphere here next weekend.”



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