DELIGHTED Brendan Rodgers praised his victorious Celtic players as they refused to push the panic button in the remarkable conclusion in the champions’ 2-1 triumph at Fir Park.

The visitors, with 70 per cent of possession, dominated the encounter against a stubborn Motherwell side content to sit back, soak up the pressure and look to hit on the counter-attack.

However, it took the Hoops until the 87th minute to finally break down the claret-and-amber wall when substitute Luis Palma astutely curled in a low drive from the edge of the penalty box to bamboozle keeper Liam Kelly on its way towards its destination.

That looked like being the deciding strike, but, astoundingly, the Parkhead rearguard switched off five minutes into stoppage-time when the hosts worked their way through to present Blair Spittal a shooting chance and he slotted an effort wide of the helpless Scott Bain.

But, emphasising Celtic’s never-say-die mentality, they played some clever possession football two minutes later before Greg Taylor lofted a superb ball to the back post where Matt O’Riley arrived with uncanny timing to sidefoot an exquisite right-foot shot past the shell-shocked Kelly.

AIR WE GO…Matt O’Riley defies gravity as he sidefoots a sublime stoppage-time winner past Well keeper Liam Kelly. 

Rodgers insisted: “I’ve said it many times; this club’s history is built on late goals and it’s what comes with knowing you have to keep running and keep fighting until the very, very end. That mentality served us well.

“I think the calmness was what won it in the end. We didn’t just go lumping the ball forward, especially when they got the equaliser. We worked it, we got into good areas and then when we were in the right areas, we delivered.

“So, I’m really proud of the team. They’re building this resilience and this mentality under a different manager and I’m very proud of them today.

“It was a great cross by Greg and Matty’s got another goal, arriving in the box and it was a fantastic finish.

“So, all in all, a great win for us and fantastic for the supporters.”

CAPTAIN’S JOY…Callum McGregor celebrates Luis Palma’s 87th-minute opener for Celtic – but there was more drama to come.

Rodgers, speaking to Celtic TV, continued: “It was a fantastic win. We deserved to win and we were the dominant team.

“They had a couple of moments of counter-attack where we had to be careful and I think the only thing that was missing was a little bit more quality in the final third of the pitch.

“But our persistence was superb. We kept going and the players kept calm, which was important. We then ended up getting the first goal and it looked like that would be the winning goal.

“We were disappointed with equaliser – we’ve got to be more aggressive around the box to defend that and go with the run.”

Reflecting on O’Riley’s timely points-clincher, Rodgers added: “It’s a big chance, but it’s an incredible finish off his right foot, just on that volley at the near post, so I’m delighted for him.

“And I’m delighted for the board because they’ve put so much hard work over these few months with the re-signing of a lot of our top players – we had Reo last night and Matty today – so it’s great news

“There’s a lot of work goes into that, and it also shows that the players are really convinced by continuing their development here at Celtic.

“Now we’ve got to recover and have that same attitude, energy and quality into Wednesday’s game and, hopefully, there will be a wee bit more space for us at home where Lazio will come to play and that should help us.”


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