BRENDAN RODGERS was left almost breathless in the aftermath of Celtic’s dramatic 2-1 stoppage-time triumph over Hibs at Easter Road.
The beaming Hoops boss joined in with his players as they acknowledged the travelling support following a tension-laden encounter in the capital.
It took two expertly-despatched penalty-kicks – one to the left and one to the right of David Marshall – from new Bhoy Adam Idah to secure the win that restored the champions’ three-point advantage at the Premiership pinnacle.
Rodgers overcame his so-called Leith hoodoo with his first victory at the venue at the fifth attempt and the Irishman obviously thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
HIB HIB HOORAY…Brendan Rodgers shows his delight – and relief – after winning his first game at Easter Road.
The Hoops gaffer said: “I’m pleased for the supporters – and I’m pleased win at Easter Road for the first time!
“When I was assessing Adam before bringing him in, that was one of the key things – he’s taken six penalties out of six before, and he took one against Holland for the Republic of Ireland, a real pressure penalty.
“He’s confident and I can just see how he trains, as well. He knows he’s a penalty-taker, and against David Marshall, who’s a really experienced goalkeeper, I thought he finished it so well and I’m absolutely delighted for him.
“We got off to a great start in the game and got into some really good positions.
“I think throughout the night we lacked just that bit of creativity. We had enough of the ball, but we couldn’t quite break through their position lower in the field.”
Rodgers, speaking to Celtic TV, continued: “The first-half we were pretty comfortable, but in the second-half I think Hibs deserve credit.
“They pressed on to us and we’ll need to analyse that and show the players how we have to be better in those moments because we invited pressure.
CROWD-PLEASERS…Adam Idah celebrates his second penalty-kick that sealed the points with Matt O’Riley and Anthony Ralston joining in at Easter Road.
“Not only did we bring the pressure on to us by playing sideways and backwards – because you’re best way to beat pressure is to play forward, and we didn’t do that. So we were too safe on it.
“When we did break through we got into some good positions.”
The breakthrough goal came in the tenth minute after a five-minute hold up in play for Alistair Johnston to receive onfield treatment after receiving a mighty whack on the head in an aerial duel that invited referee Nick Walsh to immediately point to the spot.
The Canadian international defender was stretchered off and taken to hospital where he later celebrated his team’s success!
Idah, on a short-term loan from Norwich City, kept his composure before sending Mashall the wrong way with a sweeping effort from 12 yards.
Some sloppy play saw Stephen Welsh give away a free-kick in a vulnerable area and the defence didn’t clear Joe Newell’s ball to the back post that ws nodded down for Dylan Levitt to drill low past Joe Hart from the edge of the box.
But the Hoops grabbed the points after VAR stepped in to order a review of a desperate tackle from Newell that sent Kyogo Furuhashi crashing just inside the box.
Welsh scrutinised the incident on the touchline monitor before returning to the pitch to once more point to the spot.
HANDS UP IF YOU’RE HAPPY…Adam Idah ackcowledges the cheers of the celebrating Celtic fans.
Idah was calmness personified as he stepped up for the second time to thrash the award past the helpless keeper.
Rodgers added: “We made changes in the game to try and effect the game and, thankfully, Kyogo came up with an opportunity for us to get the penalty.
“It was at the end with our supporters and it was brilliant for Adam. He’s got his first couple of goals in his first start, but there’s still a lot of work to do.
“I said before the game that I didn’t believe losing or drawing you lose the title and, by the same token, you don’t win the title by winning.
“But certainly, psychologically, it really helps.
“I said to the players beforehand that, whatever’s gone on before, we now have 14 games left in the season and we have to play with our heart and our soul to give everything to get the results. And the players did that.
“We didn’t quite get the rounded performance that I would have liked. In spells it was okay, but what we did do was, we go the result and the players showed a big heart in order to get that.”