BRENDAN RODGERS saluted his “hungry” Celtic players after last night’s 3-0 Champions League first leg qualifying victory over Alashkert in sweltering Armenia.

The Hoops now have the formality of the second game at Parkhead a week tonight before easing into the next stage of the competition as they attempt to make the group stages for the third successive season.

Odsonne Edouard , the club’s record £9million signing from Paris Saint-Germain, netted the team’s first competitive goal of the campaign when he redirected a wayward effort from James Forrest into the net in stoppage time.

A double strike from Forrest and Callum McGregor in the last 10 minutes sealed the triumph.

Rodgers said: “It is a huge credit to the players and medical staff.

“We know we have a long way to go in terms of getting to full capacity, but certainly at this stage, to show that hunger and desire to continue to work to the very end, it was a real winning difference.

“They kept pushing and kept working and they got their rewards. So, it was a great credit to how hard they have worked fitness-wise.

“A clean sheet was important because as you start to tire in the game you can maybe lose a goal cheaply.

“But we didn’t do that, we concentrated well and scored three very good goals.”

Rodgers reflected on the heat in the capital city of Yereven and said: “It was breathless, really. You sense it just standing in it.

“I thought the players coped with it very well. They will really benefit from that game in terms of fitness and it sets us up well for the next leg.

“It is just a case of picking the team to win the game, but also to get the players developing their fitness.”

The Hoops gaffer was also pleased with the contribution of new Bhoy Edouard and added: “The first goal was great timing and a really good finish.

“He doesn’t need to justify his price tag. He is an outstanding talent and he just gets on with his football.”

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