BRENDAN RODGERS heaped praise upon matchwinner Ryan Christie after Celtic’s dramatic 1-0 triumph over Aberdeen in a fiercely-contested Betfred League Cup Final at rainswept Hampden this afternoon.
The 23-year-old playmaker, who returned to the Hoops in the summer after an 18-month loan spell at Pittodrie, grabbed the only goal of the game deep in first-half stoppage time.
Christie was excellent as he got round the back of Dons defenders Scott McKenna and Andrew Considine to tame a superb ball forward from Dedryck Boyata..
The midfielder tamed the ball and hit a vicious effort with his right foot at goal which was pushed away by the valiant Joe Lewis.
The rebound came straight back to Christie who, under a challenge from Shay Logan, somehow kept his balance for a crucial moment to make contact again with the ball, this time with his left foot, and send a drive high into the roof of the net.
That effort was enough to win Rodgers his seventh successive domestic trophy since he arrived at Parkhead in May 2016.
Asked for his immediate reactions to his latest piece of silverware, the beaming Hoops boss responded: “Very satisfied. It was a very tough game for us on the back of a tough week of fixtures, but the moment of real quality won us the game in terms of us keeping possession and then made the right moment to penetrate and it was brilliant finish by Ryan.
“That’s the way the football gods work. He’d been on loan at Aberdeen for 18 months, helped his development and he comes back and you see the player, he’s fantastic and he ends up getting the winning goal and Man of the Match.
“He’s shown that he has the personality to play at a big club. He just needed time and I felt when I came in he wasn’t ready to play every week.
“Rather than waste the talent, he needed to go out and play every week, so he did that and he came back a stronger player, more physical, better knowledge of the game and he’s been absolutely brilliant for us.”
BY THE LEFT…Ryan Christie crashes the winner past Joe Lewis. Pic: Geo.
Rodgers added: “The only disappointment for me is I felt we could have closed the game out sooner.
“We had the penalty and missed that, but we had about four breakaways. The situation at the end where it was four vs one and we didn’t make the right pass.
“The players are absolutely amazing, the heart they have, the fight when they’re really tired and against a really physical team like Aberdeen, they really test you so I am so proud of them and so satisfied for them that they get another trophy.
“Very proud, but our notion is to keep looking forward. Great experience again for us today. Great joy for the supporters and, like I say, we’re very hungry to continue to win more.
“This was the first title we could win, we’ve won it and I’ve very proud of the team.”
Sinclair blew the chance of wrapping it up for the Hoops eight minutes after the turnaround when he had a penalty-kick saved at full-length by Dons keeper Lewis.
In the end it didn’t matter and the Pittodrie side had been beaten for a third time in three seasons against the champions in a Cup Final.