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RODGERS HAILS O’CONNELL

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BRENDAN RODGERS has heaped praise on Irish defender Eoghan O’Connell who has answered the manager’s SOS call after Erik Sviatchenko joined Jozo Simunovic and Dedryck Boyata on the injury list.

The 20-year-old centre-half has had two excellent Champions League performances as Celtic saw off the dangerous Astana, of Kazakhstan, to reach today’s play-off draw.

Rodgers said: “He has been outstanding. For a young player who has been at Oldham and Cork on loan, to be put into the games he has and to have shown that composure. He is a wonderful young footballer.

“He dominates in the air, so he wins his headers. But if you want to reach the highest level you possibly can then you have got to be able to dominate the ball and for him, for a kid, he passes it really well.

“As I said before, he has an in-built brain for the game.

“I am looking at his temperament. It is the same in training – some players I don’t even know how many games they have played, but if they show that temperament and that composure he has done over the last couple of games, then he is only going to get better and better.

“Eoghan and Mikael Lustig have done very well together and young Saidy Janko was also outstanding in the second-half of the Astana game.

“If you think in the game, we had a 20 year old at right-back, a 19 year old at left-back and a 20 year old at centre-half and young boys further up the team and a 20 year old coming off the bench to score a crucial penalty-kick.penalty.

“At this level, it is a very young team. They are gaining experience and with talent, you have to have time. You have to encourage and be supportive and if they make mistakes, well, they make mistakes.

“But if you trust them then you put them out there and, hopefully, you get the performance.

“O’Connell, in particular, was very good.”

Boyata himself is going to have to show to Rodgers a considerable improvement on last season’s performances if he is going to get anywhere near this new Celtic side. 

 
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