RAGING Brendan Rodgers apologised to the Celtic supporters after the champions’ tame 2-0 surrender to Hearts at Parkhead yesterday.
And the Hoops boss also admitted he wasn’t surprised at the lacklustre display that brought the team their second successive Premiership game to blow open the title race.
It was a day of massive frustration and disappointment in the east end of Glasgow as some comic cuts defending gifted the visitors an early lead when a corner-kick again created panic in the penalty box and Lawrence Shankland was left totally unguarded at the back post to blitz a header high past the static Joe Hart.
The keeper was left clawing fresh air when Stephen Kinglsey swirled in a long-range free-kick to give the Tynecastle side an unlikely two-goal interval advantage.
Rodgers took off both Johnstons, Alistair and Mikey, and David Turnbull for the start of the second-half with Anthony Ralston, Daizen Maeda and Oh Hyeon-gyu being introduced.
Only minutes after the restart, Kyogo Furuhashi missed a tap-in smack in front of goal after a superb diagonal ball from Luis Palma and that set the tone for the remainder of the match with the hosts sadly lacking in imagination and ingenuity.
A seething Rodgers pulled no punches after the side’s TWELFTH dropped point in this campaign and said: “Our desire and the mentality right from the off was nowhere near the level of a Celtic team. Very passive and lacked fluidity.
“The game started a little bit slow, but our ability to keep the ball in the final third and create wasn’t quite there. Then, we got outdone very naively from a corner. The second goal was a fantastic free-kick, but, when you look at the build-up and what led to the free-kick, it was so passive it was frightening.
“It is a real, real sore one. For the first time I have been here, over my two periods, I would have to apologise to the supporters. That level is nowhere near the standard of performances required at Celtic.
“Nowhere near it. That lack of consistency and mentality and desire.
“It is way, way off what this club demands and, like I say, you’re sat there in mid-December with sixty-odd thousand in and that’s how you perform. It is not acceptable.
“That result is on myself and the players. We’re there, on the pitch, we have to be so much better than that. We have to focus on that. You can blame whoever you want. but the reality is that that’s us on the field.
“And it’s nowhere near good enough for a Celtic team. I’ve been here long enough, I know the climate here, the expectations. Standing watching it, it’s not the level of a Celtic team or anywhere near it.”
Rodgers, speaking to the media, continued: “I can’t say I am surprised. I’ve seen performance level and having to activate. When you are having to do that all the time then that is a worry.
“It’s not every player. I thought Callum McGregor was brilliant. I felt for Cal. He was having to play virtually three positions to try to inspire the team and make things happen.
“Too many were waiting on the game. Liam Scales was good at the back and Matt O’Riley always adds quality.
“Other than that, it was bitterly disappointing.”
The Irishman, who also saw the holders go out of the League Cup in the third game of his return, added: “I don’t feel the wheels are coming off the bus. It’s football. We have no divine right to win every game.
“This game is not an easy game. I always say that to players, sometimes you make it look easy but you have to put so much work in.
“It’s not rocket science, it’s a desire and mentality and that ability to work hard and, when you have that and you have talent, a lot of the time you will win when you are a Celtic player.
“But, sadly for us, it’s just been too inconsistent. We have had some fantastic performances and some really good results along with that as well, but it has to be more consistent.
“Listen there is still a hell of a long way to go and I know December is normally a grind up here, you are playing every three days. But that’s the expectation, that’s where we’re at. We have to find that strength, we ned to analyse where it’s at and what we can be much better at.
“But, for me, it’s quite an easy reflection – you have to have greater desire and mentality. If you do that, you have a much better chance to succeed. That’s something I as a manager have to look to fix.”