15 May 2024

Brendan Rodgers proud of how Celtic dealt with pressure during title race

15 May 2024

An emotional Brendan Rodgers expressed pride in his Celtic players for dealing with the pressure and winning the cinch Premiership in style.

The title was sealed with a 5-0 victory over Kilmarnock as Celtic produced arguably their best performance of the campaign.

Celtic only needed a point and early goals from Adam Idah and Daizen Maeda sent them well on their way before James Forrest’s effort removed all doubt before half-time. Matt O’Riley’s second-half double ensured it was the Hoops’ biggest away win of the season.

Celtic had fallen behind in the title race in February despite being seven points clear of Rangers after Rodgers’ first seven league matches back in charge following his spell at Leicester.

But they got back on top in mid-April and the triumph at Rugby Park made it 22 points from eight games.

Rodgers said: “Firstly, the performance of the team was amazing. I am so proud of how they dealt with pressure over the last few months and how they stepped up against a Kilmarnock team that is coached so well and is so organised.

“To play the game to that level, tactically, with speed, everything I want in a team. I have always had speed, creativity, unpredictability, power. It was so good and it was a joy to watch. To make us champions, I’m so proud.

“I would have probably been dreaming of that moment over the time I was away and hoping it would happen again. It’s a really good feeling.”

Late in the game, the Celtic support reprised their song about Rodgers “coming home to lead the green and white”, a staple during his first spell in charge but a chant he had not heard for some time following the mixed reaction to his return.

Rodgers was clearly emotional when asked about that moment.

“It felt really good,” he said. “I thought they had forgotten my name! But it was about the team and the support staff.

“There was so much stuff in the first six months, it felt a little bit awkward, I have got to be honest. And awkward for everyone, I think it was a bit surreal. And there was a lot of challenges from a management perspective, a lot of tedious stuff that took place. I have never had that before in my career.

“The challenge was making sure the inner voice of the team was right, no matter all the negativity that has followed the team all the way through.

“It was making sure we stay on point with our work, our preparation and focus and the team will get to a level and intensity to what my teams normally play. As if by magic, that’s how it ended up.

“The spirit has been key – no winning team doesn’t have that. You have to have that.”

Kilmarnock manager Derek McInnes admitted Celtic were too good but was frustrated that Idah’s opener came while home defender Robbie Deas was lying with a facial knock after being caught by the goalscorer’s arm.

McInnes said: “It was probably the toughest 90 minutes we have had to endure. Partly us but congratulations to Celtic, they would have beaten any team in the league tonight.

“Subconsciously, when you play against a team who have much more on the game, it’s difficult. Celtic played with such an intensity, never let us breathe and came after us. If we are going to press, we need to do it much better.

“That said, the first goal should have been pulled back. (Referee) Don Robertson apologised to me at half-time. He said he didn’t think it was a foul and VAR kind of agreed but he knew it was a head knock and he should have stopped the game. It’s poor from him because he’s a good official but at least he apologised.

“Celtic didn’t need a helping hand but they got one.”

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