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“I thought they did very well”: Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers lauds fringe players

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers at full- time (SNS)
Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers at full- time (SNS)

 

CELTIC boss Brendan Rodgers praised Dorus de Vries after his back-up goalkeeper came in after more than a year out to help the Hoops to a 1-0 home win over Dundee.

With a view to the Champions League trip to Bayern Munich in midweek, Rodgers reshuffled his squad with the 36-year-old Dutchman back for the first time competitively since featuring against Kilmarnock in September, 2016.

Amid seven changes, Costa Rica right-back Cristian Gamboa made his first appearance of the season and Eboue Kouassi returned from a knee injury sustained against Kilmarnock at the start of the campaign.

After French midfielder Olivier Ntcham put Celtic ahead with a long-range drive in the 61st minute the visitors fought back and De Vries, understudy to Scotland keeper Craig Gordon, thwarted Paul McGowan, Roarie Deacon and substitute Faissal El-Bakhtaoui.

The champions extended their unbeaten domestic run to 59 games and remained top of the Ladbrokes Premiership over Aberdeen on goal difference.

Rodgers said: “That was another positive for us.

“When you think of the players we have out and the players to come in like Eboue Kouassi

“Cristian Gamboa went halfway round the world to play in World Cup qualifiers and came back and I thought he was excellent today.

“And Dorus de Vries, you see in a game like today why I have him in.

“It is a testament to how professional he is, how hard he has worked.

“It is has been a year or so since he last played competitively.

“The last game was Sunderland away (pre-season friendly) where he was excellent and this was a nice game to come into.

“He didn’t have a great deal to do but towards the end when the ball was coming in around the box, he showed his agility and concentration to make the saves.

“So for all those guys who came in and hadn’t played so much, I thought they did very well.”

Dundee boss Neil McCann thought his side should have had a penalty in the second half when Gamboa and Jack Hendry clashed heads inside the box.

The Dundee defender had to come off for Jesse Curran and the Hoops player was soon replaced by Kristoffer Ajer.

“I think it is a penalty,” said McCann. “I don’t care if it is accidental. Big Jack has gone in and has been cleaned out by Gamboa and I don’t see why it is not a penalty.

“Anywhere on the pitch that is a free-kick.

“I hear it all the time and it is what angers managers. Why not in the box?

“My big centre-back has a lovely wee medal to take away from Celtic Park, with a nice opening of his eye but he is fine.”

Rodgers, unsurprisingly, took the opposite view.

He said: “I think if you are the away manager and your player goes down in the box you can get a wee bit excited and look for a penalty.

“The boy just gets there a fraction before. If that is outside the box, it is a clash of heads, it is unfortunate, the physios come on, a bounce ball and you play on.

“It is in the box I would expect Neil to look for a penalty but I thought the referee made a really good decision.”