Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou hailed Callum McGregor for inspiring his team-mates with “bags of energy” after his skipper claimed an assist and winner against Aberdeen.
McGregor set up Jota for the opener and – after Lewis Ferguson levelled from the spot – the Scotland midfielder diverted the ball home on the hour mark after charging down Jonny Hayes’ clearance.
There was more than a touch of fortune about the winner but Postecoglou felt his team and McGregor had got their just rewards for the way they tackled the cinch Premiership contest three days after a tough night in Germany.
Postecoglou knew his side would need to call on their energy reserves after the exertions of their 3-2 defeat to Bayer Leverkusen and he felt McGregor showed the way.
“He really drove the lads – just the energy, because that’s what I spoke about before the game, that’s what I emphasised,” Postecoglou said.
“It’s easy for me to say it but someone has got to go out there and lead from the front.
“I don’t know where he gets it from but he’s got bags of energy and, when they see him running about, they can’t help but be inspired to do the same thing.
“He leads by example. He’s a man of action and words and he was outstanding.”
The 2-1 victory kept Celtic four points behind leaders Rangers.
“I’m really pleased, especially after Thursday night, the players put in a lot physically and emotionally,” Postecoglou added. “We were disappointed with the outcome and we knew a couple of days later we would have to pick it up.
“I thought our energy was really good at the start of the game, we really put some pressure on and got the goal.
“They got the penalty which brought them into the game a little bit but second half we went to another level in terms of our energy and relentlessness to chase balls down.
“And it’s really important because I know how difficult that is to do physically and mentally after a big night in midweek. I’m really pleased the players got their rewards.
“This one was particularly difficult because we didn’t get back to the early hours of Friday and training on Saturday was just getting them out for a bit of a jog.
“We knew Aberdeen were a hard-working team and they would be organised defensively and that we would have to bring the energy.”
Aberdeen manager Stephen Glass was pleased with his side’s defensive resolve.
Glass added: “I’m really disappointed that, despite the amount of quality that Celtic showed, that it’s a deflection that ends up costing us.
“We were difficult to play against and did carry a threat, especially first half. We felt if we could get past their first bit of pressure we had the chance to get at their back players.
“That disappeared a wee bit in the second half. I wouldn’t say we didn’t show it by choice in the second half, I think we had a lack of the ball, to be fair.”
McGregor’s predecessor as Celtic captain, Scott Brown, went off injured in the 66th minute and another former Parkhead midfielder, Dylan McGeouch, was also forced off.
Glass said: “Dylan got a bang on his calf first half and felt it was tightening up, and Broony was a little bit tight in his hamstring. I don’t know if it was just cramp or a little injury, we will see.”
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