06 Apr Will the real Kouassi stand up
Brendan Rodgers teased Eboue Kouassi after the 19-year-old made an unsteady beginning to his first Celtic start in the 1-1 draw against Partick Thistle.
Koussa had made two substitute appearances since arriving in January from Russian side Krasnodar for a reported fee of £3million but was one of five changes made for the visit of the Jags in the Ladbrokes Premiership on Wednesday night.
The Ivorian settled down after a shaky start and was replaced by Tom Rogic just after the hour mark, just before Thistle striker Ade Azeez levelled Scott Sinclair’s opener.
Sinclair then had a penalty saved by Firhill keeper Tomas Cerny before the Jags held out for an unlikely point against the champions who remain unbeaten domestically with three draws in 31 league games.
When asked what he thought of Koussa’s contribution, Rodgers smiled and said: “He didn’t start great, bless him. After the first five minutes I thought we had signed his brother.
“But he grew into the game and he started showing what he’s been showing in training.
“Good mobility and getting around the pitch. I thought he did well after that little spell arriving into Scottish football.”
Rodgers is now working towards the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final against Rangers later in the month.
He said: “After the weekend our next peak is the semi-final. So that’s what we are building towards.
“This is why I needed to make the changes. If I didn’t make them tonight and I made them against Kilmarnock, and then we are building into the Ross County game and then the Rangers games.
“It might mean some players who are asked to play in the Rangers game, if they played tonight then were rested against Kilmarnock they would maybe have got one game in 18 days.
“You’re always trying to gauge the momentum of your team and I thought this was the game to make the changes.
“But over the course of the next couple of games the team will be pretty stable to give us that momentum to hopefully arrive in a peak condition for the semi-final.”
The sixth-placed Jag remain four points ahead of Kilmarnock with two games remaining before the split.
Boss Alan Archibald was pleased that Cerny saved the day.
He said: “I was delighted for Tomas Cerny saving the penalty. The fingers were pointed at him at Rugby Park when he made a mistake a few weeks ago against Kilmarnock.
“But he has saved us a number of times and I’m glad he put that to bed because it’s been preying on his mind a bit.”