15 Feb Brendan Rodgers talks up Celtic’s performance in narrow win over Zenit
Boss Brendan Rodgers hailed an “outstanding” Celtic display following the 1-0 win over Zenit St Petersburg in the first leg of their Europa League clash at Parkhead.
Callum McGregor’s stunning 78th-minute strike on his 150th appearance for the Hoops, after taking a pass from substitute Charly Musonda, gave the Scottish champions a deserved advantage for the second leg of the last-32 tie in Russia next week.
Afterwards the Northern Irishman, who had dampened down expectations before the game against the big-spending visitors, said: “It was a very good victory for us.
“I thought the performance was outstanding.
“We were playing against a top side, I think everyone recognises that.
“For large parts of the game we controlled it, tactically we were excellent and stayed calm when we had to defend.
“But with the ball, I was really pleased with our personality in the game, the control and calmness and we played with great maturity and capped it off at the end with a fantastic goal.
“A great piece of skill by young Charly and a brilliant finish by Callum so I am very pleased.
“We had a couple of other great opportunities.
“It was just that touch and connection in the box and maybe we needed a wee bit of good fortune to go our way but it was very pleasing, the level of creativity and the calmness we showed on the ball.
“We looked a real threat in the final third. We could have had one or two more goals but I can’t be that greedy.
“We have to be happy with the victory and I am delighted with the performance.”
Rodgers believes Zenit’s requirement for a goal next week could play into their hands.
The former Swansea and Liverpool boss said: “Like all of these games if you can keep a clean sheet that is important.
“The stability the team had, they concentrated and organised themselves very well and that is important.
“To then get the goal…we know that we can score goals and they probably need to come out a little bit now to chase the game and of course that can give us more space and opportunities to score.
“But like tonight it is going to be tough game but we have given ourselves an opportunity after tonight.”
Zenit boss Roberto Mancini was braced for a tough night after two months without a competitive game due to the winter break.
The Italian said: “We knew before the game that it would be a difficult game because we played this competitive game after two months and Celtic have played every week.
“We knew it would be a problem, it was 1-0 but if we had paid attention we wouldn’t have conceded that goal but this is football. Celtic is a good team and the atmosphere was incredible.”