Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers admitted his side lacked tempo in their play until he made some substitutions in a goalless draw with Hibernian.
Rodgers picked the same team that played the majority of Wednesday’s 2-2 draw with Atletico Madrid but Celtic struggled to create clear-cut chances in the first half, although David Marshall saved brilliantly from Daizen Maeda.
Martin Boyle missed an excellent chance for Hibs just after the break when he volleyed over from Jordan Obita’s cross and Rodgers brought on four attacking substitutes either side of the hour mark.
Of those, James Forrest hit the bar, Oh Hyeon-gyu had a header saved and Mikey Johnston was denied by Marshall with an impressive save from a long-range strike, while David Turnbull was also heavily involved in the play.
Rodgers said: “I didn’t think we played with the tempo and speed that we wanted to until the last 20 minutes.
“We dominated the game for long spells but the first 60 minutes was too slow from our perspective, we didn’t get them running quick enough.
“We played too many longer passes, we wanted to really be playing shorter, quicker passes which are a bit more difficult to defend.
“We made the changes and the last 25 minutes the tempo increased which pushed them back and we connected the game a lot better.
“We had about 20 attempts at goal. Jamesy hit the crossbar and they had some really good blocks but we weren’t able to make the breakthrough.”
When asked if Wednesday’s exertions had an impact, the manager said: “It could well be but I never want to use that as an excuse. The players had a massive effort in midweek but we have to be able to go again.”
When quizzed over whether some changes to his team might have helped, Rodgers added: “Listen, we are all captains of hindsight afterwards, aren’t we?
“It would have been ideal if we had an extra day maybe to recover and play later. But I think the boys are fit and strong. We had the ball, it was just the speed of it, we didn’t move it quick enough.”
On winger Johnston’s first appearance for Celtic since March 2022, Rodgers said: “A wee bit hit and miss, a bit loose and sloppy and then did some good things. But he has been out for a while.
“Jamesy came in and has that quality to look after the ball. He probably will feel he can score.
“But the guys coming in, it’s what we asked from them. I asked them to bring an energy to the game and I think they did that.”
Hibs head coach Nick Montgomery was delighted to see his side keep a clean sheet following a 4-0 defeat at Ibrox the previous weekend.
“I’m extremely proud of the effort the boys put in,” he said.
“You are talking about a team that went toe to toe with Atletico Madrid on Wednesday night. I watched that game and I thought they were excellent. I thought we contained a lot of their threats, and they have a lot of them.
“We defended really well, resolute when we neeed to be, and I thought we had the best chance of the game other than the crossbar incident at the end.
“At times we played some good stuff, the boys were brave and courageous at the back. It was a massive team effort.
“What we didn’t get right last week was defending those transition moments. When we lost the ball, we were slow to react, and the difference today was we defended as a team.”