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Rodgers salutes Celtic’s fitness after late goals crown impressive win

By July 11, 2018No Comments

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers hailed the fitness levels of his players after a flying start to their Champions League qualification campaign.

The Hoops won 3-0 against Alashkert in Armenia on Tuesday evening in the first leg of the first qualifying round.

The game kicked off in 33C heat in Yerevan as Celtic began their new season just over seven weeks after beating Motherwell in the William Hill Scottish Cup final.

But two goals in the final 10 minutes from James Forrest and Callum McGregor, which added to Odsonne Eduoard’s opener, were evidence of how well the Scottish champions had prepared for the midsummer challenge.

Rodgers told his club’s official website: “It was very hot for us on the bench and we were only watching. I take my hat off to my players. We are certainly not used to these conditions, but they coped really well and showed a strong mentality.

“When you can score late goals like we did then it tells you everything about the fitness. We pride ourselves on how hard we work, how hard we run and the intensity of our game.

“To do that in these conditions is a huge testament to how focused and how fit they are at this point. There’s still a long way to go for them, but their fitness levels were evident in a game that had a lot of meaning to it and it was really pleasing to me.”

Forrest felt the benefit of a difficult pre-season regime as Celtic gave themselves a comfortable cushion ahead of next Wednesday’s return leg.

“We didn’t underestimate them and they had a couple of chances as well,” the winger told Celtic TV.

“They are a good side, but we finished the game strong. You saw that with the two late goals and we could have scored more at the end.

“It’s been a really tough three-and-a-half weeks now in pre-season, but I think the boys are getting up to speed now.

“We know they are important games, playing for Celtic in the Champions League qualifiers. They are the hardest games and they come right at the start so we know we need to be at it right from the off.”