Brendan Rodgers hailed the “heart and soul” of his Celtic side after a last-gasp triumph at Hibernian restored their three-point lead over Rangers in the cinch Premiership.
Adam Idah scored penalties at either end of his first Celtic start to seal a 2-1 win and Rodgers’ first victory at Easter Road on his fifth visit.
Hibs had the better chances after Dylan Levitt’s equaliser on the hour mark but Joe Newell’s late challenge on Kyogo Furuhashi allowed Idah the chance to make himself an instant hero.
Rodgers said: “I said to the players before the game, listen, whatever has happened before, you have 14 games left.
“You’re not going to win the title tonight or lose it, but you can make a big psychological impact by coming away to a tough ground and winning.”
Rodgers admitted his side lacked the creativity and finesse to capitalise on their first-half possession and the composure to play through Hibernian’s press after the interval.
“But what I never doubt about these players and I said to them before the game, to get through and win games, we need to play with heart and soul, and the players showed immense heart to play through to the very end and get the victory,” he added.
“We will play better. We have to play better. It’s not the level I want to see. But we will go away and analyse it and look to be better in our next game.”
Three Celtic players have missed spot-kicks this season but on-loan Norwich forward Idah continued his perfect career penalty record.
“He had taken six penalties before and scored a great penalty against Holland for the Republic of Ireland,” Rodgers said.
“You just see how he addresses it, he knows he’s a penalty taker. Against David Marshall, who has had a fantastic career, there is a psychological test there as well. And he came through that. It was a great night for him.”
Hibs head coach Nick Montgomery felt Celtic got the breaks his team lacked from referee Nick Walsh and video assistant Andrew Dallas.
The first penalty came after Nectarios Triantis caught Alistair Johnston with a late aerial challenge that put the Canada defender in hospital.
Montgomery claimed Alexandro Bernabei had fouled Martin Boyle in the box – the winger was booked for diving – and was fortunate not to be penalised for an incident with Lewis Miller.
Montgomery said: “It was a real disappointing way to lose the game. I thought we were more than worthy of three points, we had some great chances.
“There were plenty of incidents that if the ref went over to the VAR, I think we would have had a penalty on Martin Boyle.
“Watching it back in slow motion, he gets caught from behind on his quad. He’s got a dead leg, he is limping around in there. It’s irrelevant how he goes down. If the ref looks at it, he has no option to give a penalty.
“And there was a foul on Lewis Miller where if he goes over to the VAR, I think that’s possibly a different colour card.
“The first penalty, Nectar is committed, he has gone to win the header. There’s no malice in it whatsoever. It’s two players going to win a header.
“If that happens anywhere else on the field, the game is stopped, the players get treatment and it’s maybe a drop ball. But I haven’t watched that one back closely.
“The second one, I watched it once. It maybe looks like it was just outside the box, Joe pulls out. Not one person in the stadium thought about asking for a penalty.”
After Johnston was carried off on a stretcher with a facial injury, Rodgers said: “He had gone to hospital. Some of the guys were just saying he had text through on social media or whatever it is that he is okay.”