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Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers hit back at critics who treated him “like a novice” as he hailed the mentality of his team following a season-defining victory over Rangers.

A 2-1 Parkhead triumph moved Celtic six points and seven goals clear of their rivals with two cinch Premiership matches left.

The champions had lost a seven-point lead over Gers but never saw the title slip out of their own hands and they have moved within a point of glory ahead of Wednesday’s trip to Kilmarnock.

By his own admission, Rodgers has had a challenging first season back at Celtic Park with injuries to the likes of Cameron Carter-Vickers, Reo Hatate, Callum McGregor and Daizen Maeda affecting performances.

The low point was back-to-back league defeats by Hearts and Kilmarnock in December, which prompted former Celtic striker Chris Sutton to argue that Rodgers was “going through the motions”.

“From a professional perspective there will be doubt,” the 51-year-old said after his 13th victory in 17 games against Rangers.

“From a personal perspective, I am surprised in a way where I heard somebody saying ‘Brendan Rodgers was going through the motions’ earlier in the season.

“Now, I get to work between half seven and eight o’clock every day of my life. I leave the training ground between half six and seven o’clock at night. And then when I get home, I have my dinner and probably flip on the computer and watch more football.

“Now, if that’s going through the motions, I want to know what every other manager is doing.

“So, from a personal level, I have been treated like a novice since I’ve come back here. Like it’s my first job.

“However, my principle objective is to make sure Celtic win. Part of that is a part of the criticism and I understand that.

“But it’s the mentality of the team that is most important to me, and that mentality you can see from where we were, with injuries, how we progressed, how we stayed unified and together, and how we then get to this point where we are nearly crossing the finishing line.

“And we don’t just want to cross it, we want to sprint over it. We have two games to go, plus a final, and that is our mentality.”

Celtic started the stronger side and had more chances in an open encounter before Matt O’Riley sparked a manic finale to the first half by driving home the opener.

Rangers midfielder John Lundstram soon put through his own net and was sent off for a foul on Alistair Johnston after Cyriel Dessers had pulled a goal back.

O’Riley saw a second-half penalty saved by Jack Butland as Celtic struggled to see off the challenge of the 10 men before a nervy finale.

But the final whistle sparked celebrations from the home supporters and the title could even be wrapped up on Tuesday, if Rangers fail to beat Dundee.

Rodgers said: “It’s a massive win and a great day for the supporters. But we’ll recover and hopefully finish the job off on Wednesday.

“I was really pleased up until we missed the penalty. Our energy, speed and tempo in the game – as well as the quality of our football – was very good.

“At 11 v 10, as we’ve been a few times this season, I don’t like it. We’re not good at it. There shouldn’t be that tension at the end of a game when you have so much control. That’s about being clinical.

“It was a hot day and the players gave everything. But at 2-1, anything can happen against 10 or nine men. There were long balls into the box but we stood up to it magnificently.

“Come the end, it was a a great three points for us.”