Brendan Rodgers: Celtic have loads of heart
Brendan Rodgers praised the resilience of his Celtic players after they came from behind to grab a crucial 1-1 draw against Astana in Kazakhstan.
Defender Yuri Logvinenko headed the home side ahead from a corner in the 19th minute of the Champions League third qualifying round at the noisy Astana Arena and the Hoops had to withstand some heavy pressure.
But, in the 78th minute, striker Leigh Griffiths drilled in an equaliser to stun the Kazakhstan champions, a fightback that pleased Ulsterman Rodgers no end ahead of the second leg next week.
Rodgers said: "The resilience and strength that we have built up over the course of the pre-season came into effect.
"It was an outstanding result for us.
"Collectively the mentality was the most pleasing thing.
"We were written off before the match but the players deserve an immense amount of credit, to fight and show spirit and passion in the game."
Rodgers said: “I was disappointed with the goal, it is nothing new, but we showed a wonderful mentality to keep fighting and in the second-half we restricted them to not so many clear chances and ended up scoring a fantastic goal.
“It is only half-time but it is a very important result for us.”
Rodgers was also delighted with 20-year-old Irish centre back Eoghan O’Connell, who was making his European debut on a “difficult, unnatural” artificial surface.
Ulsterman Rodgers said: “I thought he was outstanding. For a young player, he has been on the fringes for a few years, coming into that environment, under pressure, he had very few mistakes. You would expect him to make some as a young player but he coped.”
However, O’Connell was as culpable as any of the Hoops players when Astana scored their goal from a corner and it is an issue the former Liverpool manager will address.
He added: “I think there has been an issue there with set-pieces, long before I came in.
“We have lost the man too easy so you put yourself under pressure. Over the course of pre-season, we defended them well in the main but it is an element that we have to be better at.”
Astana coach Stanimir Stoilov said: “We will try our best in Glasgow and hopefully we will have a very good spirit over there. We will have to double our efforts to get what we want.”