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Rodgers says Armstrong can shine for national side

Dundee 1 Celtic 2

By Ronnie Esplin

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers believes Stuart Armstrong is ready for his Scotland debut after watching the midfielder score his 12th goal of the season in the 2-1 win over Dundee at Dens Park.

The 24-year-old midfielder has been in senior squads before, the last time in 2015 when he was forced to withdraw before a double-header against Georgia and Germany due to injury.

He was included again by Scotland boss Gordon Strachan for the challenge match against Canada at Easter Road on Wednesday night and the 2018 World Cup qualifier against Slovenia at Hampden next Sunday.

After watching Celtic go back 25 points clear of Aberdeen and within one victory of clinching their sixth successive title, Hoops boss Rodgers was asked if the former Scotland Under-21 cap was ready to make the step up.

"Yes I think so," he said. "There are obviously good players with Scotland and in that part of the field.

"The one thing I will say is that I have always believed that international football is about technique, speed, mobility and a tactical awareness, and he has got those elements.

"He has all the tools to play at the top level of international football in a really quick game, so he certainly can go in and play.

"He has this inbuilt brain to score goals and different types of goals.

"He is a big talent and he is only going one way, which is nice for Celtic and Scotland."

Armstrong was more reticent about his debut prospects but conceded he has benefited from Champions League experience with Celtic this season.

He said "I am very happy about it and my family is very proud, so I will hopefully be taking my Celtic form into training next week.

"The last time I was called in was a while ago and I had to pull out through injury, which was frustrating.

"It has taken a while to get back in and I am very excited and looking forward to it.

"Playing the Champions League was a great experience and you learn a lot from big occasions like that.

"Every player wants to represent their country and I am sure it will be a special moment if I do pull on the jersey."

It turned out to be a tricky trip to Tayside for the Hoops, who took the lead in the last action of the first half when defender Jozo Simunovic's shot deflected off Dundee counterpart Kevin Gomis.

Armstrong headed a second in the 51st minute but Paul Hartley's men rallied and substitute Faissal El Bakhtaoui made an immediate impact when he came on in the 74th minute to thunder in a 25-yard drive two minutes later.

Celtic saw the match out and will win the title with a victory over Hearts in the first game back after the international break.

However, if Aberdeen lose at Dens Park in their fixture two days before the Hoops visit Tynecastle, the Parkhead men will be champions.

Rodgers said: "It would be a good to win it at Tynecastle.

"We have nine games left in the league. The ideal scenario would be you win it yourself but I will happily take Dundee winning it."

Dundee boss Paul Hartley was pleased with the way his side responded to losing a late goal in the first half and a second early in the second half.

He said: "If it's 0-0 it's a different story when you speak to the players but it can happen.

"We regrouped at half-time and told the players we were still in it.

"The second goal was poor from us. We didn't stay on our feet and didn't match the midfield runner.

"But we stayed in it, we put Celtic under pressure, got the goal and then (Marcus) Haber had a chance.

"Give our players credit, we kept going, we never gave up and we went 4-4-2.

"That left us a bit exposed but we needed to have a go.

"I knew they would keep going and I'm pleased with the performance."

Dundee: Bain, Kerr, O'Dea, Gomis, Holt, O'Hara, McGowan, Vincent (Wighton, 59 mins), Hateley (Ross, 68 mins), Ojamaa (El Bakhtaoui, 74 mins), Haber. Unused subs: Mitchell, Williams, Klok, Gadzhalov.

Celtic: Gordon, Lustig, Boyata, Simunovic, Tierney, Brown, McGregor (Kouassi, 68 mins), Armstrong, Forrest (Roberts, 70 mins), Sinclair (Sviatchenko, 83 mins), Dembele. Unused subs: Bailly, Sviatchenko, Griffiths, Gamboa, Roberts, Bitton, Kouassi.

Referee: William Collum

Man of the match: Stuart Armstrong

Match rating: 6/10

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