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Rodgers will shuffle the pack to keep Bhoys firing

Celtic 3 Livingston 1

By Ronnie Esplin

Boss Brendan Rodgers carefully juggled his squad in Saturday's 3-1 win over Livingston at Parkhead in acknowledgement of Celtic's hectic schedule.

For the opening Ladbrokes Premiership fixture of the 2018/19 season, in the midst of a relentless Champions League qualification campaign, the Northern Irishman had to "manage the players".

Mikael Lustig and Tom Rogic started for the first time after returning from World Cup duty with Sweden and Australia respectively, while Jozo Simunovic returned after serving his two-game suspension.

Fit-again winger Jonny Hayes made his first competitive appearance in over eight months against the newly-promoted West Lothian side, while striker Leigh Griffiths was back on the bench after recovering from injury.

Goals from Rogic and striker Odsonne Edouard handed the reigning champions a comfortable interval lead, with midfielder Olivier Ntcham adding a third with a penalty five minutes after the break, allowing Rodgers to introduce Griffiths, Kieran Tierney and Mikey Johnston before Scott Robinson's added time consolation for the visitors.

Celtic now turn their attention to the first leg of their Champions League third-round qualifier against AEK Athens at Parkhead on Wednesday night and, notwithstanding Ntcham's ankle knock which makes him a doubt, the former Liverpool boss was glad that important players have more minutes under their belts. He said: "That was the idea earlier on in the game, taking Odsonne off and trying to give Leigh some game time.

"We gave young Mikey some game time as well, while the others like Lustig, Simunovic and Tom Rogic got games.

"We tried to manage that side of it and it was just unfortunate with Olivier and we'll see how he is.

"Tom was excellent. He's been building up over the last two to three weeks or so and he just finds space naturally and he created and scored a goal.

"There are not 11 players who are going to get us through this period, especially at the beginning of the season, so we're having to manage the players when we bring them in and take one or two out, without disrupting the fluency of the team."

Lustig added: "It was nice to get 90 minutes into the legs.

"It was a little bit dry out there, but especially in the first half we played well and got some goals." It was the toughest possible start to the league season for Livingston's new player/manager Kenny Miller, but he was far from discouraged.

The former Celtic and Rangers striker said: "Moving forward we'll definitely be looking to improve on the ball.

"But you won't play many teams who are going to keep the ball from you like that.

"But the boys stuck to the game-plan right to the end."

CELTIC: Gordon, Lustig, Ajer, Simunovic, Forrest, Brown, Ntcham, Hayes (Tierney, 60 mins), Rogic (Johnston, 73 mins), McGregor, Edouard (Griffiths, 60 mins). Unused subs: Bain, Hendry, Sinclair, Christie.

LIVINGSTON: Kelly, Brown (McMillan, 60 mins), Gallagher, Halkett, Saunders, Kaja, Pittman, Byrne, Robinson, K Miller (Hamilton, 77 mins), L Miller (Lawless, 60 mins). Unused subs: Stewart, Lithgow, Jacobs, Cadden

Referee: Nick Walsh

Man of the match: Tom Rogic

Match rating: 7/10

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