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We 'failed to cope' with Kyle Lafferty, says Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers


By Ronnie Esplin

Boss Brendan Rodgers revealed he called an impromptu Celtic huddle on the Tynecastle pitch after their 69-game unbeaten domestic record ended in a 4-0 defeat by Hearts to remind them of their historic achievement.

The Parkhead side, who broke their own 100-year-old British record when they made it 63 against St Johnstone in November, were stunned when the energetic Jambos raced into a deserved two-goal interval lead in the Ladbrokes Premiership encounter through goals from 16-year-old midfielder Harry Cochrane and striker Kyle Lafferty.

A second half double from attacker David Milinkovic, one from the penalty spot, put the finishing touches on a remarkable afternoon.

Rodgers was keen to put his first defeat by a Scottish club as Celtic boss since joining the Hoops in 2016 into context.

The Ulsterman said: "Firstly, congratulations to Hearts, they were the better team today and deserved to win the game.

"I have said over many months, if the players weren't human I would say they would never lose. It was always going to happen. It is not nice when it does.

"I wanted to pull the players together and let them be aware that they were better than us today and we have to accept that.

"What they have done is absolutely amazing but to use this feeling that they haven't felt for 18 months, use it as a lever moving forward and let's learn from it.

"We made too many mistakes in the game to get anything out of it. Defensively we struggled. Hearts played a direct game which is fine and we failed to cope with Lafferty in the first period.

"He gave our two centre halves problems and you have to defend well to win a game. It is in the past now. We have to hit the reset button."

It was Hearts' biggest victory over Celtic since a 5-0 win in 1895.

Boss Craig Levein revealed he had taken the risk of basing his tactics on Belgian side Anderlecht who found success at Celtic Park in their Champions League clash earlier in the month with a 1-0 win.

He said: "We based our game on the Anderlecht game -high-pressing, being brave at the back and going man-for-man at times.

"It was pleasing. All credit to Celtic for going into a game which would have been their 70th match without defeat.

"I am just pleased that our lads were able to end that run."

HEARTS: McLaughlin, Brandon, Buaben (McDonald, 67 mins), Berra, Smith, Cochrane, Callachan (Grzelak, 84 mins), Cowie, Randall, Milinkovic, Lafferty (Stockton, 71 mins). Unused subs: Hamilton, Hughes, Keena, Goncalves.

CELTIC: Gordon, Lustig, Simunovic, Boyata, Forrest, Ntcham (Armstrong, 46 mins), Brown, Tierney (Dembele, 46 mins), McGregor (Edouard, 67 mins), Sinclair, Griffiths. Unused subs: De Vries, Ajer, Hayes, Kouassi.

Referee: Willie Collum

Man of the match: David Milinkovic

Match rating: 7/10



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