CELTIC face an anxious wait to discover the extent of the knee injury which forced captain Scott Brown to abruptly pull out of their League Cup quarter-final win over Hearts at Tynecastle last night.
The midfielder limped away from their pre-match warm-up, forcing a late change in manager Ronny Deila’s team selection.
I don’t think it is serious. I hope it isn’t. But we have to wait for the scanScott Brown
The League Cup holders coped without their influential skipper, goals from Leigh Griffiths and Tom Rogic earning a 2-1 victory over a Hearts side whose response from Arnaud Djoum came in stoppage time.
But Deila’s celebrations were tempered by concern over Brown ahead of a crucial period in Celtic’s season with Saturday’s Premiership fixture against nearest rivals Aberdeen followed by next Thursday’s must-win Europa League tie at home to Molde.
“Scott felt something in his knee during the warm-up,” said Deila. “We will have to scan it tomorrow and then we can say what it is.
“I don’t think it is serious. I hope it isn’t. But, again, it is a knee and we have to wait for the scan.
“It makes the performance even better that we played that way after losing our captain. But we had an Israeli international [Nir Bitton] and a Norwegian international [Stefan Johansen] there, so we have good players coming into that position. Those two played very well.
“I’m very, very happy. It is a great win and an important win. I think the performance was very good.
“We controlled the game and they didn’t have a chance before they scored. You could see we have now played three games in six days [sic], of course. We were lacking in a little tempo to open up space for Leigh. But Tom Rogic came on and added tempo into the game. Then we got our chances. Leigh is sniffing around and waiting for those chances. Today he scored one and made one. Leigh has been phenomenal. It’s confidence, good training, being professional on and off the pitch, these are important things.”
Hearts manager Robbie Neilson was satisfied with his team’s performance in defeat and chose to reflect on the overall progress they have made since last season when they were heavily beaten by Celtic in both domestic cup competitions.
“We didn’t look like we were going to concede for long periods of the game tonight,” said Neilson. “Our quality could have been better on the counter attack when we broke, we had opportunities to do it.
“But we have come a long way in 18 months, the club has been in administration, got promotion to the top league and we are sitting here getting frustrated after a 2-1 defeat to Celtic when they were holding on at the end, desperate to get the win.
“It shows how far we have come but we want to continue to build and grow. I thought the players tonight were magnificent for me. Young guys like Callum Paterson, Sam Nicholson and Jordan McGhee, guys like that who have come through the academy, are going to grow in this team.”