Celtic manager Ronny Deila praised the character and professionalism of Emilio Izaguirre after the grief-stricken defender played while mourning the shocking death of his Honduran compatriot, Arnold Peralta.
Izaguirre paid an emotional tribute to former Rangers player Peralta, who was murdered in their homeland last Thursday, as he helped Celtic to a 3-0 win against St Johnstone in Perth yesterday.
Having described Peralta as “a brother and a loved one”, Izaguirre wore a T-shirt bearing a personal message and a black armband with the No 12 on it, which was Peralta’s when he played for Honduras.
Deila revealed he took Izaguirre aside before the match to assess if he was in the right frame of mind to play.
“I talked with him before the game and he was ready,” said Deila. “I trust my players and he did a really good job.
“It was hard for Emilio but he wanted to play. I’m very pleased with the way he got through the game. It could have been a good thing for him.
Emilio made the choice himself to play. That was important. I did’t put any pressure on him.Ronny Deila
“He made the choice himself to play. That was important. I didn’t put any pressure on him. He wanted to play and I am very happy with his performance, particularly when you consider the circumstances.”
Izaguirre contributed to a victory which leaves Celtic four points clear of Aberdeen at the top of the Scottish Premiership with a game in hand.
Nadir Ciftci scored twice, either side of a Dedryck Boyata goal, and Deila was gratified by the Turkish striker’s display as he deputised for injured top- scorer Leigh Griffiths.
“I’m so happy for Nadir,” said Deila. “Leigh has been unbelievable this season and you don’t take a goalscorer like him out of your team.
“But we know Nadir can bring things to the team. He scored twice today and was strong. It makes it better for everybody that we don’t need to rely on Leigh for everything.”
St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright was left to bemoan his team’s failure to convert the chances they created while the match was still in the balance and their defensive frailty at Celtic’s first two goals which both came from corners.
“It’s hard to take,” said Wright. “We can only look at ourselves. There was some good goalkeeping from Craig Gordon but we could have been more ruthless in front of goal.
“We ended up losing the game because we gave away two goals from corners.
“Okay, they were good deliveries. But the second one in particular we should have dealt with better.
“I am disappointed for the players. I am not disappointed with the overall performance because I thought it was excellent.
“We looked the team with the more cutting edge from open play for long periods. We created numerous opportunities but didn’t take them. It’s easy for them at 3-0 to open us up more but I was really proud of the players for the display they put in.”