Nat Phillips' Celtic display judged by Brendan Rodgers as team comes under microscope - 'we weren’t able, for some reason, to do that'

The Liverpool loanee scored an own goal and his second-half display reflected grim day for his team

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers conceded the second-half performance from centre-back Nat Phillips in their 2-1 Premiership loss at Kilmarnock was symptomatic of the downturn in his team’s fortunes as they relinquished a one-goal advantage.

The spotlight will fall on the contribution of the Liverpool loanee to the club’s first league defeat of the season – deputising for a Cameron Carter-Vickers not risked on the Rugby Park plastic pitch – after he poked a Brad Lyons cross into his own net for a 75th-minute equaliser in a period when errors crept in as the home side went for the jugular. “I think Nat played like the team,” the Celtic manager said when asked to assess the showing of the defender. “In the first half he was dominant in the air and he was physically strong. The two centre-halves were good together and dealt with the aerial threat. It was fine. We just went a little bit negative in the second half and ended up conceding the two goals and he was unfortunate with the own goal.”

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Rodgers refused to cite conditions as a factor in his team’s shortcomings, even as the result means he has now lost four of his past five games on the Ayrshire plastic across his two spells as Celtic manager. “I thought the pitch was all right for an astroturf surface,” he said. “When you get rain, it makes it slick, and it was actually good but in the British game you have to have that adaptability but it wasn't as if it was the whole performance, but it was a big disappointment because we didn't see that in the first half.

Celtic's Nat Phillips looks on after losing 2-1 to Kilmarnock.Celtic's Nat Phillips looks on after losing 2-1 to Kilmarnock.
Celtic's Nat Phillips looks on after losing 2-1 to Kilmarnock.

“I thought in the first-half we were very good. We played at a good speed and created opportunities. We could maybe have been more than 1-0 up by half-time. But in the second-half we never got started. You expect a wee bit of pressure for ten or 15 minutes, which we weathered at set pieces and corners. But we never passed the ball. We were under a bit more pressure, sure, but you have to be resistant to that pressure. We weren’t able to make passes to take us up the pitch and that was the biggest disappointment of the second-half. We couldn’t sustain any attacking threat. We had one chance when Matt O’Riley ran through but little simple things we were winning in the first-half, we weren’t in the second half.

“When you play Kilmarnock it’s quite a direct game so you have to be able to win the first, second and third balls. But we didn’t do that. At the moment it’s just about finding that consistency for the 90 minutes. We had 45 minutes away at St Johnstone when we weren’t so good, and in the second-half we were much better. We had a good game during the week [with the 4-1 win over Hibs]. Now today we continued with that in the first-half – but you have to be much better than we were in the second-half.

“The players know themselves. We spoke after the game about this isn’t how we want to do. In the second-half we played their game instead of playing our game. I thought we got rid of the ball in the second-half instead of passing it. And there is a big difference. When we showed our level in the first-half we were very good.

“It was how we wanted the game to look in the first-half. But in key moments and decisive moments we didn’t defend well enough [in the second]. Corners and set pieces, in the main we dealt with them. But there were other moments where we had to be stronger defensively. But our biggest issue in the second half was that we never made passes. And we ended up being too negative in our passing. If you play a team that’s pressing and right up against you there you’ve got to pass the ball forward. Because that forward pass eliminates pressure. And we weren’t able, for some reason, to do that.”