Brendan Rodgers lamented the performance level of a much-changed team as Celtic missed out on the opportunity to return to the top of the table after conceding an 88th-minute equaliser to draw 1-1 at Motherwell.
The Irishman defended his decision to make seven changes from Sunday’s Betfred Cup final winning starting XI, but conceded it affected standards set recently as Celtic could not capitalise on taking the lead early on through Ryan Christie - Leigh Griffiths having a penalty saved and Filip Benkovic a goal chalked off ahead of Danny Johnson producing a clinical strike for the home side at the close.
“Not a very good performance,” said Rodgers, with Scott Brown, Cristian Gamboa, Jonny Hayes, Olivier Ntcham and Griffiths among the changes. “ It was a game that we didn’t play well in - in particular the first-half. We scored a good goal and then didn’t take the chance with the penalty and also had a good goal ruled out from Filip Benkovic.
“At that stage I wasn’t so happy with our positioning and level of our game. In the second half our positioning was better but we were still too loose. Then of course if you don’t take chances you are vulnerable at the end of the game. It’s definitely two points dropped.
“When you bring in full international players you’d expect it to be ok. You can’t go through a season with 11 players. We have players out injured so it was what we had to do. It’s good to look at the levels – Jonny Hayes did great and I think his thrust and pressing was very good given that he hasn’t played for a while. He showed moments of quality despite not playing for a while. It’s good for a manager to see – players will knock and ask about why they are not playing and I need to see a game like that. We’ll recover and look forward to playing at home as it feels like ages since we played at home.”
That Saturday fixture will now pit the top two against one another with Kilmarnock now sitting at summit of the Premiership. “Kilmarnock have played a couple more games than us but it’s still really good for them to be up there and it makes the game at the weekend very important for us. It’s still very early. I look at the performance.”
Motherwell manager felt his side deserved their draw after losing captain Peter Hartley and Liam Donnelly to injury in the early stages, and requiring Mark Gillespie to produce a superb double save when Celtic were awarded a 39th minute penalty.
“I thought we showed a real amount of character to go and press Celtic high up the pitch,” he said. “You are always at risk with the quality they have, they can pick you off, but I thought we were disciplined and organised. They showed a little bit of quality and I think we deserved a point in the end.
“When you lose a player and they score when we are down to 10 men you think ‘is it going to be one of those evenings again’. Mark [Gillespie} and Conor Sammon are the examples to our younger boys. They haven’t had loads of opportunities but what they’ve done is they’ve trained every day like their first team players, every day they’ve been ready.
Mark has come in and been excellent. His save was like scoring a goal, to be honest, because it keeps us in the game, the momentum it gives us. And give the ball to Danny [Johnson] in the box and he scores goals. So much of his game has to improve, we know that he knows that. We took a little gamble on a non-league boy and at this moment it’s paying off.”