Brendan Rodgers has launched a robust defence of Scott Brown after Hearts manager Craig Levein took a swipe at the Celtic captain.
The former Scotland boss was “annoyed” at a challenge during Celtic’s 3-1 midweek victory which left 16-year-old midfielder Harry Cochrane facing a spell on the sidelines.
Cochrane, who scored in Hearts’ 4-0 win over the champions in December, suffered a collarbone injury when Brown landed on top of him after competing for a bouncing ball.
Rodgers said: “There was nothing in the tackle, they competed in the air. The young guy was unfortunate with Scott’s power and strength, young boy clearly falls awkward and he was in pain coming off.
“You could argue, should a 16-year-old be put into a game of that magnitude against the best team in Scotland, into a game of that level of intensity?
“The young player showed he could handle it in the game at Tynecastle.
“But I don’t think there is anything against Scott Brown on it.
“If you actually look at the game, the foul count was towards Hearts, 21 against our nine.”
Levein had added: “I watched it back and I think Scott, after the game at Tynecastle when Harry bossed him, I think he decided he wasn’t going to let that happen.”
Rodgers was quick to challenge that assertion as well, adding his own take on Tuesday’s win.
“Scott Brown goes into every game to dominate the game,” he said.
“That’s what I ask him and the team to do.
“I don’t think he was bossed at Tynecastle, as a team we weren’t so good and Hearts did well.
“We were humble after the game and I would hope Hearts were the same after this game.
“The game the other day was my 101st (as Celtic manager) and it was the easiest game I had to give my players motivation for.
“Why? Because in the aftermath of the last game we had one or two comments which came out which was pretty clear questioning our desire to win the game.
“With players and people at the club, that sticks.
“So the motivation for the players was simple and I think we showed that in the performance.”
When asked whether Cochrane should get more protection from referees, Levein had replied: “I think everyone needs a little bit more protection from Scott Brown.”
But Rodgers refuted any claims that Brown was overly aggressive or referees were overly lenient.
The Northern Irishman said: “He is a top class international player and I have been fortunate in my career to have worked with top level players and those players are highly competitive and they play on the limit all the time, whether they are midfielders, defenders or strikers.
“Scott Brown is a great example of a top class player who plays on the limit every game.
“That’s why our supporters love him and other players will respect him.”