Ange Postecoglou praises his players’ character after Celtic hold on for crucial win at Hearts
Ange Postecoglou cheers on his players’ character after Celtic hold onto crucial win over Hearts and pressure SPL leaders Rangers
- Celtic put Hearts to the sword in Tynecastle to bolster their title credentials
- Ange Postecoglou’s side went on after a 25m blast from Reo Hatate
- The Japanese star, who arrived this month, scored his first goal since joining
- Giorgos Giakoumakis made it 2-0 before Liam Boyce narrowed the deficit to 2-1
Ange Postecoglou praised the resilience of his Celtic side after they beat off a late kickback from Hearts to claim a massive three points.
Missing key players Callum McGregor, Kyogo Furuhashi, Tom Rogic, Daizen Maeda and Yosuke Ideguchi, Reo Hatate claimed a stunning first goal for the club before Giorgos added Giokoumakis a second before half time.
However, in a heart-pounding final half hour, Hearts top scorer Liam Boyce pulled one back and then hit a penalty kick to the base of the post, while the visitors had to dig deep to cling on.
Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou had to watch nervously as his side held out for 2-1
He praised new Bhoy Matt O’Riley for an assist on his debut Postecoglou raved about the character displayed by all his players
“If you chart the course of this team from the first time we were here – what people keep saying – the amount of challenges we’ve had means that we honestly haven’t had a very smooth run.
“But I don’t mind that, because it builds resilience and reveals character.
Reo Hatate (right) scored his first Celtic goal as they kept their league title bid on track
“It doesn’t matter which team we put there, the guys are showing they are ready and enjoying and embracing the kind of team we want to be.
“They don’t apologize or make any compensation for anything and I think that’s a credit to the whole group.
“The backlog was tighter than it should have been but in terms of overall performance on a tough night with a tough challenge I thought we had handled it well.
Hatate aimed from 25 yards and produced an emphatic opener away at Tynecastle
‘Matt was great. And Reo Hatate. Reo has played football for 70 minutes in the past month and Matty has trained with us for two or three days. That is only the fourth or fifth start of Giakoumakis. So we had some challenges, we knew that. Bitton was excellent in midfield, I thought.
“It’s probably the one thing that’s probably a bit underrated in this team, it’s just a really resilient group of players. There were plenty of reasons for them to apologize, but I still loved our football tonight with the changes we had to make.”
Hatate scored his first goal from 25 yards before Giokoumakis claimed his third Celtic attack eight minutes later – his second in two games.
“Reo has more, you know, he’s just getting started.
Craig Gordon didn’t get a chance in goal but the hosts made it a tough night in the capital
“It’s not easy because he set the bar pretty high after the first game.
“But he is a very determined young man to make it to the top.
“It’s nice for me because we’ve bought some guys in their early twenties who are really ambitious and who will improve and get better and be a really good core for the future.”
“Giorgos is also one of those people who certainly had a difficult first half of the year.
Celtic’s Giorgos Giakoumakis doubled the visitor advantage with a neat finish in Tynecastle
‘But that’s what I mean by character and mentality.
“I think he’s showing people why I brought him to the football club.”
Robbie Neilson expressed disappointment at failing to make the most of an evening when his side missed a penalty and defenders Michael Smith and Craig Halkett stumbled. New loan striker Ellis Simms – signed to Everton’s game – made a huge difference in the second half as Hearts threatened to take a point
“I thought we started the game very well, but Celtic are a very good team and we let them be a good team until the break.
Celtic are plagued by injuries but they punished Hearts early before the hosts rallied in response
“And at that point we’re 2-0 down and we’re chasing it. The second half was enjoyable, but I thought the first half could have been better.
“When you get opportunities, grab them and we had a few, but it wasn’t supposed to be tonight.”
Neilson has been criticized for decisions a number of times this season and felt that assistant referee Dougie Potter should have marked two offside goals, including his own side’s attack on Boyce.
“The Celtic goal and our goal are two bad decisions. You get decisions like this every week.
‘For me it’s a clear one. He must see it. No one stands between him and the Celtic player. We’re all for VAR – the sooner it happens, the better.
Liam Boyce (left) gave Hearts a lifeline, but his missed penalty was truly a missed opportunity