Celtic 5-2 Hapoel Beer Sheva: Brendan Rodgers hails side's character

Brendan Rodgers
Rodgers' Celtic will take a three-goal lead into the second leg

Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers praised his side's "character" after they secured a "brilliant" win over Hapoel Beer Sheva.

The Champions League play-off first-leg result puts Celtic on course for the group stage of the competition.

The Scottish Premiership winners led 3-0 but lost two goals before adding two more of their own before the end

"At 3-2, to then go and win the game 5-2, really shows that mental strength of the players as well as the quality," said Rodgers.

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Celtic's mental strength impresses boss Rodgers

First-half goals from Tom Rogic and a brace from Leigh Griffiths put the Scottish champions firmly in control.

Lucio Maranhao and Maor Melikson replied for Hapoel early in the second half before Moussa Dembele's header and Scott Brown's effort restored Celtic's three-goal advantage ahead of next Tuesday's return leg in Beersheba.

"It is a brilliant result for us," added Rodgers. "You would obviously prefer 3-0 but 5-2 really shows the level that the team played at in a European game where there is everything riding on it.

"They are nowhere near the finished article yet but they look a really exciting team which is full of character.

"I said before about the supporters being patient and allowing the players to play, especially in difficult moments in games and I have to say a massive thank you because I think they took a stride forward tonight in terms of understanding how we want to work."

Captain Brown, making a club record 69th European appearance, was singled out for particular praise.

"I thought he was brilliant," said Rodgers of Brown, 31. "He has become lean over the course of pre-season and I thought he looked powerful, I thought the team looked fit and powerful.

Scott Brown playing against Hapoel Beer Sheva
Scott Brown (right) produced a dominant midfield performance

"Having worked in England, I look at him and think he could play in the Premier League in England. There is no question of that.

"But he loves it here, his heart is here and he wants to see out his career at Celtic. I thought he was outstanding with the ball, his goal after driving forward was a wonderful finish.

"He was one of many great performers tonight."

Hapoel manager Barak Bakhar feels it will be "very hard" for his side to recover from their deficit.

"We started the match very badly, we didn't play aggressively, but came back and were close to equalising but Celtic scored," he explained.

"We showed our qualities and we hope to do the unbelievable next week. We don't have a big chance. It will be very hard."

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