Celtic's Jonny Hayes more happy with win than first goal against Aberdeen

Celtic's Jonny Hayes scores against Aberdeen
Jonny Hayes scored Celtic's second goal against Aberdeen

Jonny Hayes was relieved and delighted to score against Aberdeen but played down its significance - despite it being his first for Celtic and against his former club.

Hayes made only his seventh start since moving from Pittodrie this summer.

"I was delighted but more delighted by the outcome with Aberdeen obviously being right on our heels in second place," he said after the 3-0 win.

"We wanted the win to extend that lead going into Christmas."

Hayes added to Mikael Lustig's first-half opener, while Olivier Ntcham completed the scoring, as Celtic moved eight points clear at the top of the Scottish Premiership with a win the 30-year-old thought had been achieved "in good style in the end".

"The team's been doing really well and it's been difficult to get in at times and, anytime I have played, I've been wanting to score and it's taken until December," Hayes told BBC Scotland.

"Obviously it was a little bit of a relief."

But the Republic of Ireland international insisted that he had not let a lack of goals worry him.

Celtic's Jonny Hayes and Brendan Rodgers celebrate
Hayes was praised by Brendan Rodgers for becoming more aggressive since joining Celtic

"The confidence the manager and the staff give to our forward players, you never think too much about whether you're scoring or not," said Hayes.

"As long as the team is winning, we've got plenty of players who can score and plenty of goals in the team.

"As long as the team is winning and doing well, it's such a great atmosphere at the club that you're happy for everybody."

It was down to manager Brendan Rodgers to highlight the significance of Hayes' close-range strike.

"A young Irish man, I know what it means to be from Ireland and support the team, but to play for Celtic and get your first goal, especially against your old club, it is a really special day for him," said the Northern Irishman.

"He is just settling into the club, but the last couple of months have really seen him make a step forward, be that bit more direct in training.

"Sometimes, when you come into a club, you are a little bit safe and be everyone's friend, but now he is really aggressive in his game, with and without the ball. I am delighted for him."

Rodgers also praised the performance of Kristoffer Ajer, the 19-year-old Norway defender who signed from Start in 2016 and was sent on loan to Kilmarnock last season.

Celtic's Stuart Armstrong and Kristoffer Ajer celebrate
Brendan Rodgers says Kristoffer Ajer (right) was turned from boy into man by his loan to Kilmarnock

While Ajer made his fourth December appearance, Jozo Simunovic and Nir Bitton, who have both partnered Dedryck Boyata in central defence, sat on the bench and Denmark international Erik Sviatchenko was again not involved after his return from injury.

Celtic travel to Dundee on Boxing Day before next weekend's visit of Rangers and Rodgers says he could choose Ajer to feature in the Old Firm derby.

"I would have no hesitation," the manager said. "He has all the qualities - it is just about getting him the experience. I thought he was brilliant.

"I said afterwards in the changing-room to all the players, this is a boy that, when I came in last year was 18, 6ft 5in but just needed some men's football.

"We sent him to Kilmarnock and he was taught very well by Lee McCulloch and Lee Clark and, when he came in the summer, he was a man.

"He was physically developed and he played in some of the Champions League games early on.

"He is fast, he can carry the ball and you see how he wins his aerial challenges as well so he is a big prospect for us."

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