Aberdeen 0-2 Celtic: Brendan Rodgers - 'We showed why we are champions'

Kieran Tierney slams home Celtic's second goal
Kieran Tierney scored Celtic's goal goal after they were reduced to 10 men by Mikael Lustig's red card

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers says his players proved they still have the stuff of champions by putting aside their European dismay to beat Aberdeen.

The Dons had a chance to cut the gap to six points on the Premiership leaders, who lost 3-0 at Zenit St Petersburg to exit the Europa League on Thursday.

But goals from Moussa Dembele and Kieran Tierney put an end to any Aberdeen challenge and they lost 2-0.

"I said to the players, it's why we show ourselves as champions," he said.

"Each time we take a knock, each time there are critics, we bounce back.

"To come here and go away with a 2-0 victory, and be the dominant team, is a fantastic win for us, 72 hours after the game in Russia."

Rodgers had a dig at their domestic rivals, who have not had to deal with the demands of a European campaign, as he celebrated a ninth straight win over the Dons under his tenure, and a 10th for Celtic since their last defeat in February 2016.

He predicted the champions, who have already retained the League Cup, would only get better in the remaining weeks of the domestic campaign as they chase a second successive domestic treble.

"We are on an even keel with other teams now as there are 10 games to go in the league, and some teams around us have been on holiday for a year with virtually one game a week," he said.

"We have dealt with everything up to this point and now we can really focus and concentrate domestically. Hopefully we can finish off what has already been a really good season so far and make it another great season.

"We always want to win the best way we can, we are nine points ahead with 10 games to go and teams around us have pressure now. They have been playing with no pressure for a lot of the season."

Scott Brown takes issue with Sam Cosgrove after the Aberdeen striker's challenge on the Celtic captain earned him a red card
Scott Brown takes issue with Sam Cosgrove after the Aberdeen substitute's challenge on the Celtic captain earned him a red card

Rodgers praised Dembele, who scored only his 10th goal of the season - his first in six matches - and laid on the second for Tierney with a well judged pass.

"Moussa is a big-game player and we are at the stage of the season where he comes alive in terms of what the team needs from him," Rodgers said.

"His pass on the breakaway was outstanding - a lovely weight - and Kieran finished it really well. For his goal, it's well worked and a brilliant cross from James [Forrest]."

Rodgers was less than impressed by Aberdeen duo Sam Cosgrove and Shay Logan, the former sent off for a wild lunge on Scott Brown, with the latter appearing to aim the ball at the Celtic captain while he was lying on the ground.

"It's not a great challenge from the boy [Cosgrove] and Logan is not the best example for young players when he twice tried to smash the ball at the player on the floor. Fortunately for Scott, he didn't hurt him."

'We slit our own throats' - McInnes

Derek McInnes reacts in frustration during
Derek McInnes endured another frustrating day as Aberdeen lost a 10th straight game to Celtic

Aberdeen, runners-up for the past three seasons, remain third in the table and are now 12 points adrift of Celtic.

"I thought the result was harsh on us," McInnes told BBC Scotland. "Celtic were obviously clinical. I can't remember them having too many opportunities.

"I thought we did a lot right in terms of what I was looking for. We allowed Celtic possession in certain areas. I thought we offered a counter-attacking threat. I thought we had enough moments, even in the first half, to give us encouragement.

"It was disappointing to lose the goal but Celtic have got that quality if you give them space.

"We had them where we wanted them in the second half. There was a lot of goalmouth action and it felt like there was something there for us."

He added "two moments of madness" may have stopped them getting something from the game.

"Sam [Cosgrove] gets himself sent off, and from our set-play we get done on a counter," he said. "Good teams will punish you but we have absolutely slit our own throats with that second goal.

"But I am very pleased with a lot of today. We wanted to win the game so I am disappointed with the result, but we showed we are a proper team.

"Too often, I feel, in the bigger games, we have been too dependent on individuals. We still need individuals to score the goals for us, but we were a real team, we worked hard for each other.

"We were guilty of some mistakes and guilty of not bringing that quality in the final third but, other than that, we were pretty spot-on."

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