BSP-02 Rodgers hopes rest will revive weary Celtic

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Rodgers hopes rest will revive weary Celtic

GLASGOW, Dec 31, 2017 (BSS/AFP) – Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers admitted
his side are looking forward to a break after being held to a goalless draw
by Rangers in the Old Firm derby on Saturday.

The champions dominated the first half at Celtic Park but looked off the
pace in the second period as Rangers striker Alfredo Morelos spurned two
gilt-edged chances to give his side their first Old Firm league victory since
2012.

Celtic sit eight points clear of Aberdeen, who played out a goalless draw
with Hearts, at the top of the Scottish Premiership as the league shuts down
for a three-week winter break.

Rodgers acknowledged his side will be glad of the rest after suffering two
defeats and two draws in nine matches in December.

“I think the players need that recovery and rest. Up here we virtually play
back-to-back seasons so there’s no real rest,” said the Northern Irishman,
whose side failed to score at home for the first time since March 2016.

Their season began in the Champions League second qualifying round on July
14.

“We were playing our 38th competitive game and our ninth game in the month.
It was a real taxing period for the players, both mentally and physically.

“But I can only give credit to my players. We showed a different side
today. We weren’t quite as bright but it’s only natural.”

– ‘Job well done’ –

Rangers manager Graeme Murty revealed some angry words in the dressing room
at half-time inspired his side to a superb second-half showing as they
claimed only their second point against Celtic since their return to the top
flight in 2016.

“There were some frank exchanges of views amongst the players to try and
improve and that energy took them out into the second half,” said Murty.

“I made sure as they walked out on the football pitch no negativity was to
be tolerated — in body language or to one another.

“We had to be positive and I thought in the second half we were.

“I thought that from the whistle we showed good intensity, concentration,
focus and ability.

“So, they were walking off the pitch elated because of the manner of their
performance, but we know we could have won it.”

Despite their positive performance, Rangers remain in third spot — 11
points behind Celtic and three adrift of Aberdeen.

However, Rangers could have been a lot closer to the champions had it not
been for disappointing defeats to Hamilton Academical, Dundee, St Johnstone
and Kilmarnock in recent weeks.

Murty, who also claimed a point at Celtic Park on his last visit in March
during his first spell as caretaker boss, said his players must make this
level of performance the benchmark moving forward.

“We can’t take a backward step from here,” the former Scotland
international said.

“Our task collectively is to make sure that is our minimum standard. If we
do that then we are on a really good path to improving our lot and making
sure that we do close the gap.

“I said to them that when I walked out of this place last time it was with
a sense of ‘job well done’. I sit here now with a real sense of a journey
we’re just starting out on and we have to use that to move forward.

“If we do that then this game will have served a really good purpose beyond
just gaining a point.”

BSS/AFP/MSY/0849 hrs