Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou praised his side’s resilience after they held on for a 2-1 victory over Hearts at a raucous Tynecastle.
The Hoops led at the break through goals from Reo Hatate and Georgios Giakoumakis but they had to withstand some strong pressure from the hosts in the closing half hour, with Liam Boyce pulling one back before missing a penalty.
Postecoglou was thrilled with a victory that keeps his side within four points of cinch Premiership leaders Rangers ahead of next week’s Glasgow derby.
“It was a cracking game,” he said. “I thought we played really well. We should have killed the game off with a third goal.
“When they got their goal they hadn’t really created much up until that point. The crowd got behind them and it’s not an easy place to come and play. But I thought we defended well when we needed to, which you have to do when you come to a place like this.
“The scoreline was tighter than it should have been but in terms of the overall performance, on a difficult night with a difficult challenge, I thought we handled it well.”
Postecoglou was pleased his side eked out such a big victory without several key men, including Callum McGregor, Kyogo Furuhashi, Tom Rogic and David Turnbull.
He said: “If you chart the course of this team from the first time we were here (at Tynecastle on the opening day of the season), which people keep mentioning, the amount of challenges we’ve had means we haven’t really had a smooth run to be honest.
“But I don’t mind because it builds resilience and reveals character. It doesn’t matter what team we throw out there the guys show that they are ready for it and enjoying and embracing the kind of team we want to be.
“They are not making excuses for anything and I think that’s a credit to the whole group.”
Hearts mounted a spirited second-half fightback but Robbie Neilson was disappointed with the way his side relinquished the initiative before the break.
The Hearts boss said: “It’s a tinge of disappointment. I thought we started the game very well but Celtic are a very good team – and we allowed them to be a good team up to half-time.
“And at that point we are 2-0 down and chasing it. The second half was pleasing but I thought the first half could be better.
“We changed the shape a wee bit and personnel which always helps and we spoke about getting closer, getting the defensive and midfield lines up which allows us to put more pressure on them.
“In the first half we dropped and dropped and allowed them to control the game.”
Neilson criticised the assistant referee for allowing goals for both teams that should have been ruled out for offside.
He said: “The ref did alright but the linesman let him down. The Celtic goal and our goal are two poor decisions. You get decisions like that every week.
“For me, it’s a clear-cut one. He’s got to see it. There’s nobody in between him and the Celtic player. We’re all for VAR – the sooner it happens, the better.”
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