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Relief for Rodgers as defenders return and ‘understudies’ shine

Brendan Rodgers was given plenty to think about after Celtic’s final pre-season friendly, a 3-2 win over Athletic Club Bilbao in the James Forrest Testimonial.

The returning manager player two completely different XI’s bar a four minute second half slot for the man of the moment with the perceived B team more than out performing the expected First XI.

There was slack passes throughout a difficult first half with Celtic relived to go in only trailing by a goal at the interval. Reo Hatate was an early sinner as Athletic opened the scoring in the second minute with the hoops midfielder equalising in the 37th minute.

Straight from the re-start Athletic went in front with Muniain exposing Tomoki Iwata’s lack of experience at right-back.

The depth of the Celtic squad was demonstrated with the changes made at half-time, in every area the Second Half side impressed with a burst of goals from Alexandro Bernabei and David Turnbull in a four minute spell enough to win the match.

Cameron Carter-Vickers showed no signs of a three month lay off as he cruised through the first half alongside Maik Nawrocki, signed last week from Legia Warsaw.


It was good to see the likes of Tony Ralston come back. I thought that he played really well in the second half, he’s been out for a long time as well.

There are a couple more days to go, it really matters on Saturday but we’re ready for that now.

The players have worked really really hard, we’ve worked them hard. They’ve lots of minutes in their legs and coming off the back of a game on Saturday into another intense game it will only help the preparations.

Celtic’s first half performance never recovered from the early slack passing, Athletic had the bulk of possession with little seen of the hoops as an attacking force.

It was almost as if a switch went on after the break with great movement and link up play testing the visitors who only made two half-time substitutions.

Both goals were the results of slick passing movements with the Athletic defenders unable to cope with their opponents movement with Bernabei finishing in style as he broke into the box with Turnbull finishing well from a cut-back from Oh Hyeon-gyu. It was a second pre season goal for each player although they look unlikely to start Saturday’s SPFL opener at home to Ross County.

Keeping everyone involved will be a major task for Rodgers in the coming weeks as he makes decisions on his squad, inevitably some players will move out, on loan or on a permanent basis.

After being down to Liam Scales and Stephen Welsh for the match against Wolves three other central defenders got a good 45 minutes action tonight.

Over the course of four pre-season matches Rodgers has seen for himself the strengths and weaknesses that he has inherited from Ange Poostecoglou. There is an expectation on the arrival of quality players, tonight there were quite a few in the Second Half Side that looked more than ready for a more prominent role in the action ahead.

CELTIC: Siegrist, Tomoki, Carter-Vickers, Nawrocki, Taylor, Kwon, McGregor, Hatate, Maeda, Forrest, Kyogo.

2ND HALF TEAM: Bain, Ralston, Starfelt, Scales, Bernabei, Holm, Turnbull, O’Riley, Yang, Forrest (Abada 49), Oh

Subs not used: Hart, Haksabanovic, Kelly, Welsh, McPherson

ATHLETIC CLUB: Simon, Vivian (Equliuz 79), Paredes Nolaskoain 65), Vesga (Herrera 65), Williams (Garcia de Albeniz 79), Muniain (Marton 79), Martinez (Malcom 79), Oscar de Marcos (Rincon 69), Villalibre (Garcia 46), Ruiz de Galarreta (Guruzeta 79), Gomez (Prados 46).

Subs: Morcillo, Agirrezabala

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