Brendan Rodgers hailed the contribution of Celtic’s young players as they starred in the Scottish champions’ 2-0 win at Kilmarnock.
With one eye on tomorrow’s Champions League play-off second leg against Astana, Rodgers rested several key players and fielded a side with a youthful look on Saturday.
In a starting line-up that had an average age of under 23, Kieran Tierney, Anthony Ralston, Calvin Miller, James Forrest and Callum McGregor, all graduates of Celtic’s youth academy, were included.
It was Forrest and McGregor who grabbed the crucial goals, while a defence that contained 20-year-old Tierney and teenagers Miller, Ralston and Kristoffer Ajer kept a clean sheet.
“I’m absolutely delighted with the integration of our young players, how they are playing, how they are working and how they are fitting into our ideas,” Rodgers said.
“I thought all the young guys showed a lot of promise. Anthony Ralston is like a man. He is 18 years of age but he has a real composure on the ball, and more importantly he wants to defend.
“Technically and tactically he is very good and he takes information on very well.
“Calvin has been growing since last year. He has played as a striker and a winger but I feel he is one of those players who is better coming from deeper.
“He is tenacious and aggressive. Some of his deliveries into the box were magnificent.
“Kristoffer Ajer is showing his qualities. He is improving all the time and is still only 19.
“They are working in training every day with the senior professionals and they are definitely learning from them.”
It was another young player, Australia international Tom Rogic, who was Celtic’s star man as the champions extended their 100 per cent start to the Scottish Premiership season at Rugby Park.
Forrest marked his 150th league appearance for the Hoops by converting Rogic’s cut-back for a 40th-minute opener.
The Socceroos star then provided the killer pass for McGregor to add a late second in the 88th minute.
The 24-year-old’s performance earned him praise from Kilmarnock manager Lee McCulloch.
“I thought today Tom Rogic was sublime. He was the one that was causing us all the problems and it was hard for us to get close to him,” McCulloch said.
“It was just a little bit of individual brilliance from a fantastic player.”
Celtic are now unbeaten in 52 domestic matches and have conceded just once in nine competitive matches this season.
They top the Scottish Premiership on goal difference from St Johnstone and Aberdeen, who kept pressure up with wins over Partick Thistle and Dundee respectively.
Rangers slipped five points behind their Old Firm rivals as they were held to a goalless draw with Hearts at Ibrox to heap more pressure on Portuguese manager Pedro Caixinha.
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