St. Johnstone

St. Johnstone slideshow

St Johnstone vs Rangers: TV channel, stream, kick-off time, odds & match preview

The Glasgow giants could fall further behind in the race for the title if they fail to secure a win over the Saints at McDiarmid Park

St Johnstone vs Rangers: TV channel, stream, kick-off time, odds & match preview

The Glasgow giants could fall further behind in the race for the title if they fail to secure a win over the Saints at McDiarmid Park

St Johnstone vs Rangers: TV channel, stream, kick-off time, odds & match preview

The Glasgow giants could fall further behind in the race for the title if they fail to secure a win over the Saints at McDiarmid Park

St Johnstone vs Rangers: TV channel, stream, kick-off time, odds & match preview

St Johnstone vs Rangers: TV channel, stream, kick-off time, odds & match preview

The Glasgow giants could fall further behind in the race for the title if they fail to secure a win over the Saints at McDiarmid Park

St Johnstone vs Rangers: TV channel, stream, kick-off time, odds & match preview

The Glasgow giants could fall further behind in the race for the title if they fail to secure a win over the Saints at McDiarmid Park

St Johnstone vs Rangers: TV channel, stream, kick-off time, odds & match preview

The Glasgow giants could fall further behind in the race for the title if they fail to secure a win over the Saints at McDiarmid Park

St Johnstone vs Rangers: TV channel, stream, kick-off time, odds & match preview

The Glasgow giants could fall further behind in the race for the title if they fail to secure a win over the Saints at McDiarmid Park

St Johnstone vs Rangers: TV channel, stream, kick-off time, odds & match preview

The Glasgow giants could fall further behind in the race for the title if they fail to secure a win over the Saints at McDiarmid Park

St Johnstone vs Rangers: TV channel, stream, kick-off time, odds & match preview

The Glasgow giants could fall further behind in the race for the title if they fail to secure a win over the Saints at McDiarmid Park

St Johnstone vs Rangers: TV channel, stream, kick-off time, odds & match preview

The Glasgow giants could fall further behind in the race for the title if they fail to secure a win over the Saints at McDiarmid Park

St Johnstone vs Rangers: TV channel, stream, kick-off time, odds & match preview

Brendan Rodgers leads continued Northern Irish dominance in Scotland

Scottish football made history on Saturday, although not of a sort that reflects well on native talent. For the first time, only one of the top six clubs in the table is managed by a Scot – Derek McInnes, of Aberdeen. Rangers’ Pedro Caixinha is Portuguese, while the other four – Brendan Rodgers (Celtic), Tommy Wright (St Johnstone), Stephen Robinson (Motherwell) and Neil Lennon (Hibernian) are Northern Irish. The situation is in stark contrast to the annus mirabilis of 2011 when, aside from the native complement at home, no fewer than seven Scots were in charge of Premier League clubs in England. They were Sir Alex Ferguson (Manchester United), Paul Lambert (Norwich City), Alex McLeish (Aston Villa), David Moyes (Everton), Kenny Dalglish (Liverpool), Steve Kean (Blackburn Rovers) and Owen Coyle (Bolton Wanderers) - Scottish born, of Irish parents. Since then, Northern Irish football has flourished at international level under Michael O’Neill, who lives in Edinburgh. “Michael’s done an incredible job with the international team,” Rodgers said. "Stevie Robinson’s starting out and Hibs look very much improved with Neil at the helm. I see a hunger and a desire and a shape to how they’re playing. Tommy Wright is another experienced coach and good manager. “In all of those guys, there’s real love and passion for football and, when you have that, you have a willingness to learn and improve and not just settle on what you’ve achieved.” Derek McInnes is the only Scot in the top six Credit: Getty images Lennon recently remarked on the phenomenon when he said: “The Scottish clubs have picked good managers. Brendan has been a revelation, so has Tommy, I have had my bit and now Stephen is cutting his teeth at Motherwell. I think there will be a few more coming through as well. “The Northern Ireland boys are a little bit of a throwback to the way the Scottish boys have been over the last 20 or 30 years. There is that real work ethic about us.” Rodgers’ Celtic are, of course, the exemplars of that doctrine, the evidence of which is their run of 58 successive domestic games unbeaten, but at one stage at Parkhead on Saturday it seemed that the extraordinary sequence would be ended by Lennon’s Hibs, who fell behind to a neatly worked goal by Callum McGregor after 15 minutes, but who recovered to take the lead with second half strikes from John McGinn. At that stage, many among the home support had recognised the irony that their team’s record was threatened by goals scored by the grandson of a former Celtic chairman, for a side under the guidance of a former Celtic manager. The scenario might have been fulfilled but for a supernatural save by Craig Gordon. Anthony Stokes – a former Celtic striker, of course – had flicked a header towards the back post, where it was met a yard or so from goal by Steven Whittaker with a shot that seemed certain to find the net. Gordon, though, somehow got a glove to the ball and diverted it for a corner to gasps and exclamations from both supports. Anthony Stokes described one of Craig Gordon's saves as 'a worldie' Credit: Getty images “As a striker, you hit shots and you think, ‘Goal – 100%!’ but he pulled off a worldie,” said Stokes of Gordon’s intervention. “That was him again - one of those you just think he’s never going to get. “It was flicked on and I’m just waiting on Whitts to turn it in, but Craig’s on it and it was an unbelievable save. Top, top class goalkeeper.” Asked if the block had been on a par with Gordon’s fabled stop from Zat Knight of Bolton Wanderers in 2010 - which was voted that season’s best save in the Premier League – Stokes said: “I’d have to see it again. “I thought it was a 100% goal but he ends up getting some hand on it. Keepers go through bad spells, like strikers when you’re not scoring, but that’s the standard he’s set throughout his career.” Gordon, meanwhile, confessed that he had not even realised Whittaker had been the thwarted opponent. “I didn’t know until after the game who had hit the shot,” he said. “I threw myself across it and made myself as big as possible and got a strong enough contact on it to put it round the post. “It was a certain goal from that distance and I managed to prevent it, so it’s probably the same feeling as a striker gets when he scores a goal.” There was, though, another goal in the contest, a second from McGregor which settled the outcome at 2-2. The midfielder has now been called to replace his injured club captain, Scott Brown, for Scotland’s World Cup qualifiers against Slovakia and Slovenia. The Scots must win both to reach the playoffs, unlike O’Neill’s Northern Ireland, who have almost guaranteed that status despite their marginal resources.

Brendan Rodgers leads continued Northern Irish dominance in Scotland

Scottish football made history on Saturday, although not of a sort that reflects well on native talent. For the first time, only one of the top six clubs in the table is managed by a Scot – Derek McInnes, of Aberdeen. Rangers’ Pedro Caixinha is Portuguese, while the other four – Brendan Rodgers (Celtic), Tommy Wright (St Johnstone), Stephen Robinson (Motherwell) and Neil Lennon (Hibernian) are Northern Irish. The situation is in stark contrast to the annus mirabilis of 2011 when, aside from the native complement at home, no fewer than seven Scots were in charge of Premier League clubs in England. They were Sir Alex Ferguson (Manchester United), Paul Lambert (Norwich City), Alex McLeish (Aston Villa), David Moyes (Everton), Kenny Dalglish (Liverpool), Steve Kean (Blackburn Rovers) and Owen Coyle (Bolton Wanderers) - Scottish born, of Irish parents. Since then, Northern Irish football has flourished at international level under Michael O’Neill, who lives in Edinburgh. “Michael’s done an incredible job with the international team,” Rodgers said. "Stevie Robinson’s starting out and Hibs look very much improved with Neil at the helm. I see a hunger and a desire and a shape to how they’re playing. Tommy Wright is another experienced coach and good manager. “In all of those guys, there’s real love and passion for football and, when you have that, you have a willingness to learn and improve and not just settle on what you’ve achieved.” Derek McInnes is the only Scot in the top six Credit: Getty images Lennon recently remarked on the phenomenon when he said: “The Scottish clubs have picked good managers. Brendan has been a revelation, so has Tommy, I have had my bit and now Stephen is cutting his teeth at Motherwell. I think there will be a few more coming through as well. “The Northern Ireland boys are a little bit of a throwback to the way the Scottish boys have been over the last 20 or 30 years. There is that real work ethic about us.” Rodgers’ Celtic are, of course, the exemplars of that doctrine, the evidence of which is their run of 58 successive domestic games unbeaten, but at one stage at Parkhead on Saturday it seemed that the extraordinary sequence would be ended by Lennon’s Hibs, who fell behind to a neatly worked goal by Callum McGregor after 15 minutes, but who recovered to take the lead with second half strikes from John McGinn. At that stage, many among the home support had recognised the irony that their team’s record was threatened by goals scored by the grandson of a former Celtic chairman, for a side under the guidance of a former Celtic manager. The scenario might have been fulfilled but for a supernatural save by Craig Gordon. Anthony Stokes – a former Celtic striker, of course – had flicked a header towards the back post, where it was met a yard or so from goal by Steven Whittaker with a shot that seemed certain to find the net. Gordon, though, somehow got a glove to the ball and diverted it for a corner to gasps and exclamations from both supports. Anthony Stokes described one of Craig Gordon's saves as 'a worldie' Credit: Getty images “As a striker, you hit shots and you think, ‘Goal – 100%!’ but he pulled off a worldie,” said Stokes of Gordon’s intervention. “That was him again - one of those you just think he’s never going to get. “It was flicked on and I’m just waiting on Whitts to turn it in, but Craig’s on it and it was an unbelievable save. Top, top class goalkeeper.” Asked if the block had been on a par with Gordon’s fabled stop from Zat Knight of Bolton Wanderers in 2010 - which was voted that season’s best save in the Premier League – Stokes said: “I’d have to see it again. “I thought it was a 100% goal but he ends up getting some hand on it. Keepers go through bad spells, like strikers when you’re not scoring, but that’s the standard he’s set throughout his career.” Gordon, meanwhile, confessed that he had not even realised Whittaker had been the thwarted opponent. “I didn’t know until after the game who had hit the shot,” he said. “I threw myself across it and made myself as big as possible and got a strong enough contact on it to put it round the post. “It was a certain goal from that distance and I managed to prevent it, so it’s probably the same feeling as a striker gets when he scores a goal.” There was, though, another goal in the contest, a second from McGregor which settled the outcome at 2-2. The midfielder has now been called to replace his injured club captain, Scott Brown, for Scotland’s World Cup qualifiers against Slovakia and Slovenia. The Scots must win both to reach the playoffs, unlike O’Neill’s Northern Ireland, who have almost guaranteed that status despite their marginal resources.

Brendan Rodgers leads continued Northern Irish dominance in Scotland

Scottish football made history on Saturday, although not of a sort that reflects well on native talent. For the first time, only one of the top six clubs in the table is managed by a Scot – Derek McInnes, of Aberdeen. Rangers’ Pedro Caixinha is Portuguese, while the other four – Brendan Rodgers (Celtic), Tommy Wright (St Johnstone), Stephen Robinson (Motherwell) and Neil Lennon (Hibernian) are Northern Irish. The situation is in stark contrast to the annus mirabilis of 2011 when, aside from the native complement at home, no fewer than seven Scots were in charge of Premier League clubs in England. They were Sir Alex Ferguson (Manchester United), Paul Lambert (Norwich City), Alex McLeish (Aston Villa), David Moyes (Everton), Kenny Dalglish (Liverpool), Steve Kean (Blackburn Rovers) and Owen Coyle (Bolton Wanderers) - Scottish born, of Irish parents. Since then, Northern Irish football has flourished at international level under Michael O’Neill, who lives in Edinburgh. “Michael’s done an incredible job with the international team,” Rodgers said. "Stevie Robinson’s starting out and Hibs look very much improved with Neil at the helm. I see a hunger and a desire and a shape to how they’re playing. Tommy Wright is another experienced coach and good manager. “In all of those guys, there’s real love and passion for football and, when you have that, you have a willingness to learn and improve and not just settle on what you’ve achieved.” Derek McInnes is the only Scot in the top six Credit: Getty images Lennon recently remarked on the phenomenon when he said: “The Scottish clubs have picked good managers. Brendan has been a revelation, so has Tommy, I have had my bit and now Stephen is cutting his teeth at Motherwell. I think there will be a few more coming through as well. “The Northern Ireland boys are a little bit of a throwback to the way the Scottish boys have been over the last 20 or 30 years. There is that real work ethic about us.” Rodgers’ Celtic are, of course, the exemplars of that doctrine, the evidence of which is their run of 58 successive domestic games unbeaten, but at one stage at Parkhead on Saturday it seemed that the extraordinary sequence would be ended by Lennon’s Hibs, who fell behind to a neatly worked goal by Callum McGregor after 15 minutes, but who recovered to take the lead with second half strikes from John McGinn. At that stage, many among the home support had recognised the irony that their team’s record was threatened by goals scored by the grandson of a former Celtic chairman, for a side under the guidance of a former Celtic manager. The scenario might have been fulfilled but for a supernatural save by Craig Gordon. Anthony Stokes – a former Celtic striker, of course – had flicked a header towards the back post, where it was met a yard or so from goal by Steven Whittaker with a shot that seemed certain to find the net. Gordon, though, somehow got a glove to the ball and diverted it for a corner to gasps and exclamations from both supports. Anthony Stokes described one of Craig Gordon's saves as 'a worldie' Credit: Getty images “As a striker, you hit shots and you think, ‘Goal – 100%!’ but he pulled off a worldie,” said Stokes of Gordon’s intervention. “That was him again - one of those you just think he’s never going to get. “It was flicked on and I’m just waiting on Whitts to turn it in, but Craig’s on it and it was an unbelievable save. Top, top class goalkeeper.” Asked if the block had been on a par with Gordon’s fabled stop from Zat Knight of Bolton Wanderers in 2010 - which was voted that season’s best save in the Premier League – Stokes said: “I’d have to see it again. “I thought it was a 100% goal but he ends up getting some hand on it. Keepers go through bad spells, like strikers when you’re not scoring, but that’s the standard he’s set throughout his career.” Gordon, meanwhile, confessed that he had not even realised Whittaker had been the thwarted opponent. “I didn’t know until after the game who had hit the shot,” he said. “I threw myself across it and made myself as big as possible and got a strong enough contact on it to put it round the post. “It was a certain goal from that distance and I managed to prevent it, so it’s probably the same feeling as a striker gets when he scores a goal.” There was, though, another goal in the contest, a second from McGregor which settled the outcome at 2-2. The midfielder has now been called to replace his injured club captain, Scott Brown, for Scotland’s World Cup qualifiers against Slovakia and Slovenia. The Scots must win both to reach the playoffs, unlike O’Neill’s Northern Ireland, who have almost guaranteed that status despite their marginal resources.

Celtic's Brendan Rodgers declares Rangers 'title contenders' as the build-up to Old Firm derby begins

As Celtic moved five points ahead of Rangers prior to the first Old Firm derby of the season at Ibrox, Brendan Rodgers branded next Saturday’s game a contest between title contenders, despite the gap that has already opened between the pair in the table. Rangers had to come from behind to earn a point in the 2-2 draw with Partick Thistle at Firhill on Friday and could not prevail despite playing against 10 men for the final quarter of the proceedings. Indeed, Pedro Caixinha’s players will go into their collision with the champions in third place after Saturday's results in the Scottish Premiership. Nevertheless, the Hoops manager cited the difference in summer transfer fees – Rangers’ outlay was an estimated £8 million, compared with Celtic’s £5.5 million, although the figures are arguable – as evidence that the Ibrox board were aiming to prise the Scottish title from the other side of Glasgow. "I’ve seen a little bit of Rangers,” Rodgers said. “Pedro obviously came in during the season and was able to assess and look at different methods in which they can try to work and play. Humbled: Neymar and company gave Celtic a harsh lesson midweek Credit: AFP “They have clearly spent money in the summer. They spent more money than us – and we are a Champions League club - so that tells you that their idea is to win the league. It’s not to finish third. Not to finish second above Aberdeen. It’s to win the league. “They have come into the season with that mentality. They have signed some good players and are playing a basic shape in terms of 4-4-2, nothing complicated, get the ball wide, crosses in the box. I’m sure they will be reasonably happy with how they have started.” Celtic’s 5-1 victory at Ibrox was widely viewed as a tactical blunder by Caixinha, who chose to deploy Rangers with a midfield diamond, through which the champions romped to establish a record victory on the ground of their arch-foes. Rodgers, though, declared that the Rangers line-up had not been novel in the circumstances, despite Caixinha’s adoption of 4-4-2 this season. Keep smiling: Pedro Caixinha arrives for the Scottish Premiership match at The Energy Check Stadium at Firhill Credit: PA “A lot of the European coaches will have different ways. I’m not sure 4-4-2 is what Pedro would purely like to play,” he said. “I think he is looking at what he’s got and how he can maximise what he gets from the players. “They played with a diamond, looking to have numbers in midfield and two front players. It’s flatter now in terms of how they are playing it, but their intention, I’m sure, is to win the league and what they have spent is a mark of that.” The Celtic boss, however, acknowledged that – having beaten Rangers in the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final a week previously, the 5-1 rout had capped a deeply satisfying passage. “It was great week,” he said. “We went into the semi-final and were outstanding – our performance level in every facet was very good. At Ibrox the feeling was that we would be under severe pressure from their play and the crowd and there was no way we could go and play like we did in the semi. “For the players to go out and handle that side of it and perform like they did and actually be disappointed we only scored five made the performance outstanding.” April, the cruellest month: Celtic won 5-1 on their last visit to Ibrox Credit: Reuters So dominant were Celtic last time out at Ibrox that the home support began to make for the exits midway through the second half. “For every manager and player, it is feeling that you are working well. You are doing your job if the game is over by 65, 70 minutes,” Rodgers said. “In a 90-minute game you can take huge credit for how you are playing at that stage. If you are going to Ibrox and doing that against one of the great rivals and performing at that level, which was key for me, it was pretty special.” Celtic, of course, conceded five goals in their midweek Champions League group stage opener at home to Paris Saint-Germain but normal service was resumed with the visit of Ross County, who found themselves behind to a Tom Rogic strike after 13 minutes. The Staggies fell further behind five minutes before the break when Moussa Dembele, on his first appearance this season, placed a low right foot drive into the far corner of the net. The restart brought no relief for County as Celtic hit them on the counter from a memorable double save by Craig Gordon from Craig Curran and Alex Schalk. James Forrest netted on the rebound from a Rogic effort and scored Celtic’s fourth and his second after Oddsone Edouard’s prompt. Elsewhere, Aberdeen were held 1-1 at home to Kilmarnock, Hearts’ first victory under Craig Levein was a 2-1 win at Hamilton, while Hibs drew 2-2 with Motherwell at Easter Road and Dundee were 3-2 winners against Tayside neighbours, St Johnstone.

Celtic's Brendan Rodgers declares Rangers 'title contenders' as the build-up to Old Firm derby begins

As Celtic moved five points ahead of Rangers prior to the first Old Firm derby of the season at Ibrox, Brendan Rodgers branded next Saturday’s game a contest between title contenders, despite the gap that has already opened between the pair in the table. Rangers had to come from behind to earn a point in the 2-2 draw with Partick Thistle at Firhill on Friday and could not prevail despite playing against 10 men for the final quarter of the proceedings. Indeed, Pedro Caixinha’s players will go into their collision with the champions in third place after Saturday's results in the Scottish Premiership. Nevertheless, the Hoops manager cited the difference in summer transfer fees – Rangers’ outlay was an estimated £8 million, compared with Celtic’s £5.5 million, although the figures are arguable – as evidence that the Ibrox board were aiming to prise the Scottish title from the other side of Glasgow. "I’ve seen a little bit of Rangers,” Rodgers said. “Pedro obviously came in during the season and was able to assess and look at different methods in which they can try to work and play. Humbled: Neymar and company gave Celtic a harsh lesson midweek Credit: AFP “They have clearly spent money in the summer. They spent more money than us – and we are a Champions League club - so that tells you that their idea is to win the league. It’s not to finish third. Not to finish second above Aberdeen. It’s to win the league. “They have come into the season with that mentality. They have signed some good players and are playing a basic shape in terms of 4-4-2, nothing complicated, get the ball wide, crosses in the box. I’m sure they will be reasonably happy with how they have started.” Celtic’s 5-1 victory at Ibrox was widely viewed as a tactical blunder by Caixinha, who chose to deploy Rangers with a midfield diamond, through which the champions romped to establish a record victory on the ground of their arch-foes. Rodgers, though, declared that the Rangers line-up had not been novel in the circumstances, despite Caixinha’s adoption of 4-4-2 this season. Keep smiling: Pedro Caixinha arrives for the Scottish Premiership match at The Energy Check Stadium at Firhill Credit: PA “A lot of the European coaches will have different ways. I’m not sure 4-4-2 is what Pedro would purely like to play,” he said. “I think he is looking at what he’s got and how he can maximise what he gets from the players. “They played with a diamond, looking to have numbers in midfield and two front players. It’s flatter now in terms of how they are playing it, but their intention, I’m sure, is to win the league and what they have spent is a mark of that.” The Celtic boss, however, acknowledged that – having beaten Rangers in the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final a week previously, the 5-1 rout had capped a deeply satisfying passage. “It was great week,” he said. “We went into the semi-final and were outstanding – our performance level in every facet was very good. At Ibrox the feeling was that we would be under severe pressure from their play and the crowd and there was no way we could go and play like we did in the semi. “For the players to go out and handle that side of it and perform like they did and actually be disappointed we only scored five made the performance outstanding.” April, the cruellest month: Celtic won 5-1 on their last visit to Ibrox Credit: Reuters So dominant were Celtic last time out at Ibrox that the home support began to make for the exits midway through the second half. “For every manager and player, it is feeling that you are working well. You are doing your job if the game is over by 65, 70 minutes,” Rodgers said. “In a 90-minute game you can take huge credit for how you are playing at that stage. If you are going to Ibrox and doing that against one of the great rivals and performing at that level, which was key for me, it was pretty special.” Celtic, of course, conceded five goals in their midweek Champions League group stage opener at home to Paris Saint-Germain but normal service was resumed with the visit of Ross County, who found themselves behind to a Tom Rogic strike after 13 minutes. The Staggies fell further behind five minutes before the break when Moussa Dembele, on his first appearance this season, placed a low right foot drive into the far corner of the net. The restart brought no relief for County as Celtic hit them on the counter from a memorable double save by Craig Gordon from Craig Curran and Alex Schalk. James Forrest netted on the rebound from a Rogic effort and scored Celtic’s fourth and his second after Oddsone Edouard’s prompt. Elsewhere, Aberdeen were held 1-1 at home to Kilmarnock, Hearts’ first victory under Craig Levein was a 2-1 win at Hamilton, while Hibs drew 2-2 with Motherwell at Easter Road and Dundee were 3-2 winners against Tayside neighbours, St Johnstone.

Celtic's Brendan Rodgers declares Rangers 'title contenders' as the build-up to Old Firm derby begins

As Celtic moved five points ahead of Rangers prior to the first Old Firm derby of the season at Ibrox, Brendan Rodgers branded next Saturday’s game a contest between title contenders, despite the gap that has already opened between the pair in the table. Rangers had to come from behind to earn a point in the 2-2 draw with Partick Thistle at Firhill on Friday and could not prevail despite playing against 10 men for the final quarter of the proceedings. Indeed, Pedro Caixinha’s players will go into their collision with the champions in third place after Saturday's results in the Scottish Premiership. Nevertheless, the Hoops manager cited the difference in summer transfer fees – Rangers’ outlay was an estimated £8 million, compared with Celtic’s £5.5 million, although the figures are arguable – as evidence that the Ibrox board were aiming to prise the Scottish title from the other side of Glasgow. "I’ve seen a little bit of Rangers,” Rodgers said. “Pedro obviously came in during the season and was able to assess and look at different methods in which they can try to work and play. Humbled: Neymar and company gave Celtic a harsh lesson midweek Credit: AFP “They have clearly spent money in the summer. They spent more money than us – and we are a Champions League club - so that tells you that their idea is to win the league. It’s not to finish third. Not to finish second above Aberdeen. It’s to win the league. “They have come into the season with that mentality. They have signed some good players and are playing a basic shape in terms of 4-4-2, nothing complicated, get the ball wide, crosses in the box. I’m sure they will be reasonably happy with how they have started.” Celtic’s 5-1 victory at Ibrox was widely viewed as a tactical blunder by Caixinha, who chose to deploy Rangers with a midfield diamond, through which the champions romped to establish a record victory on the ground of their arch-foes. Rodgers, though, declared that the Rangers line-up had not been novel in the circumstances, despite Caixinha’s adoption of 4-4-2 this season. Keep smiling: Pedro Caixinha arrives for the Scottish Premiership match at The Energy Check Stadium at Firhill Credit: PA “A lot of the European coaches will have different ways. I’m not sure 4-4-2 is what Pedro would purely like to play,” he said. “I think he is looking at what he’s got and how he can maximise what he gets from the players. “They played with a diamond, looking to have numbers in midfield and two front players. It’s flatter now in terms of how they are playing it, but their intention, I’m sure, is to win the league and what they have spent is a mark of that.” The Celtic boss, however, acknowledged that – having beaten Rangers in the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final a week previously, the 5-1 rout had capped a deeply satisfying passage. “It was great week,” he said. “We went into the semi-final and were outstanding – our performance level in every facet was very good. At Ibrox the feeling was that we would be under severe pressure from their play and the crowd and there was no way we could go and play like we did in the semi. “For the players to go out and handle that side of it and perform like they did and actually be disappointed we only scored five made the performance outstanding.” April, the cruellest month: Celtic won 5-1 on their last visit to Ibrox Credit: Reuters So dominant were Celtic last time out at Ibrox that the home support began to make for the exits midway through the second half. “For every manager and player, it is feeling that you are working well. You are doing your job if the game is over by 65, 70 minutes,” Rodgers said. “In a 90-minute game you can take huge credit for how you are playing at that stage. If you are going to Ibrox and doing that against one of the great rivals and performing at that level, which was key for me, it was pretty special.” Celtic, of course, conceded five goals in their midweek Champions League group stage opener at home to Paris Saint-Germain but normal service was resumed with the visit of Ross County, who found themselves behind to a Tom Rogic strike after 13 minutes. The Staggies fell further behind five minutes before the break when Moussa Dembele, on his first appearance this season, placed a low right foot drive into the far corner of the net. The restart brought no relief for County as Celtic hit them on the counter from a memorable double save by Craig Gordon from Craig Curran and Alex Schalk. James Forrest netted on the rebound from a Rogic effort and scored Celtic’s fourth and his second after Oddsone Edouard’s prompt. Elsewhere, Aberdeen were held 1-1 at home to Kilmarnock, Hearts’ first victory under Craig Levein was a 2-1 win at Hamilton, while Hibs drew 2-2 with Motherwell at Easter Road and Dundee were 3-2 winners against Tayside neighbours, St Johnstone.

Celtic's Brendan Rodgers declares Rangers 'title contenders' as the build-up to Old Firm derby begins

As Celtic moved five points ahead of Rangers prior to the first Old Firm derby of the season at Ibrox, Brendan Rodgers branded next Saturday’s game a contest between title contenders, despite the gap that has already opened between the pair in the table. Rangers had to come from behind to earn a point in the 2-2 draw with Partick Thistle at Firhill on Friday and could not prevail despite playing against 10 men for the final quarter of the proceedings. Indeed, Pedro Caixinha’s players will go into their collision with the champions in third place after Saturday's results in the Scottish Premiership. Nevertheless, the Hoops manager cited the difference in summer transfer fees – Rangers’ outlay was an estimated £8 million, compared with Celtic’s £5.5 million, although the figures are arguable – as evidence that the Ibrox board were aiming to prise the Scottish title from the other side of Glasgow. "I’ve seen a little bit of Rangers,” Rodgers said. “Pedro obviously came in during the season and was able to assess and look at different methods in which they can try to work and play. Humbled: Neymar and company gave Celtic a harsh lesson midweek Credit: AFP “They have clearly spent money in the summer. They spent more money than us – and we are a Champions League club - so that tells you that their idea is to win the league. It’s not to finish third. Not to finish second above Aberdeen. It’s to win the league. “They have come into the season with that mentality. They have signed some good players and are playing a basic shape in terms of 4-4-2, nothing complicated, get the ball wide, crosses in the box. I’m sure they will be reasonably happy with how they have started.” Celtic’s 5-1 victory at Ibrox was widely viewed as a tactical blunder by Caixinha, who chose to deploy Rangers with a midfield diamond, through which the champions romped to establish a record victory on the ground of their arch-foes. Rodgers, though, declared that the Rangers line-up had not been novel in the circumstances, despite Caixinha’s adoption of 4-4-2 this season. Keep smiling: Pedro Caixinha arrives for the Scottish Premiership match at The Energy Check Stadium at Firhill Credit: PA “A lot of the European coaches will have different ways. I’m not sure 4-4-2 is what Pedro would purely like to play,” he said. “I think he is looking at what he’s got and how he can maximise what he gets from the players. “They played with a diamond, looking to have numbers in midfield and two front players. It’s flatter now in terms of how they are playing it, but their intention, I’m sure, is to win the league and what they have spent is a mark of that.” The Celtic boss, however, acknowledged that – having beaten Rangers in the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final a week previously, the 5-1 rout had capped a deeply satisfying passage. “It was great week,” he said. “We went into the semi-final and were outstanding – our performance level in every facet was very good. At Ibrox the feeling was that we would be under severe pressure from their play and the crowd and there was no way we could go and play like we did in the semi. “For the players to go out and handle that side of it and perform like they did and actually be disappointed we only scored five made the performance outstanding.” April, the cruellest month: Celtic won 5-1 on their last visit to Ibrox Credit: Reuters So dominant were Celtic last time out at Ibrox that the home support began to make for the exits midway through the second half. “For every manager and player, it is feeling that you are working well. You are doing your job if the game is over by 65, 70 minutes,” Rodgers said. “In a 90-minute game you can take huge credit for how you are playing at that stage. If you are going to Ibrox and doing that against one of the great rivals and performing at that level, which was key for me, it was pretty special.” Celtic, of course, conceded five goals in their midweek Champions League group stage opener at home to Paris Saint-Germain but normal service was resumed with the visit of Ross County, who found themselves behind to a Tom Rogic strike after 13 minutes. The Staggies fell further behind five minutes before the break when Moussa Dembele, on his first appearance this season, placed a low right foot drive into the far corner of the net. The restart brought no relief for County as Celtic hit them on the counter from a memorable double save by Craig Gordon from Craig Curran and Alex Schalk. James Forrest netted on the rebound from a Rogic effort and scored Celtic’s fourth and his second after Oddsone Edouard’s prompt. Elsewhere, Aberdeen were held 1-1 at home to Kilmarnock, Hearts’ first victory under Craig Levein was a 2-1 win at Hamilton, while Hibs drew 2-2 with Motherwell at Easter Road and Dundee were 3-2 winners against Tayside neighbours, St Johnstone.

Celtic demand independent review of Rangers tax avoidance scheme to 'learn lessons and move on' 

Stewart Regan, the Scottish Football Association chief executive, finds himself squarely in the line of fire as Celtic upped the stakes in the ongoing fallout from Rangers’ use of a tax avoidance scheme – declared unlawful by the Supreme Court earlier this year – between 2001 and 2010. Celtic have accused the SFA of  “a failure in transparency, accountability and leadership” after the governing body declined to conduct a review of Rangers’ use of EBTs (Employee Benefit Trusts). By mutual agreement, the correspondence between Regan and Peter Lawwell, his Celtic counterpart, has been released. Celtic, though, have also released a statement on the club website which said: “In the light of all information that has now become available, Celtic has been in correspondence with the Scottish Football Association in pursuit of the club’s belief that an independent review should be commissioned to consider the events that led to the liquidation of Rangers Oldco and the governance issues arising from those events. “This is exactly the same position as adopted by the SPFL board on behalf of all Scotland's 42 professional clubs.  The club believes that such a review is essential if a line is to be drawn under this whole affair. On that basis, Scottish football could learn lessons and move on. Celtic have demanded a review of Rangers' EBT saga Credit: GETTY IMAGES “The club considers, however, that failure to carry out a full review of these events and issues, which have been without precedent in Scottish football, would represent a failure in transparency, accountability and leadership.  “Celtic was, therefore, disappointed to note that the Scottish Football Association board has confirmed that it does not intend to commission such a review. Throughout these processes, Celtic's consistent objective has been to establish the full facts, which is surely the least that all stakeholders in Scottish football - including the supporters of all clubs - are entitled to, and to learn the appropriate lessons. That remains our position.” The Scottish Professional Football League had previously stated that it could not hold a review because it did not exist during Rangers’ use of the EBT scheme and had no jurisdiction over the rules of the Scottish Premier League, which was responsible for league governance at the time. The SPFL did, however, suggest that the SFA could institute a review. There have also been calls to strip Rangers of titles Credit: PA On Thursday, however, the SFA declined to pursue that course of action, citing QC’s advice, although they are investigating the granting of a licence to Rangers permitting them to take part in European football in 2011, after Craig Whyte had bought the Ibrox club for £1 from Sir David Murray, in the light of evidence presented in Whyte’s recent trial for fraud, a charge of which he was ultimately acquitted, Moves to have Rangers stripped of the honours they won during their use of EBTs have been proposed for several years, with Celtic supporters prominent amongst those demanding that their arch-foes be shorn of five league titles, four Scottish Cup wins and six Scottish League Cup successes. The Rangers fan shareholder group, Club 1872, previously said that it would mount a legal challenge to the SPFL if the league should support such a course. On the field of play, Rangers were productive for the first time in a home league match this season. Having lost to Hibernian and been held to a draw by Hearts, Pedro Caixinha’s players at last gratified their supporters with a comfortable victory over Dundee after Alfredo Morelos netted his sixth goal for the club with a low shot beyond Scott Bain just before the break. Josh Windass scored Rangers’ second when he headed home a Daniel Candeias cross then set up another for Carlos Pena before Morelos got his second, although there was still time for Faisal El-Bakhtoui to net a consolation for Dundee. Carlos Pena celebrates Rangers' third goal against Dundee Credit: PA In Dingwall, Partick Thistle’s luck seemed to have changed when Blair Spital shot them into a first half lead very much against the run of play against Ross County, but the Jags were held to a draw after Alex Schalk’s late penalty kick equaliser. In the collision of Northern Irish managers at McDiarmid Park, Tommy Wright drew first blood when Rangers’ reject, Michael O’Halloran turned a Liam Craig cross over the line just after the break to put St Johnstone ahead against Neil Lennon’s Hibs. Saints’ Paul Paton was next to score, but into his own net when trying to block Anthony Stokes. Ryan Bowman opened the scoring in Motherwell in the 2-0 home victory over Kilmarnock, then was taken down for a penalty kick converted by Louis Moult. The only goalless game in the Scottish Premiership was at Murrayfield, where Aberdeen keeper, Joe Lewis, defied Aberdeen with a string of outstanding saves, including two showstoppers to deny Isma Goncalves and Ross Callachan.

Celtic demand independent review of Rangers tax avoidance scheme to 'learn lessons and move on' 

Stewart Regan, the Scottish Football Association chief executive, finds himself squarely in the line of fire as Celtic upped the stakes in the ongoing fallout from Rangers’ use of a tax avoidance scheme – declared unlawful by the Supreme Court earlier this year – between 2001 and 2010. Celtic have accused the SFA of  “a failure in transparency, accountability and leadership” after the governing body declined to conduct a review of Rangers’ use of EBTs (Employee Benefit Trusts). By mutual agreement, the correspondence between Regan and Peter Lawwell, his Celtic counterpart, has been released. Celtic, though, have also released a statement on the club website which said: “In the light of all information that has now become available, Celtic has been in correspondence with the Scottish Football Association in pursuit of the club’s belief that an independent review should be commissioned to consider the events that led to the liquidation of Rangers Oldco and the governance issues arising from those events. “This is exactly the same position as adopted by the SPFL board on behalf of all Scotland's 42 professional clubs.  The club believes that such a review is essential if a line is to be drawn under this whole affair. On that basis, Scottish football could learn lessons and move on. Celtic have demanded a review of Rangers' EBT saga Credit: GETTY IMAGES “The club considers, however, that failure to carry out a full review of these events and issues, which have been without precedent in Scottish football, would represent a failure in transparency, accountability and leadership.  “Celtic was, therefore, disappointed to note that the Scottish Football Association board has confirmed that it does not intend to commission such a review. Throughout these processes, Celtic's consistent objective has been to establish the full facts, which is surely the least that all stakeholders in Scottish football - including the supporters of all clubs - are entitled to, and to learn the appropriate lessons. That remains our position.” The Scottish Professional Football League had previously stated that it could not hold a review because it did not exist during Rangers’ use of the EBT scheme and had no jurisdiction over the rules of the Scottish Premier League, which was responsible for league governance at the time. The SPFL did, however, suggest that the SFA could institute a review. There have also been calls to strip Rangers of titles Credit: PA On Thursday, however, the SFA declined to pursue that course of action, citing QC’s advice, although they are investigating the granting of a licence to Rangers permitting them to take part in European football in 2011, after Craig Whyte had bought the Ibrox club for £1 from Sir David Murray, in the light of evidence presented in Whyte’s recent trial for fraud, a charge of which he was ultimately acquitted, Moves to have Rangers stripped of the honours they won during their use of EBTs have been proposed for several years, with Celtic supporters prominent amongst those demanding that their arch-foes be shorn of five league titles, four Scottish Cup wins and six Scottish League Cup successes. The Rangers fan shareholder group, Club 1872, previously said that it would mount a legal challenge to the SPFL if the league should support such a course. On the field of play, Rangers were productive for the first time in a home league match this season. Having lost to Hibernian and been held to a draw by Hearts, Pedro Caixinha’s players at last gratified their supporters with a comfortable victory over Dundee after Alfredo Morelos netted his sixth goal for the club with a low shot beyond Scott Bain just before the break. Josh Windass scored Rangers’ second when he headed home a Daniel Candeias cross then set up another for Carlos Pena before Morelos got his second, although there was still time for Faisal El-Bakhtoui to net a consolation for Dundee. Carlos Pena celebrates Rangers' third goal against Dundee Credit: PA In Dingwall, Partick Thistle’s luck seemed to have changed when Blair Spital shot them into a first half lead very much against the run of play against Ross County, but the Jags were held to a draw after Alex Schalk’s late penalty kick equaliser. In the collision of Northern Irish managers at McDiarmid Park, Tommy Wright drew first blood when Rangers’ reject, Michael O’Halloran turned a Liam Craig cross over the line just after the break to put St Johnstone ahead against Neil Lennon’s Hibs. Saints’ Paul Paton was next to score, but into his own net when trying to block Anthony Stokes. Ryan Bowman opened the scoring in Motherwell in the 2-0 home victory over Kilmarnock, then was taken down for a penalty kick converted by Louis Moult. The only goalless game in the Scottish Premiership was at Murrayfield, where Aberdeen keeper, Joe Lewis, defied Aberdeen with a string of outstanding saves, including two showstoppers to deny Isma Goncalves and Ross Callachan.

Celtic demand independent review of Rangers tax avoidance scheme to 'learn lessons and move on' 

Stewart Regan, the Scottish Football Association chief executive, finds himself squarely in the line of fire as Celtic upped the stakes in the ongoing fallout from Rangers’ use of a tax avoidance scheme – declared unlawful by the Supreme Court earlier this year – between 2001 and 2010. Celtic have accused the SFA of  “a failure in transparency, accountability and leadership” after the governing body declined to conduct a review of Rangers’ use of EBTs (Employee Benefit Trusts). By mutual agreement, the correspondence between Regan and Peter Lawwell, his Celtic counterpart, has been released. Celtic, though, have also released a statement on the club website which said: “In the light of all information that has now become available, Celtic has been in correspondence with the Scottish Football Association in pursuit of the club’s belief that an independent review should be commissioned to consider the events that led to the liquidation of Rangers Oldco and the governance issues arising from those events. “This is exactly the same position as adopted by the SPFL board on behalf of all Scotland's 42 professional clubs.  The club believes that such a review is essential if a line is to be drawn under this whole affair. On that basis, Scottish football could learn lessons and move on. Celtic have demanded a review of Rangers' EBT saga Credit: GETTY IMAGES “The club considers, however, that failure to carry out a full review of these events and issues, which have been without precedent in Scottish football, would represent a failure in transparency, accountability and leadership.  “Celtic was, therefore, disappointed to note that the Scottish Football Association board has confirmed that it does not intend to commission such a review. Throughout these processes, Celtic's consistent objective has been to establish the full facts, which is surely the least that all stakeholders in Scottish football - including the supporters of all clubs - are entitled to, and to learn the appropriate lessons. That remains our position.” The Scottish Professional Football League had previously stated that it could not hold a review because it did not exist during Rangers’ use of the EBT scheme and had no jurisdiction over the rules of the Scottish Premier League, which was responsible for league governance at the time. The SPFL did, however, suggest that the SFA could institute a review. There have also been calls to strip Rangers of titles Credit: PA On Thursday, however, the SFA declined to pursue that course of action, citing QC’s advice, although they are investigating the granting of a licence to Rangers permitting them to take part in European football in 2011, after Craig Whyte had bought the Ibrox club for £1 from Sir David Murray, in the light of evidence presented in Whyte’s recent trial for fraud, a charge of which he was ultimately acquitted, Moves to have Rangers stripped of the honours they won during their use of EBTs have been proposed for several years, with Celtic supporters prominent amongst those demanding that their arch-foes be shorn of five league titles, four Scottish Cup wins and six Scottish League Cup successes. The Rangers fan shareholder group, Club 1872, previously said that it would mount a legal challenge to the SPFL if the league should support such a course. On the field of play, Rangers were productive for the first time in a home league match this season. Having lost to Hibernian and been held to a draw by Hearts, Pedro Caixinha’s players at last gratified their supporters with a comfortable victory over Dundee after Alfredo Morelos netted his sixth goal for the club with a low shot beyond Scott Bain just before the break. Josh Windass scored Rangers’ second when he headed home a Daniel Candeias cross then set up another for Carlos Pena before Morelos got his second, although there was still time for Faisal El-Bakhtoui to net a consolation for Dundee. Carlos Pena celebrates Rangers' third goal against Dundee Credit: PA In Dingwall, Partick Thistle’s luck seemed to have changed when Blair Spital shot them into a first half lead very much against the run of play against Ross County, but the Jags were held to a draw after Alex Schalk’s late penalty kick equaliser. In the collision of Northern Irish managers at McDiarmid Park, Tommy Wright drew first blood when Rangers’ reject, Michael O’Halloran turned a Liam Craig cross over the line just after the break to put St Johnstone ahead against Neil Lennon’s Hibs. Saints’ Paul Paton was next to score, but into his own net when trying to block Anthony Stokes. Ryan Bowman opened the scoring in Motherwell in the 2-0 home victory over Kilmarnock, then was taken down for a penalty kick converted by Louis Moult. The only goalless game in the Scottish Premiership was at Murrayfield, where Aberdeen keeper, Joe Lewis, defied Aberdeen with a string of outstanding saves, including two showstoppers to deny Isma Goncalves and Ross Callachan.

Celtic demand independent review of Rangers tax avoidance scheme to 'learn lessons and move on' 

Stewart Regan, the Scottish Football Association chief executive, finds himself squarely in the line of fire as Celtic upped the stakes in the ongoing fallout from Rangers’ use of a tax avoidance scheme – declared unlawful by the Supreme Court earlier this year – between 2001 and 2010. Celtic have accused the SFA of  “a failure in transparency, accountability and leadership” after the governing body declined to conduct a review of Rangers’ use of EBTs (Employee Benefit Trusts). By mutual agreement, the correspondence between Regan and Peter Lawwell, his Celtic counterpart, has been released. Celtic, though, have also released a statement on the club website which said: “In the light of all information that has now become available, Celtic has been in correspondence with the Scottish Football Association in pursuit of the club’s belief that an independent review should be commissioned to consider the events that led to the liquidation of Rangers Oldco and the governance issues arising from those events. “This is exactly the same position as adopted by the SPFL board on behalf of all Scotland's 42 professional clubs.  The club believes that such a review is essential if a line is to be drawn under this whole affair. On that basis, Scottish football could learn lessons and move on. Celtic have demanded a review of Rangers' EBT saga Credit: GETTY IMAGES “The club considers, however, that failure to carry out a full review of these events and issues, which have been without precedent in Scottish football, would represent a failure in transparency, accountability and leadership.  “Celtic was, therefore, disappointed to note that the Scottish Football Association board has confirmed that it does not intend to commission such a review. Throughout these processes, Celtic's consistent objective has been to establish the full facts, which is surely the least that all stakeholders in Scottish football - including the supporters of all clubs - are entitled to, and to learn the appropriate lessons. That remains our position.” The Scottish Professional Football League had previously stated that it could not hold a review because it did not exist during Rangers’ use of the EBT scheme and had no jurisdiction over the rules of the Scottish Premier League, which was responsible for league governance at the time. The SPFL did, however, suggest that the SFA could institute a review. There have also been calls to strip Rangers of titles Credit: PA On Thursday, however, the SFA declined to pursue that course of action, citing QC’s advice, although they are investigating the granting of a licence to Rangers permitting them to take part in European football in 2011, after Craig Whyte had bought the Ibrox club for £1 from Sir David Murray, in the light of evidence presented in Whyte’s recent trial for fraud, a charge of which he was ultimately acquitted, Moves to have Rangers stripped of the honours they won during their use of EBTs have been proposed for several years, with Celtic supporters prominent amongst those demanding that their arch-foes be shorn of five league titles, four Scottish Cup wins and six Scottish League Cup successes. The Rangers fan shareholder group, Club 1872, previously said that it would mount a legal challenge to the SPFL if the league should support such a course. On the field of play, Rangers were productive for the first time in a home league match this season. Having lost to Hibernian and been held to a draw by Hearts, Pedro Caixinha’s players at last gratified their supporters with a comfortable victory over Dundee after Alfredo Morelos netted his sixth goal for the club with a low shot beyond Scott Bain just before the break. Josh Windass scored Rangers’ second when he headed home a Daniel Candeias cross then set up another for Carlos Pena before Morelos got his second, although there was still time for Faisal El-Bakhtoui to net a consolation for Dundee. Carlos Pena celebrates Rangers' third goal against Dundee Credit: PA In Dingwall, Partick Thistle’s luck seemed to have changed when Blair Spital shot them into a first half lead very much against the run of play against Ross County, but the Jags were held to a draw after Alex Schalk’s late penalty kick equaliser. In the collision of Northern Irish managers at McDiarmid Park, Tommy Wright drew first blood when Rangers’ reject, Michael O’Halloran turned a Liam Craig cross over the line just after the break to put St Johnstone ahead against Neil Lennon’s Hibs. Saints’ Paul Paton was next to score, but into his own net when trying to block Anthony Stokes. Ryan Bowman opened the scoring in Motherwell in the 2-0 home victory over Kilmarnock, then was taken down for a penalty kick converted by Louis Moult. The only goalless game in the Scottish Premiership was at Murrayfield, where Aberdeen keeper, Joe Lewis, defied Aberdeen with a string of outstanding saves, including two showstoppers to deny Isma Goncalves and Ross Callachan.

Gordon Strachan says Scotland are optimistic after overcoming poor start to qualifying campaign

Gordon Strachan last night confessed he had imagined Scotland would now be in a better position to qualify for the World Cup than the current situation, in which they trail England and Slovakia in Group F. The Scots’ hopes were damaged when they lost 3-0 away against both teams last year, but they have staged a recovery, which began with a 1-0 home win over Slovenia before Friday’s 3-0 victory over Lithuania in Vilnius. Asked if, before the group campaign began, he would have settled for the Scots’ current status, the manager said: “No, because I thought we would have been better than that. We’re now far better than we were three games ago. “I think optimism was always there. If it wasn’t, we wouldn’t have done so well in the last three games. We weren’t downhearted or depressed.” Nevertheless, Strachan was required to overhaul his squad so thoroughly after last year’s disappointments that the starting line-up in Vilnius showed no fewer than 10 changes to the team that scrambled a 1-1 draw with Lithuania at Hampden in October 2016. “That’s what happens in a year,” he said. “There is a shift in the players I expect to start games now. As I said before, about systems and the rest of it, when you are defending, that’s when most of your coaching counts. When you are attacking, you leave it to players you think can win the game for you and the players we are picking to do that are winning games for us. “Maybe a wee while back the players we thought would win us games didn’t. It is as simple as that. The people we are picking just now have flair and imagination. The system that we set up defensively helps to ensure we don’t lose games and although we have always had that, going forward we need imagination and we need players to do it and at this moment they are. “Leigh Griffiths has been improving for the last two years. That has just manifested itself in the performances you are seeing. He was good but we made sure he wasn’t on his own. That doesn’t just happen. We had to make sure he wasn’t on his own. People say he is a lone striker, but if you watch, he is never on his own. Leigh Griffiths has established himself as Scotland's first choice striker Credit: AP “He is the same fella off the pitch but he is learning the game. Then there’s Christophe Berra. When he is called upon, he is prepared and ready for it. I am sure there are guys who were disappointed not to play in Lithuania but most have had opportunities in the past and will have again, I’m sure. It’s up to them to grab that. “Christophe was excellent in Vilnius. He’s not the most spectacular of players but he is always willing and he did really well. And the likes of Tierney, you could stick him anywhere. Anywhere.” Kieran Tierney has been playing as a right-back for Scotland, who are unusually well stocked in quality left-backs Credit: AP Against more accomplished opponents, the Scots would have been made to pay for the lapses which allowed Arvydas Novikovas clear opportunities to create embarrassment. It took a full-stretch tip over the crossbar from Craig Gordon to deny the former Hearts and St Johnstone striker the opener from a venomously struck free-kick and the forward subsequently struck shots wide when unmarked inside the Scottish box. On this occasion, fortune favoured Scotland who had two efforts on target in the first half – Stuart Armstrong’s header and Andrew Robertson’s superbly flighted chip – and scored from both. James McArthur, whose error put Novikovas clear for one of his openings, redeemed himself by sealing the outcome with a rising drive from six yards after the interval. Strachan has come under pressure after Scotland's poor start to the campaign Credit: PA Prior to Friday’s win, ticket sales for tomorrow night’s meeting with Malta in Glasgow had been modest, but the Scots’ performance in Lithuania has produced a surge and there should now be a decent crowd. Strachan, though, cautioned against expectations of a repeat of the 5-1 win in Malta in the opening match of Scotland’s qualifying campaign. “We said afterwards that we were lucky to get the breaks and we didn’t disguise that,” he said. “We didn’t think it was a 5-1 mauling. We just thought it was a good performance, with the breaks at the right time. How hard did England find it to break them down? How hard did other teams find it? “Getting the first goal against Malta is the most important thing. Lithuania took nearly 80 minutes to get their first goal against them, and that was from a corner kick.” The Scots’ hopes of qualifying will soar if a home victory against Malta is combined with an England win over Slovakia at Wembley. Asked if that was the outcome he desired, Strachan replied laconically: “Aye, but I can’t do anything about it.”

Gordon Strachan says Scotland are optimistic after overcoming poor start to qualifying campaign

Gordon Strachan last night confessed he had imagined Scotland would now be in a better position to qualify for the World Cup than the current situation, in which they trail England and Slovakia in Group F. The Scots’ hopes were damaged when they lost 3-0 away against both teams last year, but they have staged a recovery, which began with a 1-0 home win over Slovenia before Friday’s 3-0 victory over Lithuania in Vilnius. Asked if, before the group campaign began, he would have settled for the Scots’ current status, the manager said: “No, because I thought we would have been better than that. We’re now far better than we were three games ago. “I think optimism was always there. If it wasn’t, we wouldn’t have done so well in the last three games. We weren’t downhearted or depressed.” Nevertheless, Strachan was required to overhaul his squad so thoroughly after last year’s disappointments that the starting line-up in Vilnius showed no fewer than 10 changes to the team that scrambled a 1-1 draw with Lithuania at Hampden in October 2016. “That’s what happens in a year,” he said. “There is a shift in the players I expect to start games now. As I said before, about systems and the rest of it, when you are defending, that’s when most of your coaching counts. When you are attacking, you leave it to players you think can win the game for you and the players we are picking to do that are winning games for us. “Maybe a wee while back the players we thought would win us games didn’t. It is as simple as that. The people we are picking just now have flair and imagination. The system that we set up defensively helps to ensure we don’t lose games and although we have always had that, going forward we need imagination and we need players to do it and at this moment they are. “Leigh Griffiths has been improving for the last two years. That has just manifested itself in the performances you are seeing. He was good but we made sure he wasn’t on his own. That doesn’t just happen. We had to make sure he wasn’t on his own. People say he is a lone striker, but if you watch, he is never on his own. Leigh Griffiths has established himself as Scotland's first choice striker Credit: AP “He is the same fella off the pitch but he is learning the game. Then there’s Christophe Berra. When he is called upon, he is prepared and ready for it. I am sure there are guys who were disappointed not to play in Lithuania but most have had opportunities in the past and will have again, I’m sure. It’s up to them to grab that. “Christophe was excellent in Vilnius. He’s not the most spectacular of players but he is always willing and he did really well. And the likes of Tierney, you could stick him anywhere. Anywhere.” Kieran Tierney has been playing as a right-back for Scotland, who are unusually well stocked in quality left-backs Credit: AP Against more accomplished opponents, the Scots would have been made to pay for the lapses which allowed Arvydas Novikovas clear opportunities to create embarrassment. It took a full-stretch tip over the crossbar from Craig Gordon to deny the former Hearts and St Johnstone striker the opener from a venomously struck free-kick and the forward subsequently struck shots wide when unmarked inside the Scottish box. On this occasion, fortune favoured Scotland who had two efforts on target in the first half – Stuart Armstrong’s header and Andrew Robertson’s superbly flighted chip – and scored from both. James McArthur, whose error put Novikovas clear for one of his openings, redeemed himself by sealing the outcome with a rising drive from six yards after the interval. Strachan has come under pressure after Scotland's poor start to the campaign Credit: PA Prior to Friday’s win, ticket sales for tomorrow night’s meeting with Malta in Glasgow had been modest, but the Scots’ performance in Lithuania has produced a surge and there should now be a decent crowd. Strachan, though, cautioned against expectations of a repeat of the 5-1 win in Malta in the opening match of Scotland’s qualifying campaign. “We said afterwards that we were lucky to get the breaks and we didn’t disguise that,” he said. “We didn’t think it was a 5-1 mauling. We just thought it was a good performance, with the breaks at the right time. How hard did England find it to break them down? How hard did other teams find it? “Getting the first goal against Malta is the most important thing. Lithuania took nearly 80 minutes to get their first goal against them, and that was from a corner kick.” The Scots’ hopes of qualifying will soar if a home victory against Malta is combined with an England win over Slovakia at Wembley. Asked if that was the outcome he desired, Strachan replied laconically: “Aye, but I can’t do anything about it.”

Mark McGhee explains absence of Callum McGregor and Oliver Burke from Scotland squad

As the Scotland squad assembled ahead of the World Cup qualifiers against Lithuania and Malta, much of the discussion was about two players not part of the Scots’ plans for the crucial double header.  When Gordon Strachan named his squad, the omission of Callum McGregor prompted the Celtic manager, Brendan Rodgers, to say: “I was surprised when he wasn’t in it, then even more surprised when I actually saw the squad.” One might expect Rodgers’ incredulity to increase after the weekend withdrawals of Tom Cairney and Steven Fletcher caused Strachan to send for James Morrison to maintain his options in the middle of the park. Rodgers, however, did draw a response from Mark McGhee, when the Scotland assistant manager stated his admiration for McGregor, while also defending Strachan’s decisions. “Last year I went to see Celtic play St Johnstone and told Gordon I thought Callum McGregor played really well,” said McGhee. Callum McGregor has been excellent for Celtic so far this season Credit: REUTERS “The thing about it is, we still have James Morrison, James McArthur and Barry Bannan and not only are these guys good players, they are the guys who are in possession and the guys who have been here already through this. They are still playing well, they are still doing well for their clubs, and deserve to continue. At the moment, we have too many players and too many riches in that area of the park. It’s not that any of us here don’t think he is a good player, or don’t think he has a future playing for Scotland but at this moment we have the people we need in that area. “I know Brendan and he protects his players, promotes his players and believes in his players. He has got every right to do that but I think our argument is a rational and sensible one. Gordon won’t take offence from Brendan saying that and if something happened against Lithuania where we suddenly needed three players, it’s not impossible that somebody like Callum McGregor would be brought in. “Because Brendan said what he said, and because there has been a feeling from quite a few people that maybe Callum should be here, that also wouldn’t stop Gordon from picking him. He’s not cutting off his nose to spite his face.  “We feel it’s a balanced decision, and we feel it’s the right decision. “There’s other parts of the argument as well which I’m not going to go down. I think I’ve said enough. We believe he’s a good player.” Oliver Burke recently signed for West Brom Credit: GETTY IMAGES Attention next turned to Oliver Burke, who moved from Red Bull Leipzig to West Brom for a reported £15 million, a year after having been sold to the Bundesliga side by Nottingham Forest for £13 million.  While such expenditure is loose change compared to certain summer transfers – Neymar, most notoriously – to generate £28 million in price tags within 12 months makes the 20-year-old winger a singular individual amongst the current generation of Scotland players. Burke’s development at full international level, however, has been put on hold after five caps. Omitted from the squad for Scotland’s 2-2 draw with England in June, he went with the Under-20 squad to the Toulon Tournament. “We think he’s a tremendous talent but he needs to play and find his game,” said McGhee. “At the moment, his strengths – power and size and crossing ability – and his goalscoring potential are huge, but he has to find his place in a team and he can only do that by playing games. When he went away with the under-20s the report back on him was outstanding.”  When discussion finally turned to Friday’s meeting with Lithuania in Vilnius, McGhee agreed that the Scots’ hope of a play-off place means that victory is essential.  “If we’re going to qualify – or even have a chance of qualifying – then yes, we have to win this game, definitely. We can’t hide from that. Even if we win this one we cannot be sure of making it and we have to assume that to get through we need to win the remaining four games.” The 50 best young players in world football

Mark McGhee explains absence of Callum McGregor and Oliver Burke from Scotland squad

As the Scotland squad assembled ahead of the World Cup qualifiers against Lithuania and Malta, much of the discussion was about two players not part of the Scots’ plans for the crucial double header.  When Gordon Strachan named his squad, the omission of Callum McGregor prompted the Celtic manager, Brendan Rodgers, to say: “I was surprised when he wasn’t in it, then even more surprised when I actually saw the squad.” One might expect Rodgers’ incredulity to increase after the weekend withdrawals of Tom Cairney and Steven Fletcher caused Strachan to send for James Morrison to maintain his options in the middle of the park. Rodgers, however, did draw a response from Mark McGhee, when the Scotland assistant manager stated his admiration for McGregor, while also defending Strachan’s decisions. “Last year I went to see Celtic play St Johnstone and told Gordon I thought Callum McGregor played really well,” said McGhee. Callum McGregor has been excellent for Celtic so far this season Credit: REUTERS “The thing about it is, we still have James Morrison, James McArthur and Barry Bannan and not only are these guys good players, they are the guys who are in possession and the guys who have been here already through this. They are still playing well, they are still doing well for their clubs, and deserve to continue. At the moment, we have too many players and too many riches in that area of the park. It’s not that any of us here don’t think he is a good player, or don’t think he has a future playing for Scotland but at this moment we have the people we need in that area. “I know Brendan and he protects his players, promotes his players and believes in his players. He has got every right to do that but I think our argument is a rational and sensible one. Gordon won’t take offence from Brendan saying that and if something happened against Lithuania where we suddenly needed three players, it’s not impossible that somebody like Callum McGregor would be brought in. “Because Brendan said what he said, and because there has been a feeling from quite a few people that maybe Callum should be here, that also wouldn’t stop Gordon from picking him. He’s not cutting off his nose to spite his face.  “We feel it’s a balanced decision, and we feel it’s the right decision. “There’s other parts of the argument as well which I’m not going to go down. I think I’ve said enough. We believe he’s a good player.” Oliver Burke recently signed for West Brom Credit: GETTY IMAGES Attention next turned to Oliver Burke, who moved from Red Bull Leipzig to West Brom for a reported £15 million, a year after having been sold to the Bundesliga side by Nottingham Forest for £13 million.  While such expenditure is loose change compared to certain summer transfers – Neymar, most notoriously – to generate £28 million in price tags within 12 months makes the 20-year-old winger a singular individual amongst the current generation of Scotland players. Burke’s development at full international level, however, has been put on hold after five caps. Omitted from the squad for Scotland’s 2-2 draw with England in June, he went with the Under-20 squad to the Toulon Tournament. “We think he’s a tremendous talent but he needs to play and find his game,” said McGhee. “At the moment, his strengths – power and size and crossing ability – and his goalscoring potential are huge, but he has to find his place in a team and he can only do that by playing games. When he went away with the under-20s the report back on him was outstanding.”  When discussion finally turned to Friday’s meeting with Lithuania in Vilnius, McGhee agreed that the Scots’ hope of a play-off place means that victory is essential.  “If we’re going to qualify – or even have a chance of qualifying – then yes, we have to win this game, definitely. We can’t hide from that. Even if we win this one we cannot be sure of making it and we have to assume that to get through we need to win the remaining four games.” The 50 best young players in world football

Scotland will benefit from Celtic's experience playing on artificial turf, says Scott Brown

Scotland’s World Cup qualifying hopes will benefit from Celtic’s recent exposure to artificial turf, according to Scott Brown, the Hoops captain. Gordon Strachan’s Scots – with six Parkhead players in the squad - will meet Lithuania on Friday at the KFF Stadium, where the pitch is similar to that at Rugby Park, scene of Celtic’s 2-0 victory against Kilmarnock on August 19. Celtic then met Astana on a similar surface in the second leg of their Champions League play-off in Kazakhstan last week, losing 4-3 on the night but progressing to the group stage on an aggregate of 8-4. Brendan Rodgers did not use Jozo Simunovic on either occasion, because the central defender has a knee problem which is prone to aggravation on such tops. Brown is another who has a history of injury that makes him wary of the hazards of artificial pitches but he takes the view that a third game in rapid succession for the Celtic contingent will reduce the need for adjustment. “That’s three astroturfs in a couple of weeks and it’s not great for your body, but you have to deal with it,” he said. “There are probably folk playing five-a-sides on it now over there. You get a lot of injuries, but it’s in the Scottish game now. “Lithuania will be used to it more than us, but it has helped that we at Celtic have had a couple of games on astro recently. That’ll stand us in good stead. “Astro affects everyone. It’s different for me compared to other players and it’s not great for your body, but you have to deal with it.” Brown skippered Celtic to a 53rd successive domestic fixture unbeaten at home to St Johnstone on Saturday but they had to come from behind to secure a 1-1 draw. Indeed, Saints can make the rare boast that they recovered from a knockout blow to score for fun – in both cases literally – against Brendan Rodgers’ team. Inside the first minute, Saints’ Murray Davidson was rendered unconscious by a collision with Aaron Comrie, who got his first start at right back for the Perth team. Although Davidson required five minutes of treatment before being stretchered from the field, Comrie was unaware of the severity of his team mate’s condition. “I didn’t find out until after the game that he had been unconscious,” Comrie said. “I didn’t even know at the time that I cut my head. I only got my stitches afterwards.” Undaunted by Davidson’s departure, St Johnstone pressed more than most visitors to the east end of Glasgow and were rewarded with an opening goal in bizarre circumstances when Craig Gordon sliced an attempted clearance. The ball fell to Davidson’s replacement, Liam Craig, who passed to Steven MacLean inside the box. The striker, wholly unmarked, stopped, thinking that he was offside, although there was no flag. In fact, he had been played onside by Anthony Ralston but, still supposing that a free kick was about to be awarded, MacLean stroked the ball into the net. In the dressing room after the match he confessed that he had been “messing about” when he did so and was taken aback upon realising that the goal would stand. This delayed reaction seemed to extend to the second half moment when MacLean found himself with a free header directly in front of Gordon. An effort on either side of the keeper would almost certainly have doubled Saints’ lead and might even have ended Celtic’s long unbeaten sequence. Instead, the Perth forward placed it straight at Gordon and the chance was gone. Celtic, driven on by the tireless Scott Sinclair, got the benefit of a return from one of their interval substitutions when Callum McGregor drove home the equaliser from just inside the box, triggering a cavalry charge by the Hoops which threatened to sweep Saints aside. “We started slowly and we were disappointed with the goal we lost, but the second-half was like the Alamo,” said Brown. “That’s not like us at Celtic Park. We usually start pressing teams high up the park. “The knock in the first couple of minutes killed the momentum of the game a bit and we didn’t really pick it up from there.” As for Comrie, he confessed that he was blowing bubbles by full time. “It was relentless in that last 15 minutes. I felt fine up until then but every time Sinclair was getting the ball I was thinking ‘Oh, no’. “My legs were done by the end. I’ll not be the first player to say that after a game like that at Celtic Park, though. “I’m grateful that the manager has the trust to put me in a big game like Celtic away and I’m glad I could pay him back.”

Stuart Armstrong back on track after signing new Celtic deal

Stuart Armstrong – whose protracted contract negotiations with Celtic ended with a new, longer deal last week – has  rebutted manager Brendan Rodgers’ claim that the process had affected his performances adversely. Rodgers told Telegraph Sport two weeks ago: “It has affected him…it is starting to take its toll on him a bit.” Armstrong, however, said: “In my head it was clear that I was staying so there was no issue with being unsettled. It was obviously just everything surrounding it – I just wanted to focus on playing football. “It was always my decision to get that contract signed. It just took a bit of time but now that is all sorted and  everything has settled down. “Everyone is fighting for a spot to play for Celtic and that’s the way it should be. It has been that way since the day I joined the club and it is no  different now.” Some Celtic fans and players had  expressed the desire not to find themselves coming out of the Champions League draw alongside Barcelona for what would have been a fourth successive meeting in the group stage – and they got their wish when the Parkhead side found themselves in the company of Bayern Munich, Paris St-Germain and Anderlecht. “We played Barcelona last year and the boys had encountered them a  couple of years previously so it will be nice to see some new faces,” admitted Armstrong. “We don’t want to put a  label on anything. “As boring as it sounds we will take each game as it comes. That’s the way we think domestically and in European football. The last Champions League campaign was a good experience and as a team and a group we are in a better position now.” Armstrong and Brendan Rodgers following Celtic's Champions League qualifying play-off midweek Credit: REUTERS Armstrong started on the bench for the visit of St Johnstone, who started the day level on points with Celtic but suffered a blow in the opening minute when Murray Davidson was knocked out in a collision inside the Hoops box and required five minutes of treatment by the medics before being stretchered from the field. Davidson was replaced by Liam Craig, who was to have a say in the  action when events took an unforeseen turn towards half-time. Perhaps inspired by the example of Astana, who beat Celtic 4-3 in the  second leg of their Champions League play-off in Kazakhstan in midweek, Saints took the game to the Scottish  title holders. Michael O’Halloran showed the way when he got clear of Celtic’s right-back, Anthony Ralston, for a cutback towards David Wotherspoon, who was unable to apply his customary technique and power on his finish, which was a  simple save for Craig Gordon. The goalkeeper, though, was the architect of his own misfortune nine minutes before the break when he sliced a clearance to Craig, who turned the ball promptly infield to Steven MacLean. The striker hesitated, seemingly checking that he was not offside before beating Gordon with a low shot, inducing euphoria amongst the small Perth support and stunned silence in the ranks of the home faithful. Rodgers’ response was to replace James Forrest and Olivier Ntcham with Jonny Hayes and Armstrong for the second half. Armstrong almost equalised with a vicious drive which Allan Mannus tipped over the bar. At the other end MacLean missed an outstanding chance when he directed a header straight at Gordon from point-blank range. Substitute Callum McGregor earned Celtic a point with 11 minutes left when the ball broke to him and from 16 yards he fired into the net. The 100 greatest Champions League moments In a bizarre sideshow to the game, the second assistant ref was Douglas Ross, who is a Conservative MP for  Moray. In that capacity, he found himself immersed in controversy after  giving an interview in which he was asked what he would do if he were Prime Minister for a day Ross said he would “like to see tougher enforcement against gipsies and travellers”. In the outcry which  followed, Ross apologised but his  remarks will be scrutinised by the Scottish Football Association. Elsewhere, there was a thrilling 4-3 win for Aberdeen over Partick Thistle at Firhill. The visitors took an early lead through Ryan Christie before Thistle retorted with goals from Chris Erskine and Kris Doolan. A Kenny McLean  penalty levelled the score again by half-time. After the break the Dons went ahead again through Scott Wright, only for Niall Keown to equalise almost immediately. Adam Rooney headed in the winner before Keown was sent off  following a second booking. At Rugby Park it finished 2-2. Kilmarnock took the lead against Hamilton Academical through a Louis Longridge own goal and saw Lee Irwin double their lead after the break. Accies, though, responded through Giannis Skondras and an Ali Crawford penalty. At Fir Park, Kyle Lafferty opened the scoring for Hearts but Ryan Bowman and Louis Moult responded to give Motherwell a 2-1 victory.

Stuart Armstrong back on track after signing new Celtic deal

Stuart Armstrong – whose protracted contract negotiations with Celtic ended with a new, longer deal last week – has  rebutted manager Brendan Rodgers’ claim that the process had affected his performances adversely. Rodgers told Telegraph Sport two weeks ago: “It has affected him…it is starting to take its toll on him a bit.” Armstrong, however, said: “In my head it was clear that I was staying so there was no issue with being unsettled. It was obviously just everything surrounding it – I just wanted to focus on playing football. “It was always my decision to get that contract signed. It just took a bit of time but now that is all sorted and  everything has settled down. “Everyone is fighting for a spot to play for Celtic and that’s the way it should be. It has been that way since the day I joined the club and it is no  different now.” Some Celtic fans and players had  expressed the desire not to find themselves coming out of the Champions League draw alongside Barcelona for what would have been a fourth successive meeting in the group stage – and they got their wish when the Parkhead side found themselves in the company of Bayern Munich, Paris St-Germain and Anderlecht. “We played Barcelona last year and the boys had encountered them a  couple of years previously so it will be nice to see some new faces,” admitted Armstrong. “We don’t want to put a  label on anything. “As boring as it sounds we will take each game as it comes. That’s the way we think domestically and in European football. The last Champions League campaign was a good experience and as a team and a group we are in a better position now.” Armstrong and Brendan Rodgers following Celtic's Champions League qualifying play-off midweek Credit: REUTERS Armstrong started on the bench for the visit of St Johnstone, who started the day level on points with Celtic but suffered a blow in the opening minute when Murray Davidson was knocked out in a collision inside the Hoops box and required five minutes of treatment by the medics before being stretchered from the field. Davidson was replaced by Liam Craig, who was to have a say in the  action when events took an unforeseen turn towards half-time. Perhaps inspired by the example of Astana, who beat Celtic 4-3 in the  second leg of their Champions League play-off in Kazakhstan in midweek, Saints took the game to the Scottish  title holders. Michael O’Halloran showed the way when he got clear of Celtic’s right-back, Anthony Ralston, for a cutback towards David Wotherspoon, who was unable to apply his customary technique and power on his finish, which was a  simple save for Craig Gordon. The goalkeeper, though, was the architect of his own misfortune nine minutes before the break when he sliced a clearance to Craig, who turned the ball promptly infield to Steven MacLean. The striker hesitated, seemingly checking that he was not offside before beating Gordon with a low shot, inducing euphoria amongst the small Perth support and stunned silence in the ranks of the home faithful. Rodgers’ response was to replace James Forrest and Olivier Ntcham with Jonny Hayes and Armstrong for the second half. Armstrong almost equalised with a vicious drive which Allan Mannus tipped over the bar. At the other end MacLean missed an outstanding chance when he directed a header straight at Gordon from point-blank range. Substitute Callum McGregor earned Celtic a point with 11 minutes left when the ball broke to him and from 16 yards he fired into the net. The 100 greatest Champions League moments In a bizarre sideshow to the game, the second assistant ref was Douglas Ross, who is a Conservative MP for  Moray. In that capacity, he found himself immersed in controversy after  giving an interview in which he was asked what he would do if he were Prime Minister for a day Ross said he would “like to see tougher enforcement against gipsies and travellers”. In the outcry which  followed, Ross apologised but his  remarks will be scrutinised by the Scottish Football Association. Elsewhere, there was a thrilling 4-3 win for Aberdeen over Partick Thistle at Firhill. The visitors took an early lead through Ryan Christie before Thistle retorted with goals from Chris Erskine and Kris Doolan. A Kenny McLean  penalty levelled the score again by half-time. After the break the Dons went ahead again through Scott Wright, only for Niall Keown to equalise almost immediately. Adam Rooney headed in the winner before Keown was sent off  following a second booking. At Rugby Park it finished 2-2. Kilmarnock took the lead against Hamilton Academical through a Louis Longridge own goal and saw Lee Irwin double their lead after the break. Accies, though, responded through Giannis Skondras and an Ali Crawford penalty. At Fir Park, Kyle Lafferty opened the scoring for Hearts but Ryan Bowman and Louis Moult responded to give Motherwell a 2-1 victory.

Celtic's Tom Rogic clashes with St Johnstone's Paul Paton in the Scottish Premiership.

Celtic's Tom Rogic clashes with St Johnstone's Paul Paton in the Scottish Premiership.

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers says Paris St-Germain’s spending in the transfer market is 'obscene'

Brendan Rodgers has branded Paris St-Germain’s £138 million move for the Monaco striker Kylian Mbappe “obscene” and claimed that the bid – allied to PSG’s payment of almost £200 million to bring Neymar from Barcelona made a mockery of Uefa’s Financial Fair Play regulations, designed to stop clubs getting into situations which could threaten their survival. PSG’s spending is of particular interest to Celtic, because the clubs were drawn along with Bayern Munich and Anderlecht in Group B of the Champions League. “If they sign Mbappe you could rip up Financial Fair Play,” Rodgers said. “Since it was brought in you could argue that it has gone the other way. It is obscene now. “I’ve always been one to pay for quality and go that extra mile to get that quality in – but £198 million for a football player?” Rodgers compared Neymar’s deal with Celtic’s recent £4.5 million  acquisition of the 21-year-old French midfielder, Olivier Ntcham, from Manchester City. “You would get 40 Olivier Ntchams for that – and we might need 40!” he said. “It is frightening when you look at what you’d consider to be an  average player at a valuation between £20-30 million, but it works its way down. There are players in the English Championship going for £15-17 million. The 100 greatest Champions League moments “It’s the way the market is at the moment but it doesn’t make it any easier for us. If we finish in third place in our Champions League group then it will still be significant progress. As I said before the draw was even made, for us to be in  Europe would be fantastic for us. “It’s a difficult ask but it’s something that will be brilliant for us in our game.” Having attacked PSG’s profligacy, Rodgers mounted an impassioned defence of Nir Bitton, following criticism of the Israeli midfielder’s performance against Astana in the second leg of Celtic’s Champions League play-off tie with the Kazakh title holders on ­Tuesday. The Parkhead side suffered a shock 4-3  defeat away from home but went through 8-4 on aggregate. Celtic fans, however, posted scathing messages on social media condemning Bitton’s lacklustre  display, although others, such as fellow midfielder Scott Brown and goalkeeper Craig Gordon, were also targets for severe criticism. Bitton’s six appearances of the season have all been in central  defence, where Celtic have been short of cover after injuries to Deryck Boyata, Erik Sviatchenko – who could move to FC Copenhagen ­before the end of the transfer window – and Jozo Simunovic. Simunovic could return for the Premiership visit of St Johnstone and, if so, could be paired again with Bitton. “Jozo hasn’t trained much in the last eight days and we’ll see how his leg reacts to the session today but the one player I want to mention is Bitton,” said Rodgers. “The stuff that has been said about him has been absolutely  incredible. I have seen people talk about what we should have had and blah, blah, blah, forgetting that we had three of our main central ­defenders injured. I do not have magic in a wand to just spring up a centre-half. Most CL appearances by clubs “We didn’t have people talk about too many solutions. We had to defend over the course of the group stages with the football. Our defending was done with the ball. “We had to keep long periods of possession and in order to do that we played Bitton at the back. I hear and I read and I see the guy getting absolutely killed which I simply find unbelievable. It is a midfielder playing at the back. People are talking about a £30 million risk – we might not be here for £30 million if it wasn’t for him. “No one talked about how he stepped in and made the pass to Leigh Griffiths for a goal. Naturally he is going to be out of position. “After last weekend’s game against Kilmarnock he was in a [surgical] boot for two days. He travelled with a boot and then took it off just before he went into the training session the night before the game. “He was suffering. His leg was sore, but he put himself out there for the team and he went in and did the best he possibly could in that situation and over the course of the qualification. He is still in pain, still sore but this is a guy who shows the spirit of the team and so I feel the need to defend him. “In the end, we got the job done and guys like Nir were real heroes for us.”

Celtic's attention turns towards Champions League after extending unbeaten run to 52 matches

Celtic currently occupy territory between two contrasting chasms. On one side, Brendan Rodgers and his players can gaze loftily down at the gap between them and every other Scottish club. On the other, an unbridgeable disparity in resources will likely confront the Parkhead men when they learn the identity of their Champions League group stage opponents on Friday – assuming that no calamity undermines the 5-0 lead they take into Tuesday's meeting with Astana in the second leg of their tournament play-off. Rodgers and his squad embarked upon a flight of almost six hours to Kazakhstan on Sunday, having extended their unbeaten sequence in domestic fixtures to 52 games with Saturday’s tidy 2-0 victory over Kilmarnock at Rugby Park. It was the second time these teams had met inside the space of 12 days and Killie were notably more cohesive than when they crumpled to a 5-0 defeat in the Betfred Scottish League Cup. Lee McCulloch, the home manager, was the subject of deserved praise from Rodgers afterwards but honeyed words do not alter the truth that, in the opening meeting, Celtic cruised home with what was virtually a reserve team. The Hoops started the weekend’s encounter without any first-choice central defender or striker, but still prevailed within a significant margin for error. Forrest opens the scoring against Kilmarnock Credit: ACTION PLUS In one respect, the personnel deployed on Saturday constitute an endorsement of native skills. Celtic fielded eight Scots at Rugby Park, three of whom – Craig Gordon, Scott Brown and Leigh Griffiths – are also automatic selections for Gordon Strachan, when he picks a Scotland squad, as he will do today (Monday) for next week’s World Cup qualifier against Lithuania in Vilnius. Ominously for Celtic’s domestic opponents, however, the Parkhead contingent also included five of the club’s academy graduates – Anthony Ralston, Kieran Tierney, Calvin Miller, Callum McGregor and James Forrest, the latter two of whom scored the goals which secured all three points. In each case, Kilmarnock’s door was unlocked by one of the club’s most effective acquisitions in recent years, Tom Rogic. Rogic frequently plays no more than an hour or so of a game, as insurance against recurrence of past injuries but, early or late, his contributions are usually significant. The Australian midfielder sealed Celtic’s clean sweep of the Scottish honours with an injury time winner against Aberdeen in the William Hill Scottish Cup final at Hampden in May, and last Wednesday he jemmied Astana’s deep defence for the opening goal at Celtic Park in the first instalment of the Champions League play-off. Thus are the Celtic faithful treated to a promenade through a fixture list which next presents them with what can be billed as a top of the table encounter, when St Johnstone make their way to the east end of Glasgow on Saturday. Tom Rogic was a key figure in Celtic's latest win Credit: ACTION PLUS Saints’ home victory over Partick Thistle extended their perfect start to three consecutive wins, a club record for the start of a Scottish Premiership campaign, secured by a Michael O’Halloran strike in the 33rd minute. O’Halloran’s goal was the fourth of his spell on loan from Rangers, a development swiftly pointed out by correspondents on his Twitter account. Social media contributions also highlighted that his tally is the same as Rangers’ league goals total and that he was one of four forwards discarded by Pedro Caixinha – the other were Barrie McKay, Martyn Waghorn and Joe Garner – who found the mark on Saturday while their former colleagues were forced to settle for a goalless draw at home to Hearts. In more favourable circumstances, Rangers fans would have exulted in Hibernian’s 3-1 home defeat by Hamilton Academical, which brought Neil Lennon’s players crashing back to earth after the euphoria of their victory at Ibrox the previous weekend. Instead, Caixinha and his players were jeered for an outcome which meant they had dropped five points in consecutive home matches against the two Edinburgh teams, one whose manager is loathed by many amongst the Rangers support, while the other is supervised by a caretaker coach. Rangers manager Pedro Caixinha  Credit: PA It is not Caixinha’s fault that his utterances in English are often wholly obscure, as when he observed after the Hearts game that he did not ‘remember one single transition of the opponent’. He made himself clear, though, in May, when he predicted that Rangers would improve, while Aberdeen would lose the like of Niall McGinn and Ryan Jack. “I do believe that Aberdeen’s cycle is about to - not to end - but needs to be renewed,” he said. At that stage last season, Aberdeen led Rangers by six points. Three games into this campaign Aberdeen are five points ahead of Rangers and level with Celtic and St Johnstone. On Saturday night, one did not have to go far to hear disenchanted Rangers fans exclaiming into their pints about their manager’s indifferent record. Chatter from within the club suggests a dressing room which has incubated cliques. If Caixinha does not leave Dingwall with a win over Ross County next Sunday, the Ibrox board will be sweating, notwithstanding a summer which has been unseasonably cool even by Scottish standards. Pick your free Telegraph Fantasy Football team now and start scoring from the next kick-off >>

Celtic's attention turns towards Champions League after extending unbeaten run to 52 matches

Celtic currently occupy territory between two contrasting chasms. On one side, Brendan Rodgers and his players can gaze loftily down at the gap between them and every other Scottish club. On the other, an unbridgeable disparity in resources will likely confront the Parkhead men when they learn the identity of their Champions League group stage opponents on Friday – assuming that no calamity undermines the 5-0 lead they take into Tuesday's meeting with Astana in the second leg of their tournament play-off. Rodgers and his squad embarked upon a flight of almost six hours to Kazakhstan on Sunday, having extended their unbeaten sequence in domestic fixtures to 52 games with Saturday’s tidy 2-0 victory over Kilmarnock at Rugby Park. It was the second time these teams had met inside the space of 12 days and Killie were notably more cohesive than when they crumpled to a 5-0 defeat in the Betfred Scottish League Cup. Lee McCulloch, the home manager, was the subject of deserved praise from Rodgers afterwards but honeyed words do not alter the truth that, in the opening meeting, Celtic cruised home with what was virtually a reserve team. The Hoops started the weekend’s encounter without any first-choice central defender or striker, but still prevailed within a significant margin for error. Forrest opens the scoring against Kilmarnock Credit: ACTION PLUS In one respect, the personnel deployed on Saturday constitute an endorsement of native skills. Celtic fielded eight Scots at Rugby Park, three of whom – Craig Gordon, Scott Brown and Leigh Griffiths – are also automatic selections for Gordon Strachan, when he picks a Scotland squad, as he will do today (Monday) for next week’s World Cup qualifier against Lithuania in Vilnius. Ominously for Celtic’s domestic opponents, however, the Parkhead contingent also included five of the club’s academy graduates – Anthony Ralston, Kieran Tierney, Calvin Miller, Callum McGregor and James Forrest, the latter two of whom scored the goals which secured all three points. In each case, Kilmarnock’s door was unlocked by one of the club’s most effective acquisitions in recent years, Tom Rogic. Rogic frequently plays no more than an hour or so of a game, as insurance against recurrence of past injuries but, early or late, his contributions are usually significant. The Australian midfielder sealed Celtic’s clean sweep of the Scottish honours with an injury time winner against Aberdeen in the William Hill Scottish Cup final at Hampden in May, and last Wednesday he jemmied Astana’s deep defence for the opening goal at Celtic Park in the first instalment of the Champions League play-off. Thus are the Celtic faithful treated to a promenade through a fixture list which next presents them with what can be billed as a top of the table encounter, when St Johnstone make their way to the east end of Glasgow on Saturday. Tom Rogic was a key figure in Celtic's latest win Credit: ACTION PLUS Saints’ home victory over Partick Thistle extended their perfect start to three consecutive wins, a club record for the start of a Scottish Premiership campaign, secured by a Michael O’Halloran strike in the 33rd minute. O’Halloran’s goal was the fourth of his spell on loan from Rangers, a development swiftly pointed out by correspondents on his Twitter account. Social media contributions also highlighted that his tally is the same as Rangers’ league goals total and that he was one of four forwards discarded by Pedro Caixinha – the other were Barrie McKay, Martyn Waghorn and Joe Garner – who found the mark on Saturday while their former colleagues were forced to settle for a goalless draw at home to Hearts. In more favourable circumstances, Rangers fans would have exulted in Hibernian’s 3-1 home defeat by Hamilton Academical, which brought Neil Lennon’s players crashing back to earth after the euphoria of their victory at Ibrox the previous weekend. Instead, Caixinha and his players were jeered for an outcome which meant they had dropped five points in consecutive home matches against the two Edinburgh teams, one whose manager is loathed by many amongst the Rangers support, while the other is supervised by a caretaker coach. Rangers manager Pedro Caixinha  Credit: PA It is not Caixinha’s fault that his utterances in English are often wholly obscure, as when he observed after the Hearts game that he did not ‘remember one single transition of the opponent’. He made himself clear, though, in May, when he predicted that Rangers would improve, while Aberdeen would lose the like of Niall McGinn and Ryan Jack. “I do believe that Aberdeen’s cycle is about to - not to end - but needs to be renewed,” he said. At that stage last season, Aberdeen led Rangers by six points. Three games into this campaign Aberdeen are five points ahead of Rangers and level with Celtic and St Johnstone. On Saturday night, one did not have to go far to hear disenchanted Rangers fans exclaiming into their pints about their manager’s indifferent record. Chatter from within the club suggests a dressing room which has incubated cliques. If Caixinha does not leave Dingwall with a win over Ross County next Sunday, the Ibrox board will be sweating, notwithstanding a summer which has been unseasonably cool even by Scottish standards. Pick your free Telegraph Fantasy Football team now and start scoring from the next kick-off >>

Celtic's attention turns towards Champions League after extending unbeaten run to 52 matches

Celtic currently occupy territory between two contrasting chasms. On one side, Brendan Rodgers and his players can gaze loftily down at the gap between them and every other Scottish club. On the other, an unbridgeable disparity in resources will likely confront the Parkhead men when they learn the identity of their Champions League group stage opponents on Friday – assuming that no calamity undermines the 5-0 lead they take into Tuesday's meeting with Astana in the second leg of their tournament play-off. Rodgers and his squad embarked upon a flight of almost six hours to Kazakhstan on Sunday, having extended their unbeaten sequence in domestic fixtures to 52 games with Saturday’s tidy 2-0 victory over Kilmarnock at Rugby Park. It was the second time these teams had met inside the space of 12 days and Killie were notably more cohesive than when they crumpled to a 5-0 defeat in the Betfred Scottish League Cup. Lee McCulloch, the home manager, was the subject of deserved praise from Rodgers afterwards but honeyed words do not alter the truth that, in the opening meeting, Celtic cruised home with what was virtually a reserve team. The Hoops started the weekend’s encounter without any first-choice central defender or striker, but still prevailed within a significant margin for error. Forrest opens the scoring against Kilmarnock Credit: ACTION PLUS In one respect, the personnel deployed on Saturday constitute an endorsement of native skills. Celtic fielded eight Scots at Rugby Park, three of whom – Craig Gordon, Scott Brown and Leigh Griffiths – are also automatic selections for Gordon Strachan, when he picks a Scotland squad, as he will do today (Monday) for next week’s World Cup qualifier against Lithuania in Vilnius. Ominously for Celtic’s domestic opponents, however, the Parkhead contingent also included five of the club’s academy graduates – Anthony Ralston, Kieran Tierney, Calvin Miller, Callum McGregor and James Forrest, the latter two of whom scored the goals which secured all three points. In each case, Kilmarnock’s door was unlocked by one of the club’s most effective acquisitions in recent years, Tom Rogic. Rogic frequently plays no more than an hour or so of a game, as insurance against recurrence of past injuries but, early or late, his contributions are usually significant. The Australian midfielder sealed Celtic’s clean sweep of the Scottish honours with an injury time winner against Aberdeen in the William Hill Scottish Cup final at Hampden in May, and last Wednesday he jemmied Astana’s deep defence for the opening goal at Celtic Park in the first instalment of the Champions League play-off. Thus are the Celtic faithful treated to a promenade through a fixture list which next presents them with what can be billed as a top of the table encounter, when St Johnstone make their way to the east end of Glasgow on Saturday. Tom Rogic was a key figure in Celtic's latest win Credit: ACTION PLUS Saints’ home victory over Partick Thistle extended their perfect start to three consecutive wins, a club record for the start of a Scottish Premiership campaign, secured by a Michael O’Halloran strike in the 33rd minute. O’Halloran’s goal was the fourth of his spell on loan from Rangers, a development swiftly pointed out by correspondents on his Twitter account. Social media contributions also highlighted that his tally is the same as Rangers’ league goals total and that he was one of four forwards discarded by Pedro Caixinha – the other were Barrie McKay, Martyn Waghorn and Joe Garner – who found the mark on Saturday while their former colleagues were forced to settle for a goalless draw at home to Hearts. In more favourable circumstances, Rangers fans would have exulted in Hibernian’s 3-1 home defeat by Hamilton Academical, which brought Neil Lennon’s players crashing back to earth after the euphoria of their victory at Ibrox the previous weekend. Instead, Caixinha and his players were jeered for an outcome which meant they had dropped five points in consecutive home matches against the two Edinburgh teams, one whose manager is loathed by many amongst the Rangers support, while the other is supervised by a caretaker coach. Rangers manager Pedro Caixinha  Credit: PA It is not Caixinha’s fault that his utterances in English are often wholly obscure, as when he observed after the Hearts game that he did not ‘remember one single transition of the opponent’. He made himself clear, though, in May, when he predicted that Rangers would improve, while Aberdeen would lose the like of Niall McGinn and Ryan Jack. “I do believe that Aberdeen’s cycle is about to - not to end - but needs to be renewed,” he said. At that stage last season, Aberdeen led Rangers by six points. Three games into this campaign Aberdeen are five points ahead of Rangers and level with Celtic and St Johnstone. On Saturday night, one did not have to go far to hear disenchanted Rangers fans exclaiming into their pints about their manager’s indifferent record. Chatter from within the club suggests a dressing room which has incubated cliques. If Caixinha does not leave Dingwall with a win over Ross County next Sunday, the Ibrox board will be sweating, notwithstanding a summer which has been unseasonably cool even by Scottish standards. Pick your free Telegraph Fantasy Football team now and start scoring from the next kick-off >>

Celtic's attention turns towards Champions League after extending unbeaten run to 52 matches

Celtic currently occupy territory between two contrasting chasms. On one side, Brendan Rodgers and his players can gaze loftily down at the gap between them and every other Scottish club. On the other, an unbridgeable disparity in resources will likely confront the Parkhead men when they learn the identity of their Champions League group stage opponents on Friday – assuming that no calamity undermines the 5-0 lead they take into Tuesday's meeting with Astana in the second leg of their tournament play-off. Rodgers and his squad embarked upon a flight of almost six hours to Kazakhstan on Sunday, having extended their unbeaten sequence in domestic fixtures to 52 games with Saturday’s tidy 2-0 victory over Kilmarnock at Rugby Park. It was the second time these teams had met inside the space of 12 days and Killie were notably more cohesive than when they crumpled to a 5-0 defeat in the Betfred Scottish League Cup. Lee McCulloch, the home manager, was the subject of deserved praise from Rodgers afterwards but honeyed words do not alter the truth that, in the opening meeting, Celtic cruised home with what was virtually a reserve team. The Hoops started the weekend’s encounter without any first-choice central defender or striker, but still prevailed within a significant margin for error. Forrest opens the scoring against Kilmarnock Credit: ACTION PLUS In one respect, the personnel deployed on Saturday constitute an endorsement of native skills. Celtic fielded eight Scots at Rugby Park, three of whom – Craig Gordon, Scott Brown and Leigh Griffiths – are also automatic selections for Gordon Strachan, when he picks a Scotland squad, as he will do today (Monday) for next week’s World Cup qualifier against Lithuania in Vilnius. Ominously for Celtic’s domestic opponents, however, the Parkhead contingent also included five of the club’s academy graduates – Anthony Ralston, Kieran Tierney, Calvin Miller, Callum McGregor and James Forrest, the latter two of whom scored the goals which secured all three points. In each case, Kilmarnock’s door was unlocked by one of the club’s most effective acquisitions in recent years, Tom Rogic. Rogic frequently plays no more than an hour or so of a game, as insurance against recurrence of past injuries but, early or late, his contributions are usually significant. The Australian midfielder sealed Celtic’s clean sweep of the Scottish honours with an injury time winner against Aberdeen in the William Hill Scottish Cup final at Hampden in May, and last Wednesday he jemmied Astana’s deep defence for the opening goal at Celtic Park in the first instalment of the Champions League play-off. Thus are the Celtic faithful treated to a promenade through a fixture list which next presents them with what can be billed as a top of the table encounter, when St Johnstone make their way to the east end of Glasgow on Saturday. Tom Rogic was a key figure in Celtic's latest win Credit: ACTION PLUS Saints’ home victory over Partick Thistle extended their perfect start to three consecutive wins, a club record for the start of a Scottish Premiership campaign, secured by a Michael O’Halloran strike in the 33rd minute. O’Halloran’s goal was the fourth of his spell on loan from Rangers, a development swiftly pointed out by correspondents on his Twitter account. Social media contributions also highlighted that his tally is the same as Rangers’ league goals total and that he was one of four forwards discarded by Pedro Caixinha – the other were Barrie McKay, Martyn Waghorn and Joe Garner – who found the mark on Saturday while their former colleagues were forced to settle for a goalless draw at home to Hearts. In more favourable circumstances, Rangers fans would have exulted in Hibernian’s 3-1 home defeat by Hamilton Academical, which brought Neil Lennon’s players crashing back to earth after the euphoria of their victory at Ibrox the previous weekend. Instead, Caixinha and his players were jeered for an outcome which meant they had dropped five points in consecutive home matches against the two Edinburgh teams, one whose manager is loathed by many amongst the Rangers support, while the other is supervised by a caretaker coach. Rangers manager Pedro Caixinha  Credit: PA It is not Caixinha’s fault that his utterances in English are often wholly obscure, as when he observed after the Hearts game that he did not ‘remember one single transition of the opponent’. He made himself clear, though, in May, when he predicted that Rangers would improve, while Aberdeen would lose the like of Niall McGinn and Ryan Jack. “I do believe that Aberdeen’s cycle is about to - not to end - but needs to be renewed,” he said. At that stage last season, Aberdeen led Rangers by six points. Three games into this campaign Aberdeen are five points ahead of Rangers and level with Celtic and St Johnstone. On Saturday night, one did not have to go far to hear disenchanted Rangers fans exclaiming into their pints about their manager’s indifferent record. Chatter from within the club suggests a dressing room which has incubated cliques. If Caixinha does not leave Dingwall with a win over Ross County next Sunday, the Ibrox board will be sweating, notwithstanding a summer which has been unseasonably cool even by Scottish standards. Pick your free Telegraph Fantasy Football team now and start scoring from the next kick-off >>

Hibernian’s defeat of Rangers backs up Neil Lennon claims his side can target top three 

We are only two instalments into the Scottish title race but significant themes and contrasts are already emerging. Celtic have extended last season’s unimpeachable form into the current campaign, Rangers remain accident prone under Pedro Caixinha and St Johnstone continue to punch above their weight under Tommy Wright. Hibernian’s win at Ibrox gives early impetus to Neil Lennon’s claim that his players can finish in or around the top three, while Aberdeen’s demonstration of grit in Dingwall, where they came from behind to beat Ross County, is evidence of the resolve that saw them to second place last time out. And a former England manager – Steve McLaren, who is set to talk with the Tynecastle board this week – could be in charge of Hearts away to Rangers on Saturday. Hearts, currently under the caretaker stewardship of Jon Daly, will be without a serviceable stadium until the reconstruction of the Tynecastle main stand is completed in November, but they shared common ground with Kilmarnock going into their weekend fixture at Rugby Park. Both sides had suffered heavy defeats by Celtic prior to their meeting in Ayrshire, Hearts losing 4-1 in their league opener at Parkhead and Kilmarnock being battered 5-0 by what was virtually a second-string Celtic side in the Scottish League Cup last Tuesday.    During the brief and ill-starred reign of Ian Cathro, Hearts were frequently guilty of football without menace. Daly has supervised a more direct approach more suitable for forwards like Esmael Goncalves and summer signing, Kyle Lafferty. These two were faced by two of Kilmarnock’s close-season acquisitions, Gordon Greer and Kirk Broadfoot. After only five minutes the Kilmarnock pair produced a Red Sea impersonation to leave a wide gap which Goncalves romped through to beat Jamie MacDonald with a cool finish. That was the single goal of the afternoon but only because MacDonald showed his centre backs how to make a decisive interception when Goncalves again romped through the middle only to be blocked by the goalkeeper who had bolted 22 yards off his line to deal with the menace. British players who failed to make an impact in foreign football After the break Goncalves and Lafferty both had unchecked chances but the Portuguese striker placed his straight into MacDonald’s hands and his Northern Irish colleague provoked scorn amongst the Hearts support by missing the ball with a wild swipe. The spectacle then moved from kicking air to pulling hair when Goncalves clashed with Broadfoot and had his barnet tugged as the pair went to ground. Broadfoot was sent off for his tonsorial assault and Goncalves dismissed for his reaction. Kilmarnock will now be without the ex-Rangers defender when they host Celtic at the weekend and it bodes ill for the Ayrshire men that, having conceded early against Hearts, they will face a Hoops side known for coming out of the blocks at full pace. “You can’t start like that against anyone. You don’t want to concede an early goal at home,” said Chris Burke, the Kimarnock winger. “It was disappointing because we were doing well until that moment, but he way we have started will not define our season.” Hearts’ next fixture is against the other half of the Old Firm at Ibrox, where their city rivals departed with bragging rights - and a helping of seemingly inevitable controversy – after a 3-2 win in a contest which saw the Rangers backroom team complain to the police about Neil Lennon and to the media about referee John Beaton. Both the home and Hibs supports were in fervent mood but the contest seemed to be moving in Rangers’ favour after Alfredo Morales’ third minute headed opener and a Kenny Miller effort which came off the post. Simon Murray, however, equalised with Hibs’ first attempt on goal, prompting Lennon – a firm favourite for excoriation amongst the Rangers faithful – to direct an arm-pumping gesture towards them, after which Helder Baptista, the Ibrox assistant manager, spoke to the nearest police officer. The atmosphere became even more rancorous when the Rangers midfielder, Ryan Jack, was sent off for a square-up with Anthony Stokes. Hibs moved into a 3-1 lead through an own goal by James Tavernier and a fine half-volley from Vykintas Slivka. Tavernier reduced the deficit with a late goal but Rangers could get no more from the contest. Afterwards, Caixinha was critical of the referee, who booked Dylan McGeouch for his part in the Jack/Stokes melee but allowed the Hibs man to go unpunished for a bad challenge on Eduardo Herrera. The Rangers coach was less forthcoming about his team’s persistent defensive errors. Caixinha had a plausible case for grievance at the weekend, but his rap sheet now includes a historically severe battering at home by Celtic, a home loss to Aberdeen, dismissal from Europe by the infinitesimal Proges Niederkorn and defeat by newly promoted Hibs. Even at this nascent stage of the season, a setback against Hearts would surely prompt mutinous expression amongst the Rangers support. £250,000 up for grabs: pick your Telegraph Fantasy Football team today >> 

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers confident Stuart Armstrong will remain at Parkhead and regain form

Stuart Armstrong wants to stay at Celtic despite the protracted saga of his unresolved contract talks, Brendan Rodgers said on Saturday night. The Scotland midfielder has attracted the attention of several English clubs, with Southampton reportedly prepared to make a £3 million bid, but the Hoops manager believes the 25-year-old will not regain the form which made him a standout in midfield last season until the negotiations are settled. “You can see it in him,” Rodgers said. He’s a very conscientious boy, Stuart. He’s not one of these boys who can just play and not think and worry. “I genuinely think he wants to be here at Celtic. He just wants it resolved and he probably wanted it resolved six, seven months ago. For whatever reason, it hasn’t. “It has affected him. I think for him, because he’s a great lad and I love and enjoy working with him, it’s starting to take its toll on him a wee bit. “Hopefully we can get that resolved and he can settle down again and find that stability and find that form he was in for about seven months of last season.” Rodgers expects Armstrong to stay at Celtic Credit:  REUTERS Another player who could be lost to Celtic is the 20-year-old left back, Kieran Tierney, who became the youngest Parkhead captain in living memory when he was handed the armband for the midweek visit of Kilmarnock in the Scottish League Cup. The gesture might have been calculated to reinforce the bond between the club and Tierney, who was a boyhood Celtic supporter and is a product of the youth system. His performance against Raheem Sterling when Manchester City had to come from behind three times for a 3-3 draw in the east end of Glasgow in the Champions League group stage last season brought Tierney to the attention of a wider audience and his performance on the left of a central defensive trio in Scotland’s 2-2 draw with England in the World Cup qualifier at Hampden Park in June attracted attention from south of the border. “I’m not worried, but I wouldn’t be surprised,” Rodgers said, of the possibility that Tierney might attract at offer Celtic could not refuse. “I’m not worried because he loves being here, he knows he’s developing, he’s a sensible boy. He is developing into a top class young player. “He’s still got improvements that he will make. I don’t get a sense from him other than he’s in a good place, in a happy place. He genuinely actually loves playing for the club and there are very few players like that nowadays. Players love football but they don’t necessarily love the club. Kieran Tierney loves football – and he loves Celtic. “I think it helps that he’s an absolute Celtic daft. There is a different feel when you play for the club you support. “Listen, there may come a time when you are that good and you are young, with so much potential, there is always that danger [of a bid] but we will cross that bridge when it comes to it. I don’t think there’s a chance of it imminently, but you always have to be ready because with a top young player like that there’s always the possibility.” The 100 greatest Champions League moments Celtic face Astana at home on Wednesday in the first leg of their Champions League playoff and warmed up by extending their unbeaten sequence of domestic games to 51 with Friday’s 1-0 victory over Partick Thistle at Firhill but Hibernian went top of the table on goal difference, having scored more away from home, after they came from behind at Ibrox, where Alfredo Morelos gave Rangers an early lead with a close-range header from a free kick delivery from Daniel Candeias. Rangers, though, were reduced to 10 men when the red card was shown to summer signing, Ryan Jack, and Hibs capitalised on their numerical superiority when Simon Murray broke from space to elude James Tavernier for a low strike beyond Wes Foderingham. Pedro Caixinha’s players were struck another blow when Murray found Vykintas Slivka for a shot from six yards which took a decisive deflection off Tavernier to find the net. There was no dubiety about Slivka’s next significant contribution after the break when he made it 3-1 with a superb half volley which dipped past Foderingham. Tavernier’s unfortunate afternoon was mitigated when he got upfield to meet a cross from Danny Wilson to keep the issue open as the home support howled their favourites on, ultimately to no avail. St Johnstone won for the second successive week with a decisive 4-1home win over Motherwell, to which Michael O’Halloran contributed a double against a Firk Park side reduced to eight men when Trevor Carson, Carl McHugh and Charles Dunne were sent off. Aberdeen also maintained a perfect record when they came behind to beat Ross County 2-1 in Dingwall. Hearts, under caretaker boss, Jon Daly, beat Kilmarnock 1-0 at Rug by Park where Ismael Goncalves scored and was later sent off along with Killie’s Kirk Broadfoot and Hamilton Accies completed a busy card with a 3-0 win over Dundee. £250,000 up for grabs: pick your Telegraph Fantasy Football team today >> 

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers confident Stuart Armstrong will remain at Parkhead and regain form

Stuart Armstrong wants to stay at Celtic despite the protracted saga of his unresolved contract talks, Brendan Rodgers said on Saturday night. The Scotland midfielder has attracted the attention of several English clubs, with Southampton reportedly prepared to make a £3 million bid, but the Hoops manager believes the 25-year-old will not regain the form which made him a standout in midfield last season until the negotiations are settled. “You can see it in him,” Rodgers said. He’s a very conscientious boy, Stuart. He’s not one of these boys who can just play and not think and worry. “I genuinely think he wants to be here at Celtic. He just wants it resolved and he probably wanted it resolved six, seven months ago. For whatever reason, it hasn’t. “It has affected him. I think for him, because he’s a great lad and I love and enjoy working with him, it’s starting to take its toll on him a wee bit. “Hopefully we can get that resolved and he can settle down again and find that stability and find that form he was in for about seven months of last season.” Rodgers expects Armstrong to stay at Celtic Credit:  REUTERS Another player who could be lost to Celtic is the 20-year-old left back, Kieran Tierney, who became the youngest Parkhead captain in living memory when he was handed the armband for the midweek visit of Kilmarnock in the Scottish League Cup. The gesture might have been calculated to reinforce the bond between the club and Tierney, who was a boyhood Celtic supporter and is a product of the youth system. His performance against Raheem Sterling when Manchester City had to come from behind three times for a 3-3 draw in the east end of Glasgow in the Champions League group stage last season brought Tierney to the attention of a wider audience and his performance on the left of a central defensive trio in Scotland’s 2-2 draw with England in the World Cup qualifier at Hampden Park in June attracted attention from south of the border. “I’m not worried, but I wouldn’t be surprised,” Rodgers said, of the possibility that Tierney might attract at offer Celtic could not refuse. “I’m not worried because he loves being here, he knows he’s developing, he’s a sensible boy. He is developing into a top class young player. “He’s still got improvements that he will make. I don’t get a sense from him other than he’s in a good place, in a happy place. He genuinely actually loves playing for the club and there are very few players like that nowadays. Players love football but they don’t necessarily love the club. Kieran Tierney loves football – and he loves Celtic. “I think it helps that he’s an absolute Celtic daft. There is a different feel when you play for the club you support. “Listen, there may come a time when you are that good and you are young, with so much potential, there is always that danger [of a bid] but we will cross that bridge when it comes to it. I don’t think there’s a chance of it imminently, but you always have to be ready because with a top young player like that there’s always the possibility.” The 100 greatest Champions League moments Celtic face Astana at home on Wednesday in the first leg of their Champions League playoff and warmed up by extending their unbeaten sequence of domestic games to 51 with Friday’s 1-0 victory over Partick Thistle at Firhill but Hibernian went top of the table on goal difference, having scored more away from home, after they came from behind at Ibrox, where Alfredo Morelos gave Rangers an early lead with a close-range header from a free kick delivery from Daniel Candeias. Rangers, though, were reduced to 10 men when the red card was shown to summer signing, Ryan Jack, and Hibs capitalised on their numerical superiority when Simon Murray broke from space to elude James Tavernier for a low strike beyond Wes Foderingham. Pedro Caixinha’s players were struck another blow when Murray found Vykintas Slivka for a shot from six yards which took a decisive deflection off Tavernier to find the net. There was no dubiety about Slivka’s next significant contribution after the break when he made it 3-1 with a superb half volley which dipped past Foderingham. Tavernier’s unfortunate afternoon was mitigated when he got upfield to meet a cross from Danny Wilson to keep the issue open as the home support howled their favourites on, ultimately to no avail. St Johnstone won for the second successive week with a decisive 4-1home win over Motherwell, to which Michael O’Halloran contributed a double against a Firk Park side reduced to eight men when Trevor Carson, Carl McHugh and Charles Dunne were sent off. Aberdeen also maintained a perfect record when they came behind to beat Ross County 2-1 in Dingwall. Hearts, under caretaker boss, Jon Daly, beat Kilmarnock 1-0 at Rug by Park where Ismael Goncalves scored and was later sent off along with Killie’s Kirk Broadfoot and Hamilton Accies completed a busy card with a 3-0 win over Dundee. £250,000 up for grabs: pick your Telegraph Fantasy Football team today >> 

St Johnstone duo fined four weeks' wages after fighting each other on the pitch

St Johnstone duo fined four weeks' wages after fighting each other on the pitch

By using Yahoo you agree that Yahoo and partners may use Cookies for personalisation and other purposes