herald

Wednesday 23 August 2017

Rodgers and Celtic edge closer to title

Dundee 1 Celtic 2

Dundee’s Dublin-born defender Darren O’Dea, pictured in action against Celtic’s Moussa Dembele during yesterday’s Scottish Premiership clash at Dens Park
Dundee’s Dublin-born defender Darren O’Dea, pictured in action against Celtic’s Moussa Dembele during yesterday’s Scottish Premiership clash at Dens Park

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers believes Stuart Armstrong is ready for his Scotland debut after watching the midfielder score his 12th goal of the season in the 2-1 win over Dundee at Dens Park.

The 24-year-old midfielder has been in senior squads before, the last time in 2015 when he was forced to withdraw before a double-header against Georgia and Germany due to injury.

He was included again by Scotland boss Gordon Strachan for the challenge match against Canada at Easter Road on Wednesday night and the 2018 World Cup qualifier against Slovenia at Hampden next Sunday.

After watching Celtic go back 25 points clear of Aberdeen and within one victory of clinching their sixth successive title, Hoops boss Rodgers was asked if the former Scotland Under-21 cap was ready to make the step up.

"Yes I think so," he said. "There are obviously good players with Scotland and in that part of the field.

"The one thing I will say is that I have always believed that international football is about technique, speed, mobility and a tactical awareness, and he has got those elements.

"He has all the tools to play at the top level of international football in a really quick game, so he certainly can go in and play.

"He has this inbuilt brain to score goals and different types of goals.

"He is a big talent and he is only going one way, which is nice for Celtic and Scotland."

It turned out to be a tricky trip to Tayside for the Hoops, who took the lead in the last action of the first half when defender Jozo Simunovic's shot deflected off Dundee counterpart Kevin Gomis.

Armstrong headed a second in the 51st minute but Paul Hartley's men rallied and substitute Faissal El Bakhtaoui made an immediate impact when he came on in the 74th minute to thunder in a 25-yard drive two minutes later.

Celtic saw the match out and will win the title with a victory over Hearts in the first game back after the international break.

However, if Aberdeen lose at Dens Park in their fixture two days before the Hoops visit Tynecastle, the Parkhead men will be champions.

Rodgers said: "It would be a good to win it at Tynecastle.

"We have nine games left in the league. The ideal scenario would be you win it yourself but I will take Dundee winning it."

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