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Tuesday 17 July 2018

Rodgers hails Hayes after first goal for Celtic

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Celtic’s Jonny Hayes Photo: PA
Celtic’s Jonny Hayes Photo: PA

Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers has praised Jonny Hayes after the Dubliner scored his first goal for the club in Saturday's 3-0 win over Aberdeen.

The 30-year-old Ireland international, whose goal from close range was his first since joining Celtic in the summer from the Dons, earned plaudits from his manager after the comfortable win over second-placed Aberdeen at Parkhead.

Rodgers said: "A young Irish man, I know what it means to be from Ireland and support (Celtic) but to play for Celtic and get your first goal, especially against your old club... It is a really special day for him.

"He is just settling into the club, but the last couple of months have really seen him make a step forward, be that bit more direct in training.

Praise

"Sometimes when you come into a club you are a little bit safe and be everyone's friend but now he is really aggressive in his game, with and without the ball. I am delighted for him."

Rodgers also claimed Kristoffer Ajer's conversion from boy to man has put him in the frame for Saturday's game against Rangers.

The 19-year-old Norwegian defender, signed from Start in 2016, was sent on loan to Kilmarnock last season. Ajer was impressive in Saturday's win over Aberdeen - his fourth appearance in December - while Jozo Simunovic and Nir Bitton, both of whom have partnered Dedryck Boyata, sat on the bench.

Celtic travel to Dundee today before Saturday's visit of Rangers.

Asked if Ajer was up to playing in the white-hot atmosphere of an Old Firm game at Parkhead, Rodgers replied: "It doesn't matter for me what age someone is - it is just picking the best team each game to get a result.

Experience

"I would have no hesitation. He has all the qualities - it is just about getting him the experience. I thought he was brilliant.

"I said afterwards in the changing room to all the players, this is a boy that when I came in last year was 18, 6ft 5in but just needed some men's football.

"We sent him to Kilmarnock and he was taught very well by Lee McCulloch and Lee Clark, and when he came in the summer he was a man.

"He was physically developed and he played in some of the Champions League games early on.

"He is fast, he can carry the ball and you see how he wins his aerial challenges as well so he is a big prospect for us."

A deflected strike by Mikael Lustig gave the Hoops an interval lead before second-half goals from ex-Dons winger Hayes and midfielder Oliver Ntcham stretched the champions' lead at the top of the table over the visitors to eight points.

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