BRENDAN Rodgers said a young Celtic side were a joy to watch tonight as they dismantled Kilmarnock 5-0 in a completely one-sided League Cup contest in Paradise.
Despite making eight changes from the team that eased past Hearts 4-1 at the weekend, and fielding five teenagers from the start – Ralston, Kristoffer Ajer, Calvin Miller, Eboue Kouassi and Kundai Benyu – the Hoops turned in a complete performance, dominating from start to finish.
Another double from Leigh Griffiths and Anthony Ralston’s first-ever goal for the club had the hosts in charge at the break
Captain for the night, Kieran Tierney, lashed in a wonder-goal made it 4-0 midway through the second half and Stuart Armstrong found the net to seal the Bhoys spot in the last-eight of the competition.
Speaking after the game, the manager said: “It was a brilliant performance. It was a joy to watch the team this evening. I genuinely think I can pick a team out of the squad I have and it will function to a high level. They all understand how we play and they all have clarity in their roles, and it was great to see the concentration of the young players tonight and their focus from the first whistle, and they defended really well.
“Kilmarnock are a very good side, especially in terms of counter-attack, they have quick players and the boy (Jordan) Jones down the side and the boy (Lee) Erwin up front has shown he is a talent. But we really pressed the game very well and once we lost the ball, our numbers around the ball were really aggressive, which allowed us to have lots of the ball. When we had it our creativity was excellent, along with the speed of our game.
“It was a great demonstration of the strength of our squad. We had six players who started the game who were 20 or under so it also shows it’s a club for young players to develop and come through.
“I was delighted for Tony Ralston, scoring his first ever goal for Celtic. I thought he was brilliant on the evening, both defensively and going forward. For him to get his goal, I was delighted for him.
“Of course, Leigh got two and he’s coming back to fitness, speed and sharpness. Kieran got his worldy, it was an incredible strike, absolutely magnificent and Stu got his goal as well. It was a very pleasing performance and we are just into our flow quicker this season.”
The only disappointing outcome for the Hoops boss on an otherwise excellent night’s work was a serious-looking injury to Eboue Kouassi, which saw him stretched off six minutes before the interval.
“It was the only downside of tonight,” added the Hoops boss. “We will assess Eboue overnight and see how he is in the next couple of days. It looked like he jarred his knee a little bit so we will just wait and see what the scan shows up on that. It was our only disappointment. Otherwise, it was a really positive night for us.”