Postecoglou delighted with performance of new-look full-back pairing

The Celtic boss believes it takes a while for new players to become accustomed to the position in his team.

Ange Postecoglou delighted with performance of new-look full-back pairing SNS Group

Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou praised his new-look full-back pairing after they played their part in an ultimately comfortable victory over Kilmarnock.

Canada right-back Alistair Johnston made his home debut and Alexandro Bernabei made his fifth cinch Premiership start in place of the injured Greg Taylor.

With Anthony Ralston still out and Josip Juranovic on the bench, Postecoglou was happy with the way the selected pair adapted to the inverted full-back role during the 2-0 cinch Premiership win.

“It is a challenging position, it is fair to say that, because we are so different in the way we play from the way everyone else plays,” said Postecoglou, whose side created a series of chances after Jota broke the deadlock in the 45th minute.

“The likes of Ali and Berna are still getting their head around it. It probably took Greg and even Jura 12 months to get their head around it. All the guys have tackled it the right way, Tony Ralston is another one.

“The good thing about all those guys is they accepted the challenge. There was no saying ‘I can’t play that way’ or ‘I don’t like it that way’. They embrace it.

“With Ali and Berna, you will see the best of them as they get to grips with the role.”

Bernabei played a key role in breaking down an organised Killie side who gave little away for the vast majority of the first half.

The 22-year-old Argentinian collected the ball 15 yards in from the touchline and played a pass inside Killie wing-back Lewis Mayo which got Daizen Maeda in behind to set up Jota.

“It’s not easy, he’s a young guy and he hasn’t had an extended run in the team,” Postecoglou said.

“He has probably played more than I thought he would but less than he deserves because Greg Taylor has been outstanding.

“The good thing about him was second half he finished really strong, he was still getting forward. So he has got the physical capacity to play in that position which is really important – it’s not just tactically in those full-back positions, there is a fair physical demand on the players.

“It shows he has a good engine and the same with Alistair, right to the end they were working hard to get forward to provide support.”

Celtic face the Ayrshire side again next Saturday in the Viaplay Cup semi-finals at Hampden and Killie boss Derek McInnes felt his side offered some encouragement given their performance for almost all of the first half.

“It was important we didn’t take a sore one going into the semi-final,” he said. “That then becomes a harder sell to the players trying to give them belief.

“We are going to enjoy this week. I want my players to not just feel the credit of getting to a semi-final but see it as a chance. Bigger shocks have happened than Kilmarnock beating Celtic in a semi-final.”

McInnes handed a debut to new striker Kyle Vassell following his arrival from a spell in the United States in a bid to get him up to speed.

“He did well,” McInnes said. “He has not played since October and it was a wee bit of a risk playing him but I need to get him going. He will not get fit just training.

“He didn’t shy away from the challenge and at times he gave us a good out.”

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