Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou had words of praise for central defenders Stephen Welsh and Moritz Jenz after his side’s 2-1 win over Motherwell.
The duo were paired in the centre of the back line for only the third time, as first choice duo Carl Starfelt and Cameron Carter-Vickers remain out through injury.
Though Celtic conceded in the Premiership, the goal came from confusion between goalkeeper Joe hart and right-back Josip Juranovic, who chested the ball over his own line. Goals from Reo Hatate and Kyogo Furuhashi gave the home side three points but Postecoglou was happy with the contribution from two players who have a challenge to win a first team place.
“They did okay, they did well,” Postecoglou said when asked about his centre-backs. “They didn’t have to do too much defending. They stepped out a few times which is good.
“It’s hard because last year Carl and Cam were mainstays, neither of them really got injured.”
The Celtic boss acknowledged that a partnership at the back takes time to develop, and said the demands of his style of play made things more of a challenge, but was happy with how they are progressing.
He said: “I have always felt centre-back pairings are really important in terms of understanding, in terms of knowing each other’s movements, the sort of idiosyncrasies they have.
“When you put one in, it’s a lot easier to adjust. But for Welshy and Mo, who has only been with for us a couple of months, as a new defensive pairing it’s not easy.
“Especially with the way we play, because they have a lot of the ball, we are very aggressive with our defending, they have to do a lot of one-on-one defending and covering at the same time.
“So it’s not easy but I think every game they play they will get a better understanding of one another, which I think will help us.
“You can have as strong a squad as possible but in my experience in football every now and then you will get hit in the same area and you realise why you need four centre-halves. Even then you are thinking ‘well, have we got enough?’ But you can only have so many players.
“But they were better and I’m sure they will grow in confidence from there.”
The pairing could start again this week with a game at Champions League level, as Celtic travel to face RB Leipzig and Carter-Vickers not 100% fit yet and Postecoglou wary of rushing the player back.
“He is not far away but we have another 12 games in 40 days so I am not going to put him in unless he is absolutely right,” the manager said. “It would be silly of us to put him in and then lose him for another few games, particularly with Carl out for at least another couple of weeks.”