Rodgers happy with Celtic progress but says team weren't at their best

The holders are in the Scottish Cup semi-finals after a 4-2 win over Livingston.

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers was delighted to see his team come through a difficult cup tie against Livingston and admitted the holders were not at their best in the 4-2 win.

The hosts took the lead twice at Celtic Park but saw Livingston pull back level before two late goals sealed a place in Monday’s semi-final draw.

Daizen Maeda netted a hat-trick on his 100th appearance for the club before Kyogo Furuhashi made things safe in the 95th minute but Rodgers felt the final score wasn’t a clear reflection of a tough match for his players.

“Credit to the players,” the Celtic boss said. “It wasn’t a performance that we would want and but we’ve got into the semi-final which was great.

“So I think it’s credit to the players for that, you know, they dug in and they kept fighting.

“Also we’ve got to give a big credit to Livingston because it’s been a really difficult season for them. But they came here, they made it really difficult.”

Rodgers was forced into a change at the back after Cameron Carter-Vickers missed out with a hamstring issue, while Yang was suspended after his red card against Hearts.

Those absences were in addition to other injuries, including those to captain Callum McGregor and fellow midfielder Reo Hatate.

Rodgers feels missing players are a factor in the performance but said that progress was the most important thing.

“We didn’t close the spaces anywhere near what we would want and the level and speed of our game was not to where we want,” he said. “But I’m also understanding of that, you know, some of the guys coming in and maybe not playing so much recently and also the level of player that’s missing.

“But the guys they fought to the very end and the scoreline looked more comfortable than what it actually was.

“But we’re in the hat and I’m really, really happy for that.”

Rodgers also explained Carter-Vickers’ absence, saying the club didn’t want to take any risks with the defender, who has endured an injury-hit season.

“We were just going through something very, very light and he made a pass and felt something in the back of his leg,” he said.

“He continued to train but we didn’t want to take any risk whatsoever because as much as he wants to play every game, we had this earlier in the season when he said he was OK and then we ended up losing him for more matches. So hopefully it’s nothing too serious, but we had to take the precaution.”

Livingston manager David Martindale was disappointed with defeat but felt his side could take heart from their performance.

“I’m pretty proud of them albeit we’re out of the cup,” he said.

“It’s been a painful season and we’re on a torrid run. I don’t need self-belief, but I can only hope the players take a wee bit of self-belief.

“I thought they were very good in the game, it would have been easy to come here and accept a 3-0 or 4-0 but they didn’t do that. They played on the front foot and managed the game reasonably well.”

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