Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou believes his players are showing character in continuing to deliver results after a series of challenges this season.
Goals from Reo Hatate and Giorgos Giakoumakis earned Postecoglou’s side a 2-1 victory at Tynecastle with Liam Boyce scoring for Hearts before hitting the post with a second-half penalty.
Hatate’s thunderous long-range goal came in only his second game since joining the club, while Matt O’Riley also shone in midfield making his debut after arriving from MK Dons. For Giakoumakis, it was his second goal in three games since returning from an injury that forced him to miss a good chunk of the season.
Postecoglou felt the displays of all three helped show the determination within the group of players.
“Reo has played 70 minutes of football in the last month and Matty has trained with us two or three games,” he said. “For Giakoumakis it was his fourth or fifth start.
“We had some challenges tonight and we knew that. Nir Bitton was outstanding tonight in the middle of the park. One thing that’s underestimated in this team I think is that they’re a really resilient group of players.
“We had plenty of excuses as to why we can’t do what we want to do but I though tonight even with the changes we had to make, our football was still great.”
The squad has had numerous injuries throughout the season as Postecoglou has worked to rebuild the team and embed his ideas.
Marking the difference between the win on Wednesday night and the defeat to Hearts on the first league game of the season, Postecoglou said that his squad had underlined their character with how they had carried on despite setbacks along the way.
He said: “If you chart the course of this team from the first time we were here (at Tynecastle on the opening day of the season), which people keep mentioning, the amount of challenges we’ve had means we haven’t really had a smooth run to be honest.
“But I don’t mind because it builds resilience and reveals character. It doesn’t matter what team we throw out there the guys show that they are ready for it and enjoying and embracing the kind of team we want to be.
“They are not making excuses for anything and I think that’s a credit to the whole group.”
The manager declined to give his opinion on controversial offside decisions for Giakoumakis and Boyce’s goals, instead saying that he had enjoyed “a cracking game”.
After seeing Hatate add to his already growing reputation with a memorable goal, the manager said:
“He’s got more, you know. He’s only just beginning.
“He set a pretty high bar after the first game but he’s a very determined young man.
“It’s pleasing for me because we brought in a fair few guys in their early twenties who are really ambitious and I think they can improve and get better and it gives us a really good nucleus not just for this year but beyond.”
Hearts boss Robbie Neilson was disappointed to come away from the match without a point, and was unhappy with the decisions for both the big offside calls.
He said: “The ref did alright but the linesman let him down. The Celtic goal and our goal are two poor decisions. You get decisions like that every week.
“For me, it’s a clear-cut one. He’s got to see it. There’s nobody in between him and the Celtic player. We’re all for VAR – the sooner it happens, the better.”