Ange Postecoglou singled out Callum McGregor for praise after Celtic beat Aberdeen, saying his captain had inspired the rest of the team.
McGregor set up Jota for the game’s opening goal in the 2-1 win and, after Lewis Ferguson had levelled from the penalty spot, diverted home the winner when he charged down a clearance from Jonny Hayes.
The win came just three days after Celtic had played an energy-sapping Europa League match against Bayer Leverkusen. Postecoglou said that the quick turnaround was difficult for players but that McGregor’s energetic performance fired up those around him.
“He really drove the lads,” the Celtic boss said. “Just the energy, because that’s what I spoke about before the game, that’s what I emphasised,”
“It’s easy for me to say it but someone has got to go out there and lead from the front.
“I don’t know where he gets it from but he’s got bags of energy and, when they see him running about, they can’t help but be inspired to do the same thing.
“He leads by example. He’s a man of action and words and he was outstanding.”
Postecoglou said that Thursday night’s 3-2 defeat in Germany took a lot out of players “physically and emotionally” but that the squad had recovered well from the disappointment of failing to reach the Europa League knockout stages.
He said: “I thought our energy was really good at the start of the game, we really put some pressure on and got the goal.
“They got the penalty which brought them into the game a little bit but second half we went to another level in terms of our energy and relentlessness to chase balls down.
“And it’s really important because I know how difficult that is to do physically and mentally after a big night in midweek. I’m really pleased the players got their rewards.
“This one was particularly difficult because we didn’t get back to the early hours of Friday and training on Saturday was just getting them out for a bit of a jog.
“We knew Aberdeen were a hard-working team and they would be organised defensively and that we would have to bring the energy.”
Aberdeen manager Stephen Glass said: “I’m really disappointed that, despite the amount of quality that Celtic showed, that it’s a deflection that ends up costing us.”We were difficult to play against and did carry a threat, especially first half. We felt if we could get past their first bit of pressure we had the chance to get at their back players.
“That disappeared a wee bit in the second half. I wouldn’t say we didn’t show it by choice in the second half, I think we had a lack of the ball, to be fair.”