Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou hailed his players’ composure after they beat St Johnstone 3-1 without more than a full team being available and having lost Kyogo Furuhashi to injury early on in Perth.
Liel Abada struck a first-half double either side of Furuhashi aggravating a hamstring problem and stand-in skipper Nir Bitton struck late on after Chris Kane headed Saints back into contention.
Injuries and Covid-19 issues had left Celtic short of experienced players, with the likes of Callum McGregor, Greg Taylor, Anthony Ralston and Scott Bain dropping out.
Goalkeeper Vasilis Barkas was handed his first appearance since July with Joe Hart still out, while 18-year-old Joey Dawson came on for Furuhashi to make his debut.
Postecoglou said: “The last couple of days have been pretty chaotic as you would imagine with everything that was happening. But we stayed calm through the whole thing and we knew that this was just a different challenge from the other challenges we have had so far and we just had to get on with it.
“To be fair, it’s been challenging from the moment I set foot here, it has just been different challenges.
“That’s what I keep saying to the players, all along we haven’t made excuses or felt sorry for ourselves, we have just got on with the job. Every challenge we have had we have, for the most part, overcome. That is testament to the character within the group.”
Furuhashi is set for a rest during the extended winter break after missing games either side of his match-winning Premier Sports Cup final double.
“He should be OK,” Postecoglou said. “He wasn’t 100 per cent but he wanted to give it a go. I said to him, ‘look, if at any stage you feel the need, step off’. That was what he felt.”
St Johnstone also had selection issues, with at least four players missing through Covid issues and both Stevie May and Craig Bryson going off injured.
Kane returned off the bench after emerging from self-isolation but he was struggling with a knock in the final stages.
However, Callum Davidson again expected better from his team as they suffered an eighth consecutive defeat ahead of what is set to be a major transfer window for the bottom club.
“It’s going to be a busy couple of weeks,” the Saints boss said. “I said to the players in there that some of you need to go and have a look at yourselves.
“We have to find a way of bringing in some players with quality to, with players who we have here, start getting us out of this mess.
“We gave away a goal easily in the first 10 minutes after giving them possession and that was us chasing the game. All three goals we made it far too easy for them.”
Davidson believes they will make big improvements in the second half of the season.
He added: “With the addition of a few quality players – seven or eight starters were missing today – a bit more luck, and more quality, I firmly believe we’ll start playing a lot better.
“The basics is the biggest thing. We did that really well last season and had fantastic success. The players have to be better at it or they won’t play. Simple.”