BRENDAN Rodgers has dismissed suggestions that Celtic’s opening goal against Rangers at Ibrox on Sunday was a “freak” occurrence and hailed “king of the lost cause” Daizen Maeda for typifying how he wants his team to approach games.

The Scottish champions got off to an incredible start in the cinch Premiership match against their city rivals in Govan last weekend when they took the lead just 21 seconds after kick-off.

Japanese internationalist Maeda chased down a Joe Hart punt into the hosts’ box early on and netted when an attempted James Tavernier clearance ricocheted off his shins and spun beyond Jack Butland.  

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But Rodgers - whose team stayed a point in front of their nearest challengers, who have a game in hand against Dundee at Dens Park to play, at the top of the table after drawing the third derby match of the 2023/24 campaign 3-3 – does not believe the bizarre strike was an “accident”.

He is keen for his players not to give their opponents a second on the ball in their own half and argued the goal was both the outcome of their high pressing strategy as well as the energy and persistence of his winger.  

The National: “If he doesn’t have the intent and the ambition to go and win the ball then their full-back either goes back to the keeper with comfort or he gets turned and plays forward,” he told Celtic TV.

“But our idea is always to attack the game, even when we don’t have the ball. That was typified in no better way with Daizen. He is the king of the lost cause. When it looked like it was maybe gone and he couldn’t quite get there, he got there, made a great block and gave us a great start in the game.”

Rodgers, whose team will play Rangers at Parkhead after the top six split is made, stressed that he thought his side played superior football than their rivals at Ibrox on Sunday and insisted they had deserved to come out on top at the end of the 90 minutes.

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“I really enjoyed it although we were disappointed not to win because I thought we were much the better team up until their penalty,” he said. “We were the team that played the football, were controlled and some of our play in the first-half was outstanding, while dealing with the long ball that they play.’

“So through to half-time and the beginning of the second-half we were excellent in the game. You expect something from Rangers, being at home, and I thought they got a bit of a leg-up with the penalty.”