Brendan Rodgers feels Celtic are coming alive at the right time after an impressive second-half display against St Mirren gave them a 3-0 win which sends them four points clear in the cinch Premiership.

The champions struggled to create chances in a ponderous first-half display which saw St Mirren create the better openings.

But Celtic upped their intensity at the start of the second half and Reo Hatate produced a classy finish with the outside of his boot in the 52nd minute.

Kyogo Furuhashi and substitute Adam Idah both headed home to complete a 3-0 victory which keeps the destiny of the title in their hands as well as Rangers, who are due to play twice before the split.

Rodgers, whose team face Aberdeen in the Scottish Gas Scottish Cup semi-finals next weekend, said: “I really look forward to this period, this is when Celtic comes alive. Five games to go, trophies at stake, Scottish Cup at stake, so bring it on.”

Rodgers, whose side led for the vast majority of last weekend’s 3-3 draw with Rangers, added: “We’re in a really good position and when you know that everything is with you – and you decide what your destiny is.

“That’s why the result at Ibrox was huge for us, as well as the performance. We played really well last week and when we had to bite down on the gum-shield, we were tough and (have) seen it through in a difficult environment.

“That bodes well for us. We know we can play football, play with speed, and we can score goals. We’ve also shown a steeliness which will be important in the run-in.”

Although Celtic have lost Daizen Maeda to a hamstring problem, the return to fitness of Hatate and Callum McGregor has been a major boost.

On Hatate, Rodgers said: “We are trying to build him up and he was outstanding at Ibrox. When he went off, we lost a wee bit in midfield.

“But he’s had a really good week’s training and he got his goal, which will be great for his confidence. He’s a huge player for us.

“Reo had come back a few times and broke down while away with the Japanese squad. He was devastated at that.

“We have to be careful with all the players. We have to manage him and Callum, who was more like himself and had a fantastic cameo .

“But with Reo, or any top player, you try to have the right plan for him which allows him to peak at the right time.”

On Maeda, Rodgers said: “I’m not sure Daizen will feature too much, it’s such a small window now. I’m not sure if he will feature before the end of the season.”

St Mirren manager Stephen Robinson bemoaned the injuries which disrupted his side’s positive first-half display. Elvis Bwomono went off following a head knock midway through the opening half and others would soon follow.

“We were excellent for 45 minutes and then we can get undone by two excellent goals,” Robinson said.

“Kyogo’s movement for the second goal was fantastic and the delivery as well. And the first goal was a super finish. That’s the difference in levels. The first one wasn’t a clear opportunity but they made the best of it.

“The two injuries before and at half-time stopped a bit of our momentum. It takes players time to get into the rhythm and the shape. Scott Tanser and Elvis going off seemed to stop our rhythm and then Greg Kiltie and Richard Taylor have to come off too.

“We maybe had five enforced changes that we didn’t want to have to make. Sometimes Lady Luck isn’t shining on you.

“Credit to Celtic for the quality they showed when they needed to. That’s the difference in levels.”

Celtic could be without Daizen Maeda during the title run-in after the Japan international suffered a hamstring injury.

The wide player will miss Saturday’s cinch Premiership contest with St Mirren while Celtic assess the extent of the damage.

Rodgers said: “He picked up an injury high up in his hamstring, his tendon, so we will have to see what that looks like in the coming weeks. But he is certainly not available for the weekend.

“We will see where it goes in the next week or so and then we will understand better what inclusion he will have between now and the end of the season.

“Liam Scales has picked up a slight strain in his abductor so the likelihood is that he won’t be involved.”

With Luis Palma fully fit after a calf problem and Nicolas Kuhn settling in, Rodgers played down the potential loss of Maeda.

“He has done fantastic for us and was very, very good last weekend,” he said. “But if it is to be, and he is out, there will be an opportunity there for someone else to come into the game.

“What he brings, the intensity and pressing, of course that’s big for us. But it’s an opportunity for other players to step up and bring that level of intensity and bring their individual brilliance to the game.

“It’s not something you can dwell on too much. We have had a lot of key players out this year but you still have to continue, and I’m liking what I see of the team just now, the focus and energy, the quality we are showing.”

Callum McGregor returned off the bench in last weekend’s 3-3 draw against Rangers but Rodgers warned his captain’s Achilles issue will still need to be monitored carefully.

“He has come through well,” the former Liverpool manager said. “We are still clearly managing him.

“He did absolutely incredible to be available for the game. The timeline was beyond Rangers. But he worked so hard, he wanted to put himself out there.

“He had only trained a few days coming into the game, so this week has been another good week for him. We just have to manage it, he is not out the woods at all.

“But seeing him in training earlier, he looked really good. But it’s also recognising that he had been out quite a long time and, no matter who you are, if you’ve missed five-odd weeks of training, you are not obviously going to be at your best level of football fitness-wise.”

Meanwhile, Rodgers expressed hope that Mikey Johnston can replicate his West Brom form when his loan spell at the Baggies ends.

The 24-year-old winger has collected the Sky Bet Championship Player of the Month award after hitting four goals in five games in March.

“What he has demonstrated is no surprise,” Rodgers said. “He is one of the best talents to come out of this academy, he is quick, direct, can score goals.

“So for him to get that award – there’s some outstanding players in the Championship – shows you how well he has done.

“Hopefully he can continue with that and come back to Celtic in the summer and feel really energised again, full of confidence, and be ready to make an impact.”

Brendan Rodgers has called on his Celtic players to maintain cool heads when they run out at Ibrox for Sunday’s showdown with cinch Premiership title rivals Rangers.

The Hoops are a point above Gers, who have a game in hand, so the outcome of this weekend’s derby is likely to have a significant bearing on the outcome of what is shaping up as the tightest championship race since the Light Blues’ financial implosion more than a decade ago.

However, Rodgers has told his players to focus fully on playing football and not the potential ramifications of victory or defeat.

“It starts with the whole build-up,” said the Hoops boss. “I think it’s important not to get entrenched in the whole storyline because at times the storyline can be that ‘it could a disaster’.

“But for me the storyline is that there is always opportunity. You arrive, you stay calm and you just look to focus on your performance.

“This is one of the greatest, most iconic games in world football but you’ve got to perform and you can only do that by staying calm and looking to play your football.”

Rodgers – who has lost just one of his 16 matches against Rangers in his two stints as Celtic boss – insisted he has not given too much consideration to how any particular result at Ibrox might leave the title race.

“I haven’t over-thought it,” he said. “I always prepare the team to win, I never think of drawing or losing a game. I always prepare the team to go and win the game and it’s served me well especially in these types of games.

“You can’t win them all, of course, but the mindset is to impose ourselves on the game and then let’s see where we are at at the end of it.

“I always feel really comfortable coming into these (Old Firm) games but that’s only on the back of preparation and the clarity we want to give to the players.

“And also because of how we play. I have always been confident in that and we have come in to a lot of these big games and performed very well.

“It’s not always perfect but we have performed well in them.”

After struggling for form at various points this term, Rodgers feels the return of key players from injury has helped Celtic regain their “authority” recently.

The Hoops could be at full strength for the trip to Ibrox if captain Callum McGregor and winger Luis Palma are declared fit.

“It’s just having the authority back on the pitch, and you saw that at Livingston last weekend,” said Rodgers.

“When we are at our best, we are not giving much away whilst creating that great platform.

“No matter how good you are attacking wise, it’s about consistency in how you defend.

“We are at our best when we are super organised and tight – and then everything is connected with and without the ball.

“That will be the same on Sunday. We will be attack-minded and front foot, but attack-minded when we defend too. When we do that, we can play very well.”

Brendan Rodgers believes Celtic are coming to the boil nicely for the title run-in as he prepares to welcome captain Callum McGregor back for Sunday’s mouthwatering showdown with city rivals Rangers.

The Hoops have been hindered by injuries to key men throughout the campaign but the possible return of winger Luis Palma and their influential skipper could restore them to full strength for the trip to Ibrox.

McGregor has been sidelined for the last four matches with an Achilles issue sustained in the 7-1 win over Dundee at the end of February, and Rodgers is relishing the prospect of having the 30-year-old back in the frame at a time when Celtic hold a one-point advantage over a Gers side with a game in hand.

“We’ll do one final run with Callum tomorrow in our last session but he’s done remarkable to be back, he’s way ahead of schedule from what we thought,” said Rodgers, who cut a relaxed figure during his pre-match media briefing on Friday.

“It just shows you his professionalism and how hard he’s worked so he’ll be involved in the squad, and if he is, then it’s great news for us in every capacity because we’ll have a clean bill of health, really, for probably the first time this season. But we’ll make a final call on that tomorrow.

“He’s the type of player who can probably get by at 80 per cent. He has that level, that quality. But you also have to think about the fact there are remaining games throughout the season.

“It’s just about being logical and finding out where he’s at with all his tests and measurements. He’s been training, and clearly his quality is there, but we just have to gauge whether he starts, whether he comes into the game or what involvement he has.”

Celtic won 1-0 on their last visit to Ibrox back in September without influential players like Cameron Carter-Vickers and Reo Hatate, so Rodgers – who clearly feels his team have adopted the role of underdogs in the title race – is heartened by the prospect of going across the city with his full squad available.

“The squad is much stronger (than September),” he said. “Just piecing together what the team and bench might be, we are going to have a bench that can really affect the game if needed.

“That power, pace and quality. We have a lot of tools that we didn’t have available earlier in the season but still, the mindset is important in these games and we go with a positive mind.

“They’re always big games and that’s what I’ve always relished and loved. Celtic v Rangers, Rangers v Celtic, they’re always fantastic games. The storyline for me is always about opportunity.

“I go back to the first game (at Ibrox). It wasn’t just a good lesson in football, but also in life because in that first game individually, collectively, as a club we were written off arriving into Ibrox, and it feels as if the narrative is pretty much the same, even though both teams are on four wins and a loss from their last five games.

“For me, it’s about the opportunity to go there and, like what we did earlier in the season and what we have done on a number of occasions, show that we have that mentality to get through any difficult moments in the game for us, but then come through in the end. That will be our focus this weekend.”

With another derby to come at Celtic Park after the split, Rodgers does not see Sunday’s game as make-or-break for either team.

“There will still be six games for us, so there are still a lot of games,” he said. “It might not seem a lot of games but it is a lot of games in a football context because so much can change in those six games.

“My focus is purely on getting a positive result and then we can assess it afterwards.

“This is an important game for both teams. Our mindset is to go and do what we did earlier in the season, which is to win.”

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers hailed the “excellent” Kyogo Furuhashi after the recalled striker scored and provided an assist in a 3-1 win over St Johnstone.

The Japanese forward also had two goals disallowed for offside as Celtic moved back to the top of the cinch Premiership, at least until Rangers face Dundee at Dens Park on Sunday.

Furuhashi has been unable to replicate the prolific form he showed under Ange Postecoglou last season but was back in the team following three consecutive substitute appearances and took his tally to 16 this term.

He headed home a 40th-minute opener after beating goalkeeper Dimitar Mitov to Nicolas Kuhn’s cross and then set up the German winger to score in the opening minute of the second half. He also hit the crossbar and generally looked to be at peak sharpness.

“Adam (Idah) has been very good when he came in and that is what Kyogo and every player needs,” Rodgers said. “They need competition.

“But I thought he was bright, his movement was good. Sharp.

“He was very brave at the first goal. He makes a run and comes back onside and obviously some strikers would maybe move their head out of the way with the keeper coming through but he didn’t and he scored the goal.

“And it was a great cross for the second one. He was excellent.”

Kuhn netted his second goal for Celtic and continued to impress following a fruitful first start at Parkhead against Livingston last weekend.

“I think you are starting to see a little bit of why we brought him here,” Rodgers said. “He’s very quick.

“It was just hard for him when he came in, struggling with his teeth and everything medically. But he has shown now that he has his strength back up and he’s training really well.

“He obviously puts in a great cross for the first goal and you see his speed for the second one.

“We always want our wingers to get in the box. He got himself in there and scored a fantastic goal.”

Substitute James Forrest added a third and Alistair Johnston was denied a goal by a marginal offside call after Connor Smith had pulled one back for Saints, after Celtic defender Cameron Carter-Vickers had gone off for a rest.

Rodgers said: “I thought from the start of the game there was a great feeling in the stadium and from the crowd.

“The players started the game well and I thought overall it was a very good performance.

“The only downside was when I made all the changes our pressing went a little bit passive and that gave them a little bit more time on the ball than we would have wanted.”

Saints manager Craig Levein admitted his side could not produce the complete display they needed to get another result at Celtic Park, having drawn in August.

“Our defensive display was really good,” Levein said. “Losing the goal early in the second half was a killer blow but in the first half we restricted Celtic to very few opportunities.

“When we had the ball we just coughed it up every time. It seemed to be constant that we turned the ball over and invited Celtic to have another attack. That was the frustrating part.

“It was about half-an-hour until Celtic had their first shot on target. We restricted them to the wide areas and managed to block any shots and crosses.

“But if you continually give the ball away to a team as good as Celtic, you’re going to be facing attack after attack.”

Levein lost midfielder Sven Sprangler to a knee injury midway through the first half.

“It looks like Sprangler has opened his medial ligament,” he said. “I’ve no idea if he will be out for weeks or months.”

Recalled forward Kyogo Furuhashi scored one and set up another as Celtic went back to the top of the cinch Premiership with a 3-1 victory over St Johnstone.

Celtic took time to break Saints down despite dominating possession and territory, but they went on to create a steady stream of chances before Furuhashi headed the opener in the 40th minute.

Wingers Nicolas Kuhn and James Forrest netted in the second half against a side who enjoyed a goalless draw at Parkhead early in the season.

The only down side for Celtic was the failure to boost their goal difference, not helped by having three goals disallowed for offside, two of them marginal, and losing a late goal as substitute Connor Smith got off the mark for St Johnstone.

Brendan Rodgers’ side had missed the chance to move top of the table when losing to Hearts in their previous league game and this spell at the summit might only last until Rangers face Dundee at Dens Park on Sunday.

But the Celtic manager will have been pleased with the tempo and creativity shown by his side.

Furuhashi was in for Adam Idah after starting the previous three games on the bench, while Cameron Carter-Vickers recovered from a hamstring issue to replace the injured Liam Scales.

Adama Sidibeh had one long-range effort blocked as the Perth side frustrated Celtic for the opening quarter, but it was clear the St Johnstone striker was in for a lonely afternoon.

The visitors lost midfielder Sven Sprangler to injury with winger Max Kucheriavyi coming on, and Celtic began to wear their visitors down with their first real threats coming from a Matt O’Riley corner.

Luke Robinson twice blocked from Daizen Maeda on the line, the second time sparking a VAR check after the ball hit his upper arm. But referee Euan Anderson was not called to his screen by video assistant Chris Graham.

Kuhn soon played in Furuhashi over the top but the striker shot over with his right foot under pressure from Ryan McGowan.

Robinson produced his third goal-line clearance to deny Tomoki Iwata following another O’Riley corner.

Furuhashi was getting closer, seeing a goal disallowed for a marginal offside call after he steered home Paulo Bernardo’s cross and then getting in behind again only to see his shot deflected over.

Iwata was denied by Dimitar Mitov’s flying save before Celtic made their pressure count. Furuhashi was quick off the mark to beat Mitov to Kuhn’s inswinging cross and head home from four yards.

The goalscorer continued to threaten, stabbing Alistair Johnston’s low cross just wide and then having another goal disallowed for an offside against Maeda.

He turned provider in the opening minute of the second half, darting beyond the Saints defence to latch onto Greg Taylor’s perfect pass and send in a low cross. Kuhn showed good anticipation to net from six yards.

The Japanese striker soon fired a right-footed effort off the underside of the crossbar after being fed by O’Riley.

O’Riley saw an ambitious free-kick tipped over by Mitov before setting up the third goal midway through the second half.

Iwata won the ball back deep in the Saints half and O’Riley quickly spotted Forrest in space. The winger took a touch and rifled a left-footed strike into the corner of the net from 18 yards.

Saints got their goal in the 81st minute. Goalkeeper Joe Hart produced an excellent stop from Stevie May’s header and Smith was on hand to net the rebound.

Johnston soon lashed the ball into the roof of the net following a one-two but the flag went up and the decision was ratified after a lengthy VAR check.

Celtic could have given the scoreline a truer reflection of the game in stoppage time but Mitov saved well from Taylor and Iwata headed over from three yards.

Brendan Rodgers expects Cameron Carter-Vickers to be fit enough to return to the Celtic defence for Saturday’s cinch Premiership match at home to St Johnstone.

The influential centre-back has had an injury-disrupted campaign since undergoing knee surgery at the end of last term and he sat out Sunday’s Scottish Cup quarter-final victory over Livingston as a “precaution” after feeling a “twinge” in his hamstring.

Carter-Vickers has been given the all-clear after a scan, however, and Rodgers is optimistic that the American will be available for the visit of Saints.

“We will have a look at Cam, I think he should be fine,” Rodgers told Celtic TV. “I spoke to Cam at length (on Tuesday), he just feels everything is based from around his knee operation.

“And then also, when you have picked up a few injuries from that, maybe from what is a normal twinge, you get that sensation and think it’s linked to another injury. Thankfully, it doesn’t seem that.

“We’ve had the scan which has come through fine. He’s done some work with the medical team and hopefully he will rejoin the training squad on Thursday and Friday and be available for the weekend.”

Luis Palma and skipper Callum McGregor will remain sidelined by injury until after the international break but Rodgers is hoping his team – who lost their last league game away to Hearts – can get their Premiership title bid back on track when they host Craig Levein’s Saints.

“Craig’s team will be very hard to beat,” said Rodgers. “They will be diligent. Even though we should have won the game earlier in the season (in August), we drew 0-0, we missed chances and they showed courage to defend the way they did.

“In the game up there (a 3-1 win in December), the first half wasn’t at our level, that tempo of the game.

“But once we injected that tempo and took it out of our comfort zone, we took the game to a really high level and it was difficult for St Johnstone to stay with us.

“That is the key for us, maintaining that consistency and mentality to keep the game up at a high level. When we get to that point and arrive at that moment then we look a very good team.”

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers described the departure of Liel Abada as “desperately sad” but best for both parties after the Israel international moved to Major League Soccer side Charlotte FC.

Abada last played for Celtic in a 2-1 win over Hibernian on February 7, after which Rodgers felt he was not able to focus on reaching his peak.

The 22-year-old had come under major pressure in his homeland amid Celtic supporters’ backing for the Palestinian people with even an international team-mate publicly advising him to move on.

The winger signed a new four-year deal in September last year, just before suffering a thigh injury which kept him out for the best part of four months.

Rodgers bemoaned the loss of the opportunity to work with a player who scored 29 goals in 112 appearances.

“Firstly, it’s desperately sad, the whole situation,” the Celtic boss said. “A fantastic young player, came here as a 19-year-old, to another country and lit up the field with so many fantastic goals and had a really successful period.

“Whatever doubts he had in the summer, he was really happy to commit and sign a new deal.

“And now, through probably no fault of his own or the club’s, he has had to leave to take his career elsewhere.

“I spoke to Liel on Monday evening, we had him round the house, because I knew he was going to be travelling the next morning.

“It’s desperately sad because I was really, really looking forward to working with him over a period of time and seeing if we could develop his game.

“But if you look back, he has created some wonderful memories here at Celtic and I’m sure Glasgow will have a big place in his heart, and we wish him all the very best over in America.”

The situation flared up the day after the October 7 attacks in Israel when banners among Celtic fans which read “Free Palestine” and “Victory to the resistance” drew anger in Israel, including from former Hoops midfielder Nir Bitton.

Abada was given a huge ovation when he made his comeback against Rangers on December 30 but he did not rediscover his spark and he disappeared down the tunnel at Easter Road while his colleagues celebrated a last-gasp win after what proved to be a quiet, final appearance for Celtic.

“It was really, really difficult for him,” Rodgers said. “He was training every day, committed to his work, he is a top professional. But the situation, how it evolved, it felt very difficult.

“And football is a game very much of the mind. If you’re not quite focused or if you can’t put something aside, something as big as this, then of course it becomes very, very difficult to be at your very, very best. Sadly, that was the case for him.

“We spoke most days, just checking in to make sure he was OK, seeing him in his training, but ultimately he wants to play football.

“And when it got to the situation where I felt there was no chance, we both looked at it, and as a club as well, felt that the best possibility would be for him to move on.”

When asked whether pressure from Israel was weighing heavily on the player, Rodgers said: “It’s clearly a situation that was unplanned, and wherever it comes from, there were multiple reasons not to be in that frame of mind.

“But, listen, it’s done now. He has moved on, had a great two-and-a-half years, done very well, and we have to move on.”

Abada earlier posted a lengthy farewell message on Instagram where he thanked the Celtic fans who had stood by him.

The former Maccabi Petah Tikva player thanked Rodgers, his coaches and the Celtic board for their “overwhelming support” and added: “Their unwavering faith during these times won’t be forgotten but cherished forever.”

He added: “Reflecting on my journey here brings a smile to my face, the trophies lifted, goals celebrated, electric atmospheres and moments of pure bliss will forever be etched in my memory.”

He thanked his team-mates, family, girlfriend and Bitton plus the “incredible Israeli community in Glasgow”.

“And last but not least, thank you to all the Celtic fans,” he said. “Recent times were very difficult for myself and my family but I want to say thank you to all the Celtic fans that stood by me, supported and respected me as a Celtic player and I hope that I have given you few moments to remember me by.”

Celtic have allowed winger Liel Abada to leave the club for a fresh start in Major League Soccer.

The Israel international has signed for Charlotte FC in North Carolina, having not featured for the past five weeks due to personal reasons. Manager Brendan Rodgers had previously admitted he was struggling to focus as the conflict in Gaza continued.

Abada, 22, had faced pressure in his home country because of the support for Palestine among the club’s fanbase.

The situation first flared up the day after the October 7 Hamas attacks in Israel, which led to more than 1,100 deaths plus the taking of hostages, when two banners among Celtic fans at Parkhead read: “Free Palestine” and “Victory to the Resistance”.

Palestine flags have continued to be flown among Celtic supporters amid Israel’s ongoing military assault, which has left tens of thousands of Palestinians dead or wounded according to the Gaza health ministry.

Abada returned to the side on December 30 but was unable to recreate his previous good form in six subsequent appearances, which proved to be his last for Celtic.

His signing was announced by Charlotte, whose general manager Zoran Krneta focused on football rather than politics.

“Liel has been one of the most exciting young wingers in Europe and we’re delighted to welcome him to Charlotte,” he said.

“He’s an elite goalscorer and chance creator who is a proven winner that is determined to bring trophies home to the club and our supporters,” said General Manager Zoran Krneta. “To bring a player of his calibre to Major League Soccer speaks to the strength of the league, but also that Charlotte FC is an attractive destination for top foreign talent.”

Speaking last month after Abada opted to step away, Rodgers offered his understanding as he opened the exit door to the player.

“I have had lots of conversations with Liel and I am really empathetic towards the issue he has. It’s more than football. It’s at a human level, so I have to respect that.

“There’s many situations I have had to deal with as a manager over time, and lots of them you don’t get on the coaching courses. You have to understand and sit in his shoes. When he’s ready, if he ever is ready, then he will be able to give us everything.”

Abada was the second player to leave Celtic Park on Thursday, with left-back Alexandro Bernabei joining Brazilian side Internacional on loan for the rest of 2024.

The Porto Allegre-based club confirmed the deal for the Argentinian, who has only made 16 starts since arriving at Celtic Park in the summer of 2022.

Four of those starts came under Brendan Rodgers, all of them since the winter break when Greg Taylor was missing with a calf problem.

The 23-year-old came off the bench in the subsequent game but was culpable as Celtic conceded a stoppage-time equaliser against Kilmarnock.

That could prove to be his final appearance for the club if the loan move is made more permanent, although Bernabei is under contract at Celtic Park until the summer of 2027.

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers has been charged by the Scottish Football Association for his criticism of the match officials after his side’s 2-0 defeat by Hearts on Sunday.

The Northern Irishman has been cited by the compliance officer and faces a hearing on March 28 after his contentious comments following a showdown at Tynecastle in which he claimed “the game was decided by the officials, on the field and outside of the field”.

Rodgers was particularly angered by the decision to send off Yang Hyun-jun in the 16th minute for catching Hearts’ Alex Cochrane with a high boot and also the call to award the hosts the penalty from which they scored their opening goal after the ball landed on the arm of Tomoki Iwata – who knew little about it – as he tried to win an aerial duel.

Rodgers was particularly scathing of VAR John Beaton for intervening in the red-card incident.

“For John Beaton to actually look at that in VAR, supposedly under no pressure, and say that was a sending off, I find that incredible,” said Rodgers on Sunday.

Rodgers went on to label the officiating of the match as “incompetent”.

“In my time up here I’m not one to have a go at refs because I understand it’s a very, very difficult position they are in,” he said.

“I try to respect decisions and give the benefit of the doubt. But I think when I see that level of incompetence, which is the only word I can use, then that makes me worry for the game.

“In such a tight title race, which it is and it’s fantastic and great to be involved in, that can make the difference. And that today made the difference for us.”

Rodgers has been charged for a breach of the SFA’s rule 72, accused of “criticising the decision(s) and/or performance(s) of any or all match official(s) in such a way as to indicate bias or incompetence on the part of such match official.”

Rodgers’ charge comes 24 hours after it emerged that Celtic had failed in overturning Yang’s red card.

If found guilty at his hearing later this month, Rodgers could find himself banned from the technical area for the April 7 showdown with title rivals Rangers at Ibrox.

Brendan Rodgers claimed 10-man Celtic’s 2-0 defeat at Hearts was “decided by the officials” as he lamented an early red card for Yang Hyun-jun and the award of the penalty that allowed the hosts to take the lead.

The Hoops arrived at Tynecastle knowing a victory would have taken them back to the top of the cinch Premiership after title rivals Rangers suffered a shock home loss to Motherwell the previous day.

Celtic’s chances were undermined in a dramatic opening quarter of an hour when Adam Idah saw a penalty saved by Hearts goalkeeper Zander Clark a few minutes before Yang was sent off for catching Alex Cochrane in the face with a high boot.

The South Korean was initially yellow-carded before match referee Don Robertson upgraded it to a red after being advised by VAR John Beaton to review the incident on the pitchside monitor.

Rodgers was further riled when Hearts were awarded a penalty in the 40th minute after a headed clearance from Liam Scales landed on Tomoki Iwata’s arm as he rose to try and head it out of the box. Jorge Grant scored the spot-kick and Lawrence Shankland netted the hosts’ second goal in the 56th minute.

“My feeling is that the game was decided by the officials, on the field and outside of the field,” said Celtic boss Rodgers.

“You guys (the media) will know me long enough to know that I don’t really comment on officials – they make mistakes and whatever else – but today that felt like really really poor officiating.

“The first one is the sending off when there is no force. Show a still image of that and of course you will see a foot up with the head near it, but it’s not the reality of the move.

“Don Robertson actually got it right on the field. It was a high boot, so it’s a yellow card – no malice or force.

“For John Beaton to actually look at that in VAR, supposedly under no pressure, and say that was a sending off, I find that incredible.

“The second one (Hearts’ penalty) is worse. If you have a penalty go against you for that then there will be penalties every single weekend and midweek.

“I don’t know what he (Iwata) is supposed to do. Tomo is jumping, he got a nudge, he is coming down, the ball falls on to his arm and there is no intention to move.

“Then you get the penalty against and he gets the chance to look at it and see it. That really left us with an uphill task in the game but credit to my players, they kept going, their keeper has made a few good saves.

“But it was a poor day for the officials. I try to respect decisions and give the benefit of the doubt, but when I see that level of incompetence, which is the only word I can use, then that makes me worry for the game.

“In such a tight title race – which it is, and it’s fantastic to be involved in – that can make the difference. And that today made the difference for us.”

Hearts boss Steven Naismith insisted his team deserved their victory and felt both sides were on the receiving end of “soft” penalty awards.

“It was an entertaining game and one I think we deserved to win,” he said.

“There were a lot of action points. Throughout the game at the right times, we played, controlled the game and asked Celtic some questions. I think both penalties are soft.

“Alex puts his foot on the ground and the Celtic forward is the one that kicks him. Ours is this handball rule that nobody is happy with. And I think the red card is a red card.”

Asked if the two debatable penalties effectively cancelled each other out in terms of controversy, Naismith said: “We saved their penalty and scored the one we got.

“Both teams can feel that they were soft but overall we deserved our win comfortably. It was two and it could have been more.”

Brendan Rodgers was transported back to his first spell in charge of Celtic as his side struck six first-half goals against Dundee.

Celtic have lost top spot in the cinch Premiership since the winter break, drawing twice and winning narrowly in their other three league games.

But they rediscovered their groove with their biggest victory of the season as they thrashed Tony Docherty’s side 7-1 at Celtic Park.

There were seven different scorers for Rodgers’ side as Cameron Carter-Vickers, Adam Idah, Matt O’Riley, Daizen Maeda, Greg Taylor and Callum McGregor struck before half-time substitute Daniel Kelly curled home his first goal for the club.

Rodgers said: “It was a top performance. We had players coming back, connecting the game, speed in the game, creativity and a real ruthless mentality.

“I have said about the pitch a few times but a big congratulations to the staff who have been working hard over the past few weeks to get it to a level that allows us to play at that speed. And you can see the difference it makes.

“So I thought all round, from the stands to the pitch, it was a great night for us.”

Rodgers, whose side remain two points behind Rangers, added: “It felt more like when I was here the first time – that ruthless mentality of the team, simplicity of the game and the football we played. And that’s why we are here, to entertain the supporters.”

Rodgers had called for positivity in the stands before the game and the noise at the half-time whistle was more akin to a Champions League night, helped by the fact that Kilmarnock were beating Rangers before a second-half fightback from the leaders.

Rodgers said: “There was a really nice moment at half-time when they were coming in. The fans could see then how the level of performance had jumped up. We had everything we wanted from the game – the runs, the movement, the ambition.”

Dundee’s second-half performance offered some comfort for Docherty, whose side got a consolation through substitute Michael Mellon despite having Finlay Robertson sent off.

But Docherty was still reeling from their first-half collapse during the post-match media conference.

“It’s something I have not seen in the group so I am actually a bit shocked to see the level of goal we have conceded,” he said.

“We need to take ownership and responsibility for that, for not defending crosses, not defending our box properly, getting done by cutbacks, getting done on the insides.

“I have to say I thought Celtic were outstanding but we can do more and we need to take responsibility for that.

“But I have to defend those players, they have been brilliant for me this season and there has to be a wee bit of reality in terms of us being a newly-promoted team. I am not taking away the accountability from myself and the players and I would like to apologise to the support.

“But I will always back that group of players because I don’t think we have been lower than seventh in the league.”

Joe Hart believes announcing his retirement from football will end speculation about his future with Celtic.

The former England and Manchester City goalkeeper will be 37 when his three-year contract expires in the summer.

Hart made his first-team debut for Shrewsbury in April 2004 and won 75 caps for England.

He followed Sir Kenny Dalglish and Andrei Kanchelskis in claiming winners’ medals in the three major trophies in England and Scotland when Celtic won the Scottish Cup last season but this will be his final season as he looks to help Brendan Rodgers plan for the future.

“This is something I have thought about for a while,” Hart told Celtic TV.

“There’s no right or wrong time is there but the way this club works is that I’m playing out at the moment. There’s so much on it. There’s so much heart and soul poured into what we’re doing as a football club.

“But with the grand scheme of the club, with the support base, and the conversations that go on around it, there’s obviously a conversation around the goalkeeping position for next season.

“So I just think it was really important that with the blessing of the club – I’ve had the conversations with the club with Brendan, with Stevie Woods (goalkeeping coach) – that we get the message out, it takes one thing off the table that people need to speculate over.

“I’m definitely not going to be there next season. I’m not going to be available to play football next season.

“So I want to take that off the table and then we can talk about why and then push forward.”

Hart still feels “great” physically and he stressed his commitment to the Parkhead club as they look to defend their cinch Premiership title and the Scottish Gas Scottish Cup.

With 13 league fixtures remaining, the Hoops are two points behind Old Firm rivals Rangers and Hart, who joined the Scottish champions from Tottenham in 2021, promised Hoops fans he remains up for the fight.

He said: “Mentally I’m in that one place that I like to be, I’m in a place of clarity. Obviously, I’ve thought about this a lot.

“I think the right the right time is now. I’ve got the clarity of mind that I was able to go to the club and explain my position and them totally understand.

“I think the hardest thing for me once I’d made the decision was to explain that although I intend on finishing from June onwards, I’m so up for it. I’m so still so involved and still so committed.

“And I thank the club for that. I think Brendan and Stevie Woods for understanding where my mind was at and understanding me as a person.

“So I appreciate the open mindedness of the club and hopefully the open mindedness of the fans when they see this and understand that this is not someone who’s checking out, this is someone who’s just letting people know because they think it’s important.

“I’m not retiring from working. I just won’t be a goalkeeper anymore.

“All I want to do now is focus. I want to focus on the job in hand, representing this amazing club that I play for and living my heart and soul on the field.”

Celtic goalkeeper Joe Hart is to retire at the end of the season.

The former England and Manchester City player will be 37 when his three-year contract expires in the summer.

Hart made his first-team debut for Shrewsbury in April 2004 and won 75 caps for England.

He followed Sir Kenny Dalglish and Andrei Kanchelskis in claiming winners’ medals in the three major trophies in England and Scotland when Celtic won the Scottish Cup last season.

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers said on the club’s official website: “Joe has enjoyed a phenomenal career and I know will be huge miss to the game when he finally retires from playing football in the summer.

“For all he has done in football, Joe deserves huge praise and congratulations, he has been such a brilliant asset to Celtic of course and the wider game at the highest levels, domestically and internationally.

“But more than that, he is a tremendous man, just brilliant to work with, someone who I know has been a great team-mate to so many throughout his career and a player who never gives anything but his absolute best. Each and every day his work ethic is an example to all in football.

“I totally understand and respect Joe’s reasons for making this announcement and for being clear to the club and our fans on his future.

“I also know he will continue to work right through this season with the same intensity, commitment and drive which he has always been known for.”

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers called on his players to improve their mentality after Kilmarnock’s late equaliser handed Rangers the initiative in the Premiership title race.

Rodgers thought they had got away with a poor performance as Celtic led through Kyogo Furuhashi’s 32nd-minute header when the clock struck 90 minutes.

But Killie had created several chances and caused problems for Celtic with their pressing and David Watson headed home in stoppage-time after substitute Alexandro Bernabei misjudged Fraser Murray’s cross.

Matt O’Riley was denied several times as Celtic looked for a second goal either side of the break but they struggled to create chances in the final half hour.

Rodgers said: “We lacked authority on the ball, we lacked composure, all the things you need to do to control the game. We looked nervous on the ball and, especially second half, we created nowhere near what we would want to.

“It’s happened too many times over the course of the season. We have played well in spells but then when we haven’t taken our chances and a wee bit of anxiety creeps in, you have to be able to deal with that pressure.

“I have been here often enough and had enough games here as a manager to understand the pressures of taking the ball and dealing with it and we didn’t do that well enough. It’s bitterly disappointing.”

Rodgers, whose side had already lost twice to Killie this season, added: “It is not about ability or technique now, it is about mentality. It is about not letting that man go past you and having that drive and composure to play.

“We saw it the second half, even though we were not under great pressure we kept making it hard for ourselves.”

Rangers were seven points behind when Philippe Clement took over eight games into the cinch Premiership season but the Light Blues will go two ahead if they beat St Johnstone in Perth on Sunday.

Rodgers dismissed suggestions the pressure of the title race was a factor.

“Irrespective of how Rangers play or work, it’s nothing to do with us,” he said.

“It was us giving the ball away and being nervous. That has nothing to do with anyone other than ourselves.

“It doesn’t matter what anyone else does. It can’t be allowed to continue because we’ll get to the pressure point of the season eventually.

“It’s now about the mind game. Physically and technically you’re in a good place so it’s all about the mind now.”

Killie manager Derek McInnes felt his side were well worth a point.

“It didn’t feel like a smash and grab, coming here and defending for 90-odd minutes and then nicking an equaliser,” he said. “It wasn’t that at all.

“We had to suffer first half at times with possession. We allowed the Celtic players that we wanted to have more touches of the ball than some of the other ones. I thought we dealt with their four wide players well.

“We picked and chose our moments to get after them and got our reward.”

McInnes played down first-half penalty claims when Marley Watkins argued he had been taken down from behind by Stephen Welsh.

“Marley’s adamant it was a penalty,” McInnes said. “I’ve seen it a couple of times, it looks the like the defender’s first touch has taken the ball.”

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