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.”

Hearts profited from Yang Hyun-jun’s early red card to inflict a second 2-0 defeat on title-chasing Celtic within the space of three months in an incident-packed cinch Premiership showdown at Tynecastle.

The Hoops arrived in Edinburgh knowing a victory would have taken them back to the top of the league after city rivals Rangers suffered a surprise 2-1 loss at home to Motherwell the previous day.

But their hopes of achieving this feat were badly undermined during a dramatic opening quarter of an hour in which their striker Adam Idah had a penalty saved by Zander Clark and then Yang saw red for a dangerous high challenge on Alex Cochrane.

Hearts – who defeated Brendan Rodgers’ side in Glasgow in mid-December – took full advantage of the extra man as Jorge Grant scored a penalty late in the first half before Lawrence Shankland struck his 27th goal of the season on a day when Scotland manager Steve Clarke and assistant John Carver were watching from the Tynecastle stand.

The victory moved the Jambos 13 points clear in third place.

Hearts made four changes to the team that started Wednesday’s 1-1 draw at home to city rivals Hibernian as Toby Sibbick, Dexter Lembikisa, Grant and Beni Baningime replaced Frankie Kent, Nathaniel Atkinson, Cammy Devlin and Kenneth Vargas.

There was one enforced alteration to the Celtic team that started the 7-1 midweek destruction of Dundee as captain Callum McGregor missed out with an Achilles issue. His place in midfield was taken by Paulo Bernardo.

Hearts made a bright start and they had a good chance in the eighth minute when Shankland’s cross from the right picked out Cochrane just inside the box but the left-wing-back got his shot all wrong and fluffed it well wide.

Then came a couple of huge moments in quick succession in which Celtic allowed the game to swing heavily in the hosts’ favour.

The Hoops were awarded a penalty in the 11th minute when Cochrane was deemed to have fouled Yang but Idah saw his low-struck spot-kick saved by the legs of Clark, another Hearts player looking to impress the Scotland management team in the lead-up to this summer’s European Championships.

Yang and Cochrane were again involved in the next major flashpoint just a few minutes later when the Korean midfielder caught the Englishman in the face with a high foot.

Referee Don Robertson booked the Celtic player initially but then upgraded it to a red card after being advised by VAR John Beaton to review the incident on the pitchside monitor.

This dramatic turn of events roused the home support and left Rodgers’ side facing a huge task in their quest to return to the top of the league.

Despite being a man down, Celtic did have the ball in the net in the 22nd minute when Bernardo’s low angled shot went in off both posts but the flag instantly went up to cut short the celebrations, with Idah offside in the lead-up.

Hearts sensed their chance of victory, however, and Alan Forrest headed over from Lembikisa cross’s in the 27th minute before Shankland was denied by Liam Scales’ brilliant goal-saving challenge.

Another big call went the way of Hearts in the 40th minute when – following a lengthy VAR review – they were awarded a penalty after the ball came down on to the arm of Tomoki Iwata as he rose amid a cluster of bodies to try and head the ball out of his box. Grant kept his cool to send Joe Hart the wrong way.

Hearts thought they had doubled their lead in first-half stoppage time when Shankland drilled home a low angled shot from eight yards out after being fed by a Forrest pass but the goal was eventually ruled out for offside following a lengthy VAR review.

Celtic sent on Kyogo Furuhashi in place of Bernardo for the start of the second half. But the Hoops found themselves two down in the 56th minute when Shankland swept home a clinical low strike from 15 yards out after team-mate Calem Nieuwenhof slipped while lining up a shot and inadvertently knocked the ball back into the striker’s path with the aid of a nick off Celtic left-back Greg Taylor.

The visitors were unable to summon a response and Hearts saw out victory in impressive fashion, sparking jubilant full-time scenes at Tynecastle.

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers believes they have been their own worst enemies this season.

But he is optimistic his side can find the consistency of performance they will need during the title run-in.

The cinch Premiership champions delivered their biggest victory of the season on Wednesday when they thrashed Dundee 7-1 with the help of six first-half goals.

Previous league games since the winter break had all been tight and two draws saw Celtic lose top spot in the table to Rangers, who could go five points clear when they host Motherwell on Saturday.

Celtic travel to face Hearts on Sunday, possibly without skipper Callum McGregor, and Rodgers is looking for his side to build on their midweek display.

“I have always felt our biggest enemy this season is ourselves,” he said.

“If we perform to the level that we can do on a consistent basis, we are a very good team. It’s that consistency now of taking that performance into our next game.”

Rodgers has seen Alistair Johnston, Greg Taylor and Cameron Carter-Vickers return to his back four in recent games following injuries.

He is looking to utilise that settled platform in the final months of the season.

“When you arrive at 10 games to go, that’s when the fun begins, that’s when you are into the business side,” he said. “That’s what I am really looking forward to.

“We have obviously had inconsistencies up to this point. But we are still very much there, still very much in our hands what it is we want to do.

“To have these players coming back is great and really good timing.”

McGregor was replaced by Daniel Kelly at half-time against Dundee, with the 18-year-old scoring his first goal on his league debut.

“Callum came off at half-time during the week,” Rodgers said. “He felt his Achilles a little bit and his calf.

“I know from speaking to him, at this time of the year he does normally feel a little bit because he does play so much.

“So we just have to assess that and see where he is over the next 24 hours.”

McGregor has played further forward in the past two games after the return of Tomoki Iwata, who missed two months of action after picking up a knock.

The Japanese midfielder has seized his latest opportunity after making only 10 starts during his first 12 months as a Celtic player.

“He anchors that midfield for us and allows Cal to move on,” Rodgers said.

“He is a very good player but he has missed a lot of this season, moments where it looked like he was going to get his run in the team, he was out injured.

“So that’s been the challenging time for him and then it was just been about getting him up to speed and getting him in at the right time.

“I am really pleased for him because he has given his all in training and he has waited for that opportunity.

“This was a midfield that was very difficult for players to get into.

“If you look at Matt O’Riley, with all due respect, Matt wasn’t really starting last year. You had Callum, Reo Hatate and Aaron Mooy playing a lot of the games. He has come in and had a fantastic season, Matt, and Tomo has had to be patient.

“But I trust him, when he does come in. He plays the game simple, he is dynamic in winning the ball back and he has performed really well in these last two games.”

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.”

Celtic hit form with a 7-1 victory over Dundee following a first-half goal spree at Parkhead.

Cameron Carter-Vickers started the rout in the seventh minute and goals from Adam Idah, Matt O’Riley and Daizen Maeda had Celtic four up before the half-hour mark.

Greg Taylor and Callum McGregor made it six before the break and Daniel Kelly marked his league debut with a brilliantly-taken goal.

Dundee were down to 10 men through Finlay Robertson’s red card when they pulled a goal back from Michael Mellon, although the atmosphere had already lost a bit of an edge following Rangers’ comeback at Kilmarnock.

The Light Blues’ 2-1 victory keeps them two points ahead of Celtic at the top of the cinch Premiership.

However, Celtic have moved back to one behind on goal difference and secured a morale boost with their biggest win of the season after struggling to find their groove since the winter break. They had drawn twice in their previous four league matches and needed stoppage-time winners in the other two.

Manager Brendan Rodgers had called for positivity from the stands on the eve of the game after referencing the dissent that greeted one of his substitutions during the champions’ late win at Motherwell on Sunday.

His players ensured there was no opportunity for any negativity to emerge, although Dundee twice came close in the first two minutes through Curtis Main and Owen Beck.

Beck had kept Maeda quiet at Dens Park on Boxing Day but Yang Hyun-jun got an early edge when he got past him and drew a foul which earned the on-loan Liverpool left-back a booking.

There was further punishment from O’Riley’s free-kick as Carter-Vickers rose above Amadou Bakoyoko to head home his first goal of an injury-disrupted season.

Beck was fortunate not to receive another booking from referee Matthew MacDermid for a reckless tackle on Yang and Celtic continued to put the visitors under pressure as O’Riley was twice denied.

The home support were given another boost when news emerged of Kilmarnock’s opener and Idah had them celebrating in the 18th minute with a brilliant header from Alistair Johnston’s cross to net his fifth goal since joining four weeks ago.

O’Riley ran on to Taylor’s perfect cross to head home four minutes later and the midfielder turned provider as his pass found Maeda’s run across the box. The Japan international had plenty to do but a brilliant touch fooled Joe Shaughnessy and he curled into the far corner.

O’Riley sent a brilliant volley off the bar from 22 yards and Taylor’s run into the box was rewarded when Johnston’s cross ultimately fell for him as the left-back stroked home from eight yards in the 36th minute.

Main had a goal disallowed for offside following a VAR check before McGregor drilled home in stoppage time after an exchange of passes with Taylor with Yang once again involved.

Celtic went off at half-time amid noise akin to a Champions League night but the atmosphere dampened down as news of two quickfire goals from Rangers filtered through early in the second half.

Dundee manager Tony Docherty had made three half-time changes and his side looked more compact but half-time substitute Kelly showed composure beyond his 18 years to curl into the top corner after Yang’s low cross came to him on the edge of the box.

The Celtic Park DJ dug out the Magnificent Seven theme tune that used to follow Henrik Larsson’s many Parkhead goals and more fanfares looked on the cards.

Luis Palma curled off the Dundee bar and Robertson received a second yellow card for a late challenge on Johnston in the 76th minute.

However, it was Dundee who added to the scoring eight minutes later when Mellon volleyed home a cross from fellow substitute Aaron Donnelly.

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers stressed the advantages of positivity from the stands ahead of Wednesday’s visit of Dundee after finding dissent over a substitution “strange”.

Boos rang out from the away support at Motherwell on Sunday when Rodgers brought on Paulo Bernardo for Tomoki Iwata with the scores tied at 1-1 with 13 minutes left.

The criticism likely stemmed from supporters’ desire to see someone else coming off other than Iwata, who had not played since December 13 because of injury, but Rodgers felt it did not help the player coming on.

Celtic went on to win 3-1 with substitutes Adam Idah and Luis Palma getting all three goals between them and Rodgers brought up the jeers when asked about the importance of utilising his bench.

“It’s very important, especially when you get booed for taking off a defender and putting on an attacker,” he said. “That seemed strange.

“You are talking 95 to 100-minute games now, so your bench is very, very important. Having the depth to bring players on make an impact is very important.”

When asked how he felt about the criticism, Rodgers said: “It doesn’t really matter to me, it’s more for the player coming on and the team.

“It’s a negative reaction which I don’t quite understand. You are 1-1 in the game and take off a defensive midfield player and bring on an attacking player who has scored goals this season and you get booed. It just seemed a little strange.

“But thankfully the players’ mentality on the pitch was superb, they kept going, they kept fighting and all the great work they did – especially in the second half in terms of tiring the opponent out – led to a couple of goals at the end.”

When asked about the effect of criticism from the stands, Rodgers said: “It’s not only for Celtic, it’s in general in any club, if that feeling rolls down from the stands onto the pitch and it’s negative, then what do you expect?

“You will get players who will have a nervousness, so the game will look different.

“Whereas if they have that positive reaction and that support, it’s like life, if you get that support and that feeling that people are behind you, everyone, then you will have a greater chance to succeed.”

Sunday’s encounter continued a recent trend where Celtic put together two very different halves of football, as Motherwell deservedly led at half-time. On other occasions, they have struggled to build on a comfortable first half.

“To be fair, it’s been like that for bits of the season,” Rodgers said.

“I see people saying ‘they don’t know their best team, they don’t know the best structure’. We know clearly what the structure is. And it’s not about the best team, it’s the team that finishes the game.

“You play so many games, you are looking for an energy in the game that you can’t possibly keep for 90 minutes unless you make those changes.

“Each game tactically is different. It’s not about finding your best 11 because they won’t finish the game. You have to adapt within the game.

“But there’s no doubt you need to have that ruthless mentality and we would want that for longer periods, of course.

“And we will continue to analyse that to see where we can improve. But by the end of the game, if we have won the game, then that’s what is most important, as well as performing well.”

Adam Idah believes the pressure of playing for Celtic is bringing out the best in him after he stepped up to the mark at Motherwell.

Idah came off the bench at Fir Park with the home side deservedly one ahead at half-time and Celtic at major risk of falling further behind Rangers in the cinch Premiership title race.

The on-loan Norwich striker came to Celtic’s rescue with a well-taken double before Luis Palma grabbed another stoppage-time goal to earn a 3-1 win and cut the gap back to two points.

Idah said: “Look, there’s always going to be pressure going into any game. There’s always pressure at Celtic because it’s such a big club and the demands on everyone are huge.

“I think for us players, you need pressure. It can be tough at times but we are all experienced enough to deal with that pressure and keep going.

“I think I thrive off pressure. That’s what excites me. For a lot of players, that’s what you play football for.

“That pressure gives you that bit of motivation. I know for me, that’s when I play my best.”

Just like against Hibernian earlier this month, Idah’s second goal came four minutes into stoppage-time.

“I’m aware of Celtic and late goals,” the 23-year-old said. “We actually watched the clips before the game of Matty O’Riley scoring at Motherwell in the 96th minute.

“But it’s just that attitude of never giving up. I could see it as soon as I came in. Everyone is so hard-working in training, so professional.

“You see it in the games. They never give up, everyone is willing to put in that extra per cent to get results. You saw that on Sunday and it turned out well.”

Idah netted two penalties at Easter Road and he was delighted to double his Celtic tally at Fir Park without the aid of spot-kicks.

“It’s obviously very pleasing,” the Republic of Ireland international said. “The two penalties were great but you do want to score from open play.

“To do that on Sunday and the way it went was unbelievable for me and my confidence as a striker.

“My job is getting goals so I was delighted. That’s what I’ve come here to try to do. I want to score as many goals as I can and help the team.

“The team is helping me by putting balls in the box and making me the reference point. Overall we are working well with each other.”

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers praised his side for dealing with the pressure after coming from behind to snatch a last-gasp win over Motherwell.

Motherwell deservedly led at half-time through Blair Spittal’s impressive goal but substitute Adam Idah quickly headed Celtic level after the break.

Celtic forced Motherwell back in the final quarter of the game and the pressure told four minutes into stoppage time when Idah stabbed home Alistair Johnston’s pass.

Luis Palma quickly added another to seal a 3-1 victory which cut the gap at the top of the table back to two points.

Rangers had moved five in front with a 5-0 win over Hearts on Saturday and Celtic faced a big challenge at half-time after dropping four points in their previous three league matches.

Rodgers admitted there was an anxiety in his side’s first-half passing but he added: “It was more the football and the performance, we were arriving into areas too early which gave players less options on the ball, that meant the passes were longer and they were looking into depth too much.

“Sometimes that happens in the game, so at half-time it was just about staying calm, reinforce the good bits of the game, but actually where we needed to adapt in order to connect the game.

“That is what this team is about. It’s about running and connecting the game fast, lots of passes, getting it out to the sides, making runs in behind, getting crosses into the box from half space wide areas.

“Technically, we needed to make some adjustments, but all at the same time, stay calm. Stay calm, because it’s one goal in it and I know this team and I know this club.

“The players were magnificent second half, I’ve got to say, under the pressure of being behind. They dealt with it really well.”

Rodgers was delighted with the impact of his subs with Yang Hyun-jun and Cameron Carter-Vickers coming off the bench to good effect following the half-time introduction of Idah for Kyogo Furuhashi.

“He scores two brilliant goals,” Rodgers said. “His first one is an amazing header – it’s a great cross by Greg (Taylor) but his header is absolutely brilliant. And then obviously he makes his first-post run and gets the second one.

“I think the guys coming into the game made a really good impact. Yang was good, he gave us the width and attacked on the outside and created space for the passes inside. Palma comes in and scores a goal as well, gets into the second post for the cross.”

On Carter-Vickers, Rodgers added: “You see when he comes into the game, there’s no trouble.

“The big guy up front (Theo Bair) gave us a problem in the first half with his strength and his size, and Cam comes in and just controls that side of it and allows us to play and get forward quicker, because he’s controlling that along with Scalesy (Liam Scales). So, him coming back is huge for us.”

Motherwell manager Stuart Kettlewell was frustrated over the “miscommunication” that saw two players dragged to the ball to leave Johnston free to set up Idah’s second.

And he will work on getting his players conditioned for 90 minutes after taking off four young players and Dan Casey, who pulled up after making a sliding tackle.

“Once we start to see one or two feeling for hamstrings and thighs, it shows the opposition can grow momentum,” he said.

“Ideally, how we were performing defensively, I would rather keep that structure and personnel on there. But I felt we were forced into one or two changes through necessity.

“One or two young guys in the team, even the senior players, we have to work towards being able to condition ourselves to play 96 minutes.

“It’s not just your body, it’s your head and being switched on to it. I have to identify what I felt cost us at least a point.”

Adam Idah came off the bench to hit a double as Celtic came from behind to win another close contest with Motherwell in stoppage time.

Celtic were in serious danger of losing more ground in the cinch Premiership title race after Blair Spittal scored a wonderful goal to give Motherwell a deserved half-time lead at Fir Park.

But Idah headed Celtic level within five minutes of the restart and struck in the third minute of added time as the champions turned the tide in the latter stages of the game.

Fellow substitute Luis Palma made it 3-1 as Celtic cut the gap on leaders Rangers back to two points.

Rangers had piled the pressure on with a 5-0 victory over in-form Hearts on Saturday after Celtic lost top spot following two draws in their previous three league matches.

They knew they would likely face a tough encounter against a Motherwell who have drawn twice at Parkhead in the past year and ran Brendan Rodgers’ side close at Fir Park earlier this season, when Matt O’Riley netted a winner in the seventh minute of time added on.

Spittal was back from injury as Harry Paton missed out, while Celtic had Alistair Johnston and Tomoki Iwata making comebacks, the latter’s selection allowing Callum McGregor to play further forward.

Greg Taylor saw an early shot held by Motherwell captain Liam Kelly, but it was the visiting defence which looked vulnerable in the opening stages.

Lennon Miller got both Theo Bair and Jack Vale in behind with a quick pass on separate occasions. Bair finished brilliantly but was flagged offside and Vale could not get a shot away, turning inside and outside Mark Nawrocki before the defender recovered.

Vale soon forced a diving save from Joe Hart after slack play from Celtic and Motherwell cut open their visitors with an excellent one-touch move which ended with Georgie Gent slicing wide.

Celtic only carved out one real first-half chance, when McGregor’s through-ball found Kyogo Furuhashi, but Kelly came out to block with his feet.

Motherwell remained a threat though and their opener was a thing of beauty. Miller swivelled his way past McGregor with a tremendous piece of skill and set up Spittal to curl the ball out of Hart’s reach from 22 yards.

Idah came on for Furuhashi, who appeared to hurt his troublesome shoulder late in the first half. The Irishman made an instant impact, getting a run on Dan Casey to meet Taylor’s cross and power a header home from 12 yards.

The goal did not initially shift the momentum, though. Hart pulled off a brilliant stop from Miller’s header and Vale threatened twice, the second time when tackling the Celtic goalkeeper, who was relieved to see the ball go wide.

But the champions began to exert more pressure. Cameron Carter-Vickers came off the bench to add an assurance to the Celtic defence and fellow substitute Yang Hyun-jun was causing far more problems for the home team than the man he replaced, Nicolas Kuhn.

Liam Scales had a header saved, Daizen Maeda failed to get any of three chances on target and O’Riley saw a shot charged down by the Motherwell wall after Calum Butcher had hauled Idah to the ground after being turned on the edge of the box.

Willie Collum booked the Motherwell man and stuck to his decision despite being called to the monitor for a potential red-card review.

The pressure grow and Idah got ahead of his marker to convert Johnston’s low cross before Palma tapped home Yang’s ball across the face of goal.

Celtic goalkeeper Joe Hart has revealed he wanted to end his playing career on his own terms and could not imagine finishing it at any other club.

The 75-times capped England international this week announced his decision to retire at the end of the season, when he will be 37.

The former Manchester City player rejuvenated his career after moving from Tottenham in the summer of 2021, adding a clean sweep of Scottish domestic trophies to his full collection of English major honours.

And he wants the focus on his future to quickly switch to his attempts to continue that success as Celtic bid to rise to a strong title challenge from Rangers after losing top spot in the cinch Premiership last weekend.

Hart said: “I have loved every moment of being here, myself and my family, it’s been everything and more than I wanted it to be, and I will be forever proud that I represented this club.

“The most pleasing thing for me is a lot of the people here respect that I come and I give my all. Whether it’s good, bad or indifferent.

“I’m sure there’s a lot of times when people wanted me in, wanted me out, but that’s the life of a goalkeeper. But ultimately you are respected as a person, and welcomed into a really special club.

“I will be 37 at the end of this season. What direction the club wants to go, whether I fitted into that, I wasn’t too sure. We didn’t even have that conversation.

“I certainly wasn’t interested in going and trying to play anywhere else.

“So I felt, right, I wanted to be strong and fit and ultimately happy. If there is such a thing, I feel I am in that place, and I feel like it’s the right time.”

Hart, who made his first-team debut for Shrewsbury 20 years ago, added: “I looked at what age I’m going to be, I’m aware of all the stresses I have put myself through body-wise all through my career.

“I didn’t really want to wait and be told. And with the cycle of the three years I have managed to do here, I wasn’t interested in playing anywhere else. It just felt right.

“I felt like I know and I wanted the club to know because I have a lot of love and respect for this club and I want the club to move forward to bigger and better things.

“No-one needs the speculation of whether a regular starter is going to be offered a contract, sign a contract, whether he is looking elsewhere. That’s a needless narrative when all of us are on the same page so I thought it was important to address it.

“There will be a couple of days of noise but after that no-one will care. ‘Oh right, Joe is retiring at the end of the season, Celtic need a goalkeeper, but right now he is there and he is going to be head down and fully fighting for this special club’.”

Hart’s decision gives manager Brendan Rodgers one less big call to make as he plans for what appears to be a crucial summer transfer window.

“I think we are very clear on what we need to improve on within the team and the squad,” said Rodgers, who welcomes Alistair Johnston and Cameron Carter-Vickers back from injury for Sunday’s trip to Motherwell.

“But certainly with Joe going, that really quickens that up in terms of needing to bring in someone for next year.”

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.”

Kilmarnock once again proved a thorn in Celtic’s side as David Watson headed a stoppage-time equaliser at Parkhead to deal a major blow to the Hoops’ title hopes.

A first-half header from Kyogo Furuhashi looked like being just enough to send Celtic three points ahead of Rangers in the cinch Premiership title race.

But Watson headed into the corner of the net from fellow substitute Fraser Murray’s cross after Alexandro Bernabei had misjudged the flight of the ball.

The 1-1 draw gives Rangers the chance to move two points clear at the top of the table when they face St Johnstone in Perth on Sunday, having already clawed back a seven-point deficit since Philippe Clement took over eight games into the season.

Kilmarnock had already beaten their hosts twice at Rugby Park this season – once in the Viaplay Cup – and their late goal came from one of 12 shots at goal.

Joe Hart twice saved well from Liam Donnelly and Killie manager Derek McInnes was frustrated his side did not get a penalty for Stephen Welsh’s sliding challenge on Marley Watkins.

Neither referee John Beaton nor video assistant Willie Collum were convinced by Watkins’ appeals but it looked a risky challenge.

Celtic had left-back Greg Taylor back from a calf injury while Israel international Liel Abada was still absent after it was decided he was not in the right frame of mind to play following talks with manager Brendan Rodgers.

The game started amid a vocal tribute to the Palestinian people from the Celtic support, some of whom held up banners stating “30,000+ dead, 12,000+ children, end the genocide, end Zionism”.

On the park, Watkins saw a header saved from an early chance.

Adam Idah was showing some good touches up front for Celtic and one flick paved the way for Callum McGregor to play in Luis Palma. The winger had options but chose to cut inside and goalkeeper Will Dennis came out to block his shot.

The breakthrough came in the 32nd minute when Anthony Ralston ended a spell of tight passing as he noticed Furuhashi peeling off Joe Wright to the back post. The right-back floated a perfect ball for the the Japanese striker to loop the ball home.

Killie responded well and twice threatened following Danny Armstrong crosses. Hart stopped Donnelly’s close-ranger header and then Watkins went down clutching his ankle after Welsh’s sliding penalty-box challenge.

Referee John Beaton waved play on and the game continued after a short delay following the next stoppage.

Celtic had chances to ease the tension. McGregor shot over and Matt O’Riley was denied twice by Dennis and once by Corrie Ndaba’s goalline clearance.

Taylor was replaced by Bernabei on the hour mark in what looked a pre-planned move.

Killie sensed there was something to take from the game with Armstrong at the centre of much of their attacking play.

Donnelly met the winger’s inswinging free-kick and powered a header which Hart pushed over. Armstrong then had a chance of his own but mis-kicked a shot wide when Ndaba’s cross found him beyond the back post.

Celtic got back on top but substitute Paulo Bernardo shot over from 14 yards after getting the chance to make it a more comfortable final 10 minutes.

The home crowd grew audibly more anxious and Watson missed from close range before getting space at the back post to head into the bottom corner.

Celtic threw men forward but it was the visitors who came closer to a last-gasp winner when Murray broke and fired a low shot which Hart got down to save.

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers admits Israel international Liel Abada may leave on loan if he cannot get his mind refocused on playing for the club.

Abada will again sit out Celtic’s cinch Premiership encounter with Kilmarnock on Saturday after not being in the right frame of mind to face St Mirren last weekend.

The 22-year-old has faced pressure in his home country because of support for Palestine among Celtic fans.

The situation 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 on Gaza. More than 28,000 Palestinians have been killed, mostly women and children, and more than 68,000 wounded, according to Gaza’s health ministry.

The Green Brigade ultras group have asked their fellow fans to join them in song ahead of the Kilmarnock match to pay tribute to the people of Palestine and Abada will not be present.

“It’s still the same situation,” Rodgers said. “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.

“He is training, he is working away, but this period is all about the mind and if you’re not quite right or ready, firstly I can’t take any risk with him, because we will always support the player, and obviously I also have to protect the squad as well.”

Rodgers took the then injured Abada out for dinner to discuss his situation in the wake of the October 7 attacks, and he is continuing to offer his support to the player, who did not rediscover his previous form after returning in December.

“I take a great responsibility, that’s why we are here,” the former Liverpool manager said. “My job isn’t just a football manager.

“This is a young guy, 22 years of age, far, far away from home. People can talk about what’s going on there and then they can forget about it. This is the reality for him, this is his life. Every single day, every night, families in a war.

“So it’s a really, really tough situation for him. On a human level, I have real, real empathy for him.

“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.

“It’s the sadness of it where he re-signed for us because he had great belief he could go on and develop, then he had a period out with injury and now coming back he has found it a real, real challenge. But I am here for him, to support him, and everything else is secondary to that.

“It’s my job and I will take the human aspect, like I have done with numbers of players before, and look after him.

“And when he’s ready, if he ever is ready, then he will be able to give us everything.”

That caveat opened up the prospect of Abada potentially negotiating a swift exit from Glasgow, perhaps on loan to a league with its transfer window open, before a more permanent parting of the ways in the summer.

When asked if a loan was now an option, Rodgers said: “It’s a possibility. But we’ll see. We will work together on it.”

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