Boss Brendan Rodgers claimed the “footballing gods” were at play when Ryan Christie scored Celtic’s Betfred Cup final winner against Aberdeen at Hampden Park.
The midfielder had two loan spells at the Pittodrie club before returning to Parkhead at the start of the summer ready to stake a claim for a regular place.
In time added on at the end of the first half for a head injury to Gary Mackay-Steven, Christie raced on to a long pass from Dedryck Boyata and, after his first shot was parried by Dons goalkeeper Joe Lewis, slammed the ball high into the net. Lewis then saved a controversial Scott Sinclair penalty after the break.
Dons manager Derek McInnes revealed after the 1-0 defeat that he wanted to keep Christie at Pittodrie, saying: “We were close to getting him in the summer. We kept his number, 22, clear and it is still vacant so there is an irony within that.”
“It is the footballing gods, what we’ve seen today,” said Rodgers.
“I will repeat, when I came in he wasn’t ready to play week by week, but we could see that there was a talent there.
“But for the level we want to attain and get to, you need a physicality and that power.
“He has had always the quality, I felt at the time he needed to get some games.
“It is a great demonstration of the different types of loans you can get.
“This was a development loan. I have good relations with Derek.
“Ryan went away and got that physicality in terms of body strength and durability.
"I'm speechless, I'm just so happy!"
"Buzzing for the boys, we deserved to win today."
Celtic's match-winner Ryan Christie expresses his delight at keeping the 'Treble-Treble' dream alive...
Even if he is NOT allowed to talk about it 😂 pic.twitter.com/mWxrq8BCMV— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) December 2, 2018
“He came back in the summer and it was just about waiting for the moment.
“Like I say, football gods today, lo and behold he scores against the team that he was at for 18 months. It was a wonderful finish.”
It is now seven straight trophy wins for Rodgers since he took over at Parkhead in 2016.
The Northern Irishman said: “It feels great, but my happiness is more for the players and supporters.
“It was a very satisfying win, we showed a lot of heart and fight.”
Gary Mackay-Steven update | The manager confirmed that Gary was sitting up and, while he’s out for Wednesday, he’s confident that he should be available for next weekend. #StandFree pic.twitter.com/OH1IgOvqFQ— Aberdeen FC (@AberdeenFC) December 2, 2018
McInnes was pleased to report that Mackay-Steven, who clashed heads with Boyata and was taken from the field on a stretcher, was on the mend.
He said: “Thankfully he was okay, he is sitting up in hospital, he is getting tests done. Hopefully it is just a straightforward concussion.”
However, the Dons manager was unhappy with referee Andrew Dallas’s decision to award Celtic a penalty when Dominic Ball’s headed clearance came off his arm, which appeared accidental and outside the box to boot.
He was also displeased with already-booked Christie getting away with what he felt was another yellow card challenge.
He said: “It wasn’t a penalty in the first place and, if we don’t have a goalkeeper like Joe Lewis, it could be 2-0 and far more difficult.
“It was clearly outside the box and I also felt there was another yellow card challenge from Christie, on the halfway line, when Dom Ball breaks.
“The referee indicated he has played the ball, he clearly hasn’t and, if Celtic went down to 10 men, it might have been different.
“You need a lot of things to go your way in a final. It might sound churlish, but the fact of the matter is, a couple of decisions were harsh on my side.
“But Celtic have won and we congratulate them for that.”
- Press Association