Dundee boss Paul Hartley pleased with players’ performance against Celtic

March 20 2017, 9.00amUpdated: March 19 2017, 3.59pm
© SNS GroupPaul Hartley.
Paul Hartley.

Dundee boss Paul Hartley has praised his players for their never-say-die attitude after yesterday’s narrow defeat to Celtic at Dens.

The Dark Blues went two goals behind to the Champions elect but came storming back thanks to an absolutely cracking goal from substitute Faissal El Bakhtaoui.

Ultimately, they could not halt the Celtic juggernaut but Hartley was still delighted with the application and effort shown by his players.

The manager said: “I felt we were pretty comfortable first half.

“We knew we would give up a lot of possession because of the quality Celtic have.

“But the goal just before half-time changed our thought processes a little bit.

“They got a little bit lucky with a deflection but we regrouped at half-time and said to the players that we were still in the game.

“The second goal is a poor one to give away as we didn’t match the midfield runner.

“After that, we changed it and had a right go, putting Celtic under pressure.

“We scored an excellent goal and Marcus Haber had a good opportunity.

“We threw balls into the box and Celtic changed their shape to go to a back three.

“So overall, I am pleased with the players and how they worked as we knew it was going to be a tough game.

“I think if we had gone in 0-0 at half-time we could have had a good chat with the players but that happens with the quality that Celtic possesses.

“You have to give our players credit as they never gave up. They kept fighting, they kept going.

“We kept trying to put them under pressure. We went 4-4-2 and left ourselves a little bit exposed but we definitely put Celtic under pressure.

“I knew the lads wouldn’t give up as that’s the type of players I have. They are good characters and we knew they would keep going.

“It sums up the group that I’ve got. I am really pleased with how they performed today.

“We were positive and had a go to try to put them under pressure.”

Like everyone else in the ground, Hartley was impressed by El Bakhtaoui’s superb finish – but he is looking for the striker to score more on a consistent basis.

He said: “He needs to do it more. That’s been El Bakhtaoui’s problem a little bit.

“He has been inconsistent and we have had to be patient with him but we knew that.

“We know the ability he possesses but he has jumped up two leagues.

“He scored 30 goals for Dunfermline but he was never going to do that here.
“So it has been a slow process but we know the ability he has.”

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