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ESPN FC  By ESPN staff

Brendan Rodgers calls for Celtic fans to trust players after UCL win

Leigh Griffiths and Brendan Rodgers have advanced to the final Champions League playoff round.

Brendan Rodgers called for Celtic fans to trust his players after it took Moussa Dembele's dramatic stoppage-time penalty to give the Hoops a 2-1 win over FC Astana and book a Champions League play-off spot 3-2 on aggregate.

Leigh Griffiths' first-half penalty -- also in stoppage-time -- was cancelled out by a strike from substitute Agim Ibraimi.

However, in time added on Dembele, on for James Forrest, slammed in his first Celtic goal since joining from Fulham in the summer after he had been tripped in the penalty area by Igor Shitov, who was sent packing by Romanian referee Istvan Kovacs for a second booking Dmitri Shomko followed him up the tunnel amid the mayhem.

Rodgers, looking forward to the draw on Friday, praised the Hoops supporters for the atmosphere generated but called for patience and trust.

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The Northern Irishman said: "The supporters were unbelievable for us but the only thing I can say is that they need to show a little bit of patience as well.

"I am a Celtic supporter, I know what they want and I know how desperately they want it but they put the players on edge at times tonight.

"In modern football, European football, domestic football, teams are organised. So if you can't play forward and you can't play sideways, you have to come back.

"But when you come back, you shouldn't be on edge because you come back. We have to circulate the ball to get out the other side to try to provoke them to be disorganised to hopefully score a goal.

"So I hope going forward, instead of having that edginess, trust the players, trust our game model and how we work and as we saw here, eventually we can get there.

"But apart from that it was a wonderful atmosphere and brilliant support and again they helped push us over the line."

Rodgers, who revealed winger Patrick Roberts came off with a tight hamstring, insisted his side deserved to get through the tie against the Kazakhstan champions.

He said: "We started the game with a great intensity and restricted them to very few chances and at the end of the first half we got the goal we deserved.

"We started the second half well and then we make a mistake and their guy has a great finish. Then it is a test of our character again and these players respond to the challenge, they were absolutely brilliant.

"They stayed calm, worked the ball again and also showed their fitness as well to keep pushing to score in the second half.

"So, a 2-1 victory, we thoroughly deserved to get through. It is the final step. There was always going to be three tough rounds.

"The guys who have had the experience up here tell me that sometimes the first two rounds are more difficult. But that was a difficult test for us and I think we deserved to go through.

"We have one final step to go and we will see what Friday brings us but certainly it gives the players great belief and hopefully gives the supporters belief."

The former Liverpool boss was thrilled for French forward Dembele to get off the mark in a green and white jersey, as well as being pleased at the second-half debut of his other new signing Kolo Toure.

He said: "I am very happy for him. Sometimes it is about the team that finishes the game as opposed to starting it.

"Kolo Toure came on and showed his experience and was outstanding. It is great for a goal scorer to get a goal. He has obviously been catching up on his fitness but he has quality and that is why he was coveted by so many teams.

"But he showed great composure for a boy who has just turned 20, to score his first goal and you seen that release from him, the ball played up the side and the speed that he showed and he can move on from that."

Dembele claimed he was confident of scoring from the spot after practising penalties in training on Tuesday and said: "To score my first goal for the club in the Champions League and for us to win the game is a massive thing for us.

"I felt a little bit of pressure but as a striker I want to score and I practised it in training so I knew I was going to score. The pressure was there but as a footballer you have to cope with the pressure and that's what I did."

FC Astana boss Stanimir Stoilov said: "I would like to congratulate Celtic. They created several opportunities and when you lose goals in stoppage-time at half-time and at the end, it is difficult.

"Celtic were better today than in Astana and created more chances so deserved to win. I wish Celtic the best of luck."

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