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Brendan Rodgers last night made a comeback at Craig Levein as he leapt to the defence of Celtic captain Scott Brown.
Hearts manager Levein was critical of Brown after the Jambos’ 16-year-old youngster Harry Cochrane sustained an injury following a challenge from the Hoops midfielder. Cochrane would be spending time on the treatment table nursing a collarbone injury.
Asked if he needs to be safeguarded from referees, Levein said: “I think everybody should get a little bit more protection from Scott Brown.
“I watched it back and I think Scott had decided after the game at Tynecastle [when Hearts won 4-0], when Harry bossed him, he wasn’t going to let that happen.
“I’ve known Scott for a long time and he is aggressive in the way he plays.”
Rodger, however, feels the statement unjust and questioned the wisdom of playing teenager Cochrane against the Hoops.
The Celtic boss said: “Does the duty of care lie with the manager? Absolutely. From a talent perspective, I could probably put Karamoko Dembele in to the first team right now, but he’s coming up to 15.
“I have to think about where he is at in terms of his maturation level, not just his talent level.
“I don’t want to get into a whole episode with Craig when I suspect he was being tongue in cheek.
“But if you put a 16-year-old in against the champions at home, who play with an aggression like we do, then you know as a manager what’s coming. It was unfortunate the boy suffered an injury the other night.
“They jumped for a challenge and the boy fell awkwardly and unfortunately damaged his shoulder.
“You could argue or ask the question, does a 16-year-old need to be in a game against a Champions League team at home?
“I think he can play in it, but it’s a question that may be asked – can he handle it?
“I don’t think there’s any question about Scott. Hearts committed more fouls than us the other night – 21 to nine – so I don’t go along with that.
“Brownie is a top player. In my experience working with some of the very best players, they play on the limit in every game.
“That’s why he’s such a brilliant player for Celtic and Scotland.