ANGE Postecoglou last night revealed many of his Celtic players are “running on empty” after a punishing run of matches - and lauded their “brave” performance in a Europa League play-off win over AZ Alkmaar.

A first-half Kyogo Furuhashi strike gave the Glasgow club the lead in the first leg match at a packed Parkhead and a second-half Timo Letschert own goal after a James Forrest shot completed a 2-0 triumph.

Postecoglou’s men have played five games this month and the Greek-Australian, who was once again without Scotland playmaker Ryan Christie due to injury, was encouraged by the effort they put in.

“I thought it was a cracking game of football,” he said. “They are a good side and they took it to us at times. But we went right back at them. The players showed tremendous spirit and will to keep trying to play our football and at the end of a cracking game it’s great to come out on top.

“In the midst of a really heavy programme of football, the guys keep going to the well again and they keep producing. They were outstanding.

“The spirit they showed tonight, when physically I think a few of them were pretty much running on empty, was great. They never stopped which is a great sign for me.”

AZ, who finished third in the Dutch top flight last season, carved out several scoring opportunities and Celtic had to defend desperately at times during the course of the 90 minutes.

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However, Postecoglou stressed that he had fully expected Pascal Jansen’s side to pose and threat and he was pleased with how Callum McGregor and his team mates coped. 

“It is all part of it,” he said. “It is one thing wanting to play beautiful football, but you have got to roll your sleeves up and show resilience at times and we did that. We had to at times. We knew we would have to because they are a good team.

“The key to that is we didn’t yield our football, we didn’t try and change anything we were doing. We had to be brave on the ball and I thought we were.”

Postecoglou is hopeful that Christie, who suffered a minor injury in the Europa League qualifier against Jablonec last Thursday night, will be able to return for the cinch Premiership match against St Mirren at Parkhead on Saturday. 

“It will be good to get Ryan back in, just some fresh legs,” he told Celtic TV. “He provides that spark for us and gives us energy. We are going to need it for sure. It is another tough game and it is a short turnaround. The players are giving everything in every game, there is no doubt about that. Now we have just got to push on.”