Celtic lost an early goal to Michael Higdon’s header but came back through strikes from Anthony Stokes and Gary Hooper to overtake Motherwell and take second place in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League, 12 points behind Rangers.
Thompson, deputising at the post-match press conference for manager Neil Lennon, who was suffering from a throat complaint, said: ‘‘The game was a must-win. If we don’t win today it is virtually impossible [to win the league] but we hung on in there.’’
Johan Mjallby, the Celtic assistant manager, had said last week that the matches against Rennes in the Europa League and Motherwell would have a significant bearing on the employment prospects of the Celtic management team.
Having won both, Thompson said: “It was huge; it is a relief to get the last two games out the way. They were pressure games, no doubt -- today more so. We keep asking the same group of players to go again. On Thursday after going behind it could have gone the other way against a great Rennes team, so it is was a relief. We can start preparing for the next game.”
Thompson praised substitute Paddy McCourt who created the space for Stokes to supply the pass that set up Hooper for the winner 10 minutes from time.
“He did it at Dundee United last year and at St Mirren and again today. That’s what Paddy is, he is a breath of fresh air -- for 10 minutes,” said Thompson with a smile. “If he keeps doing what he did for 15 minutes he is going to be pushing for starts.”
Stuart McCall, the Motherwell manager, was ‘‘gutted’’ by the result.
“I thought we merited a point but there was a bit of magic by McCourt. He has done that before off the bench. I didn’t think there was anything but pride and positives to take from the game.”
McCall described the late sending-off of Tim Clancy, the Motherwell defender, for kicking Hooper off the ball as ‘‘stupid’’.
“I haven’t seen it but I spoke to Tim afterwards and he has kicked him so I think it was a merited red card,” he said. “Stupid, but apparently deserved. I will have a look at it and will punish as I deem fit.’’