When you look at the managers notes in last night’s match programme, he basically told us what was needed to take to Kazakhstan for the second leg….a strong lead.
Now, Brendan didn’t specify how many goals that would entail, but I’ll guess he’ll be more than satisfied with the five goal advantage we have for Tuesday’s second leg in Central Asia.
What looked like a tricky tie became a breeze for the Hoops as they went about their business in a confident and composed way, giving very little encouragement to the visitors.
Brendan went with nearly the same side that defeated Partick Thistle last Friday, Hayes and McGregor making way for Rogic and Griffiths. That meant Celtic had the much needed striker as a focal point, something that’s sorely missed without Leigh or Moussa.
It also meant Nir Bitton kept his place in the back four, much to the surprise of many. After the mauling he took in the media, it would be hard to imagine the midfielder turned defender, has only played 180 competitive minutes there, in a team that’s lost just ONE goal all season!
Celtic, and Brendan of course, don’t listen to the naysayers, and just go about our business of winning football matches, something we’re incredibly good at. We must be, considering we haven’t lost a competitive game in Scotland or Europe since November 23rd last year. A total of 56 matches. Unbelievable.
Anyway, back to last night’s demolition of Astana.
Celtic started the game well enough and had a couple of early chances to take the lead, Scott Sinclair snatching at a loose ball in the box and Leigh Griffiths heading a James Forrest cross wide, when you’d expect him to hit the target.
Astana to their credit made life difficult for in the first half hour, and had a good chance of their own before Tom Rogic pounced on a Mikel Lustig through ball, carried it into the Astana box, chipping the ball goalwards, only for their defender Postnikov knocked it over the line to give Celtic a 1-0 lead.
Until then, Rogic was almost anonymous but found a spring in his step thereafter. Just goes to show how dangerous he can be when he burst into the box.
With the interval looming, Celtic once again took advantage of poor defending, this time Scott SInclair latching onto a loose Astana pass inside the visitors half, sprinting forward, and smashing the ball into the bottom corner to give the Bhoys a two goal cushion.
If we thought 2-0 was a good scoreline, the second half surpassed even our expectations!
Further goals from Sinclair, after the referee correctly waved play on following a clash of heads between Rogic and Astana’s Logvinenko, Forrest, following a great ball from man of the match Olivier Ntcham to Leigh Griffiths, who coolly slipped James in to beat the keeper, and a deflected effort from Leigh himself, rounded off the scoring to read an emphatic, Celtic 5 Astana 0.
The game, the occasion, with the Green Brigade back in full voice, and of course the result, all made for one of those magical European nights only Celtic Park can host.
I think it’s fair to say the name of Celtic will be in the draw for the Champions League group stages, along with the £30m plus prize that goals long with it…