Sunday 18 August 2019

Shved strike delights Lennon to keep Celtic on right track

Nomme JK Kalju 0 Celtic 2 (Celtic win 7-0 on agg)

Celtic manager Neil Lennon. Photo: Action Images via Reuters
Celtic manager Neil Lennon. Photo: Action Images via Reuters

Neil Lennon saluted another professional performance after Celtic completed their Tallinn job and moved a step closer to the group stages of the Champions League.

A first-half own goal and a stunning debut strike from Marian Shved ensured the Hoops weren't stretched on their travels.

It was a solid display, albeit one understandably lacking in intensity, which set up a meeting with Romanian side Cluj in the third round of qualifying.

Hoops boss Lennon said: "I'm very happy with the scoreline, with the performance, and very happy with the scoreline over the two legs.

"I'm happy to get important minutes into some of the players who haven't had that luxury, and to come through injury-free.

"This tie was always going to be different because of the lead we had, and scoring the early goal was important."

Lennon was able to rest six of his players following last week's 5-0 first-leg win, with Saturday's Scottish Premiership opener against St Johnstone in mind.

Christopher Jullien - the £7million signing from Toulouse - enjoyed a comfortable debut at the back while goalkeeper Craig Gordon kept a clean sheet on his first appearance since December.

The visitors took the lead, and stretched their advantage to six, after only 10 minutes. Mikey Johnston drilled the ball across goal and Kalju defender Aleksandr Kulinits, with Leigh Griffiths breathing down his neck, sliced the ball into his own net.

Jullien missed out on a first Celtic goal when he headed a free-kick over, before another debutant took to the field in the shape of Shved.

The Ukrainian winger almost made an instant impact but his effort was bravely blocked by home goalkeeper Pavel Londak.

But as the game moved into stoppage time, Shved took aim from 20 yards out and pinged a superb shot into the top corner.

"I was very pleased with Christopher, it was important he got 90 minutes," added Lennon.

"And then Marian comes on - he's had a frustrating time with a groin injury - he got a good 25 minutes and scored a great goal to wrap up the tie."

Celtic now have two more rounds to negotiate, starting with another step up against Cluj next week, if they are to reach the group stages.

"The quality does get stronger as you go along, but we'll cross that bridge and be well prepared. Winning tonight keeps the momentum going into Saturday and, judging by the dressing room, we've come through unscathed," added Lennon.

Irish Independent

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