Monday 19 August 2019

Griffiths back with a bang as Celtic cruise past Kalju in five-star show

Celtic 5 Nomme Kalju 0

Celtic's Leigh Griffiths celebrates scoring his sides 3rd goal during the UEFA Champions League second qualifying round match at Celtic Park, Glasgow. Photo credit: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire
Celtic's Leigh Griffiths celebrates scoring his sides 3rd goal during the UEFA Champions League second qualifying round match at Celtic Park, Glasgow. Photo credit: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

Leigh Griffiths marked his return to the starting line-up with a brilliant free-kick as Celtic took command of their second Champions League qualifier with a first-leg win over Nomme Kalju.

The striker more than vindicated Neil Lennon's decision to hand him his first start for eight months seven days after making his competitive comeback off the bench following a long spell out with depression.

Kristoffer Ajer of Celtic celebrates after scoring the opening goal. Photo: Mark Runnacles/Getty Images
Kristoffer Ajer of Celtic celebrates after scoring the opening goal. Photo: Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

The Scotland international curled into the top corner from almost 30 yards to put Celtic three ahead in first-half stoppage-time.

Goals in the previous 12 minutes from Kristoffer Ajer and Ryan Christie had sent Celtic on their way to an emphatic home victory and the latter and Callum McGregor were on target during an even more dominant second-half performance.

Celtic had 26 shots at goal, 14 of them on target, while Estonian champions Kalju, who are 20 games into their league season, could not test Hoops goalkeeper Scott Bain.

Celtic broke the deadlock in the 36th minute when Ajer headed Christie's near-post free-kick in off the bar. Christie won a 44th-minute penalty when Reginald Mbu Alidor handled as he flicked the ball into the box, and the former Inverness man sent the keeper the wrong way, before Griffiths made it three just before the break.

Callum McGregor of Celtic scores in the second half to make it 5-0. Photo: Mark Runnacles/Getty Images
Callum McGregor of Celtic scores in the second half to make it 5-0. Photo: Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

The second half was a procession of Celtic chances. Christie and James Forrest both had two strikes saved and Johnston also threatened twice before Christie curled home his second from 18 yards in the 65th minute.

Johnston forced another stop and the shots continued to rain in before McGregor drilled into the bottom corner from 22 yards in the 77th minute.

French midfielder Olivier Ntcham came off the bench for his first appearance of the season following his trip to the UEFA European Under-21 Championship finals, and Celtic cruised through the closing stages.

Irish Independent

The Throw-In: Tipp throw off the shackles while Kilkenny’s soul-searching begins

In association with Bord Gáis Energy

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport