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OOPS HOOPS! BUT RODGERS WILL SEE WORTH OF EXERCISE

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CELTIC B 0 LYON 4

FORGET the scoreline, Brendan Rodgers will tell you this was a worthwhile exercise at rainlashed Parkhead today.

All eyes were on new Bhoys Olivier Ntcham and Kundai Benyu at the start of the game and both showed enough to believe they will have massive roles to play this season.

Nine of the 11 Celts on the pitch at the end came through the academy and this occasion will have been a massive learning curve.

It was goalless at half-time with the Hoops having the bulk of possession, but the encounter took a lopsided turn when the French made six changes at the interval and simply took over.

However, a four-goal shift in the second period wouldn’t have been anticipated by anyone.

Nir Bitton, starting the game alongside Kristoffer Ajer in central defence, thought he had given the Hoops a sixth-minute advantage.

The Israeli, captain for the day, thumped in a wicked 20-yard free-kick that was heading for the corner of the net until Portuguese keeper Antoni Lopes got the merest of touches to divert it wide.

In the 15th minute, only a fine diving save from Dorus De Vries prevented the French from taking the lead when he got down well to his right to flick a curling 18-yarder round the post.

Four minutes later, the champions should have been ahead with Lyon surviving after two desperate pieces of defending.

Eboue Kouassi sent Callum McGregor scampering through the retreating rearguard before squaring the ball for Moussa Dembele.

It looked as though last season’s 32-goal man was bound to test the rigging, but his close-range drive was blocked.

The rebound fell to Benyu who first-timed it back towards goal, but once again his shot was cleared as it zoomed goalwards.

Dembele combined with his fellow-Frenchman Ntcham to set up a reasonable chance, but the £4.5million midfielder didn’t hit the ball with the desired power or precision and was well held by Lopes.

Next up, a long ball from De Vries completely caught out the visitors’ defence as Emilio Izaguirre raced into acres of open space.

Unfortunately, the Honduran defender’s final ball lacked accuracy and hit a frantic defender before spinning into the air where Lopes punched clear from the challenging Dembele.

The keeper got a punch to the ball, but it fell straight into the tracks of McGregor who sent a sidefooted effort widely over the crossbar.

However, the Scot’s blushes were spared when referee Bobby Madden adjudged Lopes had been fouled.

In the 40th minute, the match official took centre stage again when he ruled out what looked a good goal from McGregor.

Ntcham displayed awesome shooting strength from outside the box with a thunderous right foot drive from 25 yards.

Lopes somersaulted to his left to push the ball away and this time McGregor made no mistake as he banged the rebound into the roof of the net.

Madden, no stranger to controversy at Parkhead, immediately ruled it out for offside. It was a questionable decision.

The Hoops brought on Connor Hazard for De Vries in goal for the start of the second-half while the French outfit made six changes and got an immediate reward.

Unfortunately, the young Irishman conceded the opening goal only seven minutes after coming onto the pitch.

The speedy Traoure got clear of Izaguirre to wallop a vicious effort at goal that Hazard could only fist away with both hands.

The ball dropped kindly for Cornet who couldn’t miss from close range.

In the 61st minute, Hazard was beaten again after some devastating footwork from Maolida who bewildered Mark Hill and Bitton before sliding the ball between the keeper and his near post.

Before the game finished, Rodgers made a blizzard of changes with Ntcham, Kouassi, Benyu and Dembele just four of the players going off with Liam Henderson, Jack Aitchison, Calvin Miller and Jamie McCart coming on.

In the 78th minute, Fekir trickled a third past Hazard for the third goal with the game now a training exercise and Gourri added a fourth before the end.

Rodgers, undoubtedly, would have seen things to work on, but the first-half display from Benyu would have delighted him.

The former Ipswich Town kid allies strength with skill while Ntcham will need games before he makes his competitive debut.

TEAM: De Vries (sub: Hazard 46); Hill, Bitton, Ajer (sub: McCart 63), Izaguirre; Kouassi (sub: Henderson 63), Benyu (sub: McInroy 73); Hayes (sub: Miller 73), McGregor, Ntcham (sub: Wardrop 63); Dembele (sub: Aitchison 73).

 

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