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BOSS PRAISES ‘COOL’ HOOPS

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NEIL LENNON praised his Celtic players for their concentration under provocation from FK Sarajevo during the 2-1 win in the Champions League first round qualifier at Parkhead last night.

The Hoops, who advanced to the next stage on a 5-2 aggregate, kept their cool under what the Hoops boss termed “agricultural” challenges from the opposition, labelled “Bosnian bruisers” in CQN’s match report.

Goals from Ryan Christie and Callum McGregor were enough to set up a second hurdle challenge against Estonia’s Nomme Kalju FC, with the first leg in Glasgow on Wednesday.

Lennon, speaking to the Daily Record, said: “They were a bit agricultural. At least one of them warranted a red card.

“At this level, referees sometimes see the game a little bit differently to us. That’s what I’ve learned. You’re better off saying nothing and letting it be.

“I took Lewis Morgan off as a precaution. But there were a few heavy challenges. The one on Callum, in particular, was very high and naughty.

“The last thing you want at this stage is any long-term injuries or any kind of injury. There will be a few bumps and bruises, but, hopefully, nothing significant.

“It was really important we kept our discipline because it’s a big factor and we don’t want to lose anyone for the upcoming games. We know how difficult, fraught and tense these qualifiers are, but the experience some of the players have got will hopefully stand them in good stead going forward.

“I’m really pleased with the level of performance so far. It’s not perfect by any means – I get that – but for where we are it’s excellent.

“That’s a 5-2 win over two legs and that’s very good.”

McGregor, Kristoffer Ajer, James Forrest and Odsonne Edouard appeared to be singled out for some “special” treatment from rugged opponents who had five booked by a lenient Luxembourg match official.

The Hoops chief also admitted the display was far from perfect and it was clear he was not impressed by the part played by new Bhoy Boli Bolingoli in the Bosnian’s second-half equaliser.

The Irishman added: “I’m delighted. It was an excellent performance against a very good side so early in the competition.

“You could see they were a week fitter as we were. I thought we played excellently, especially in the first-half.

“My only bugbear was conceding the goal when we were in total control of the game and the tie. But Callum came up with a brilliant goal to win the game.

“He was outstanding again along with Scott Brown in midfield. I’m absolutely delighted with what the players are giving me at the minute.

“That was a tough tie to negotiate so I’m very, very pleased.

“It’s not really possible to enjoy these matches. I enjoyed a lot of aspects of the game, but you want the tie dead and buried as soon as possible.

“When we conceded the goal we lost a bit of momentum and it went a little bit flat. It was our own undoing. That was my only sense of annoyance throughout both of the ties and it’s just a little thing we will address pretty quickly.

”He (Bolingoli) had a bit of a mixed bag. I wasn’t happy with the goal we conceded, but his attacking play was very good at times.

“He can be pleased with his contribution. You can see that he has a bit of work to do He’s only been in a week and he didn’t train for three or four days after the first leg due to his ankle, so he can be delighted with his contribution on his home debut, no question.”

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