CELTIC 3 JABLONEC 0 (Agg: 7-2)
PARADISE returned to the east end of Glasgow this evening as Celtic overcame the Czech challenge to hopefully set up a Dutch treat.
Jablonec were taking care of home and away and now AZ Alkmaar stand in the Hoops’ way of the Europa League group stages with the first leg of the play-off final due in Glasgow on Wednesday.
David Turnbull was rightly named Man of the Match with a crisp, well-taken double while James Forrest claimed the third on a night where Ange Postecoglou was really welcomed to Glasgow.
The manager asked for his players not to lose their momentum and they didn’t let him down. Now Hearts are in their sights when the League Cup kicks off at Parkhead on Sunday afternoon.
In only 33 seconds, Kyogo Furuhashi was thwarted by the keeper when he raced clear through the middle onto a neat pass from Tom Rogic. He tried to dummy the Czech No.1 to his right and switch to the left, but an outstretched leg by Jan Hanus deflected the ball to safety.
WELCOME BACK…the fans turned out in numbers at Paradise tonight.
In six minutes, Kyogo was denied again by the netminder who raced out swiftly to boot clear as the Japanese striker moved onto a ball from Turnbull.
In the 14th minute, the lively frontman stroked the ball into the net after a pass from Forrest, but he was adjudged to be offside. It was a marginal decision. TV replays suggested he had been played onside by a Czech defender’s left leg.
A delightful shimmy from Rogic saw him weave away from two opponents and pick out Ryan Christie on the left and his first-time pass across goal was just missed by Kyogo as he threw himself at the ball in the six yard box.
In the 22nd minute, Rogic knocked the ball back to Anthony Ralston who lifted a cross into the box, but Stephen Welsh’s elevation was out and his header zipped over the bar. Moments later. Hanus parried a low 20-yard drive from Turnbull and gathered the rebound as Kyogo raced in.
Turnbull had better luck in the 25th minute when he was picked out by Greg Taylor and slid the ball past the outrushing keeper with the outside of his right foot for the breakthrough strike. The capacity crowd certainly enjoyed the moment as they came close to lifting the roof off the stand.
CHEERS…captain Callum McGregor gives a big hand to the Celtic fans.
There was a lot of quick and clever passing among the players, strong running, excellent movement and everyone keen to get on the ball and make an impact as the players responded to instructions from Postecoglou.
In the 41st minute, a briliant long-range pass from Rogic was aimed at Kyogo, but once again Hanus was quick to race outside his box and head clear.
German referee Daniel Siebert earned a resounding chorus of boos from the fans when he flashed a yellow card at Kyogo for a slight push on an opponent on the halfway line. It was a bizarre decision from the match official. We were in danger of finishing the game as a five-a-sides if he continued to punish offenders for such feeble and inconsequential challenges.
The whistler ignored a pathetic dive in the box by a Czech early in the second-half, but had no option but to book Libor Holik for attempting to haul back and then tripping Christie who was getting into his sitride for a gallop down the left.
It was only a matter of time before the Hoops doubled their advantage and the second goal duly arrived in the 55th minute with a sweeping move in from the left that saw Callum McGregor pass inside to Turnbull who collected the ball 20 yards out, steadied himself and then drilled a low drive away from Hanus at his right.
SAVIOUR…Joe Hart was the hero with two back-to-back saves.
Joe Hart, who had ben a virtual spectator, was brought into action twice in a matter of moments a couple of minutes later when McGregor was slack with a passback that was snapped up by Martin Dolezal, but the former England international keeper stood up to the threat and superbly pushed the 12-yard effort over the bar. He followed up within half a minute with a flying block to his left to foil the Czechs again.
In the 65th minute, Kyogo, who had been perpetual motion, came off to be replaced by Odsonne Edouard.
Two minutes later, the French striker almost marked his introduction with a quickfire goal, but the keeper managed to claw his chipped effort away. The ball, thankfully, fell to James Forrest who thumped in the third goal.
Parkhead was rocking and it really was like the good times before the world went into lockdown and took Celtic’s momentum with it.
With the Hoops coasting, Postecoglou made a blizzard of changes with Rogic, McGregor, Turnbull and Christie coming off with Ismaila Soro, Nir Bitton, Albian Ajeti and Adam Montgomery being introduced.
It’s all systems go for the visit of Hearts on Sunday.
TEAM: Hart; Ralston, Welsh, Starfelt, Taylor; Rogic (sub: Soro 74), McGregor (sub: Bitton 84), Turnbull (sub: Ajeti 74); Forrest, Kyogo (sub: Edouard 65). Christie (sub: Montgomery 74).