CELTIC 6 FR REYKJAVIK 0
NEIL LENNON was able to sit back and enjoy the action as Celtic swept into the second round of the Champions League qualifiers at Parkhead this evening.
There was never the chance of a Lincoln Red Imps horror show that would have seen the Hoops topple into European oblivion as they took the game by the scruff of the neck right from the off and were in cruise control from the sixth minute when the hard-working Mohamed Elyounoussi scored the breakthrough goal.
By the half-hour mark, the team were coasting at 3-0 with an own goal from Adal Steinsson and an unstoppable header from Christopher jullien.
And a comprehensive performance was marked with three second-half goals from Greg Taylor, Odsonne Edouard and Elyounoussi in the dying moments.
None of the Icelandic opponents could have argued if the Hoops had gone in with double their their three-goal advantage at the interval. Bettir Olafsson’s goal led a charmed life at times and they even survived a penalty-kick call when an Edouard back-post effort looked to be scooped off the line by a desperate defender.
Referee Gishamer Sebastian wasn’t convinced and was satisfied to award a corner-kick. Where is VAR when you need it?
The Frenchman had already gone close with a header from a Taylor left-wing cross that was too close to the keeper to worry Olafsson before Elyounoussi, who looked lively and alert right from the start, claimed the opener.
Jullien slung in a dangerous diagonal ball from inside his own half and the Norwegian international timed his run to perfection to knock the ball wide of the advancing netminder, race round the floundering Olafsson before rolling the ball into the gaping net.
The second strike arrived in the 17th minute when Ryan Christie released Hatem Abd Elhamed and his low ball from the right was arrowing towards the lurking Edouard before Steinsson got in front of the striker to knock the ball into his own net.
And it was Jullien who produced a killer header from a superb left-wing corner-kick from Ryan Christie to make absolutely sure there was no way the Icelanders thought they might be able to mount a fightback.
The towering French defender met the ball square on his forehead at the near post eight yards out and the keeper didn’t move as the effort zipped high into the net.
The game continued in much the same fashion with Celtic dominating possession and probing from all angles.
However, new Bhoy Vaslis Barkas was brought into action in the fading moments of first-half stoppage time when Christian Finnbogasson raced between Nir Bitton and Jullien to thrash a drive at goal from the edge of the box.
The Greek international keeper, who had been a mere spectator up until that point, showed superb concentration as he threw himself to his right to parry the ball and pounce on the rebound.
A minute into the second-half, Taylor, one of the smallest players on the pitch, scored the fourth with a HEADER from practically under the crossbar.
Lennon’s men put together a multi-passing movement as they shuttled the ball all over the pitch and it came to a rewarding conclusion when Elhamed delivered an inch-perfect cross from the right and Taylor materialised at the far post for a free header.
He couldn’t miss as he nodded home his first goal for the champions – and only his second in his career.
Just after the hour mark, Lennon made his first change of the evening when he put on Olivier Ntcham for Brown who promptly handed the captain’s armband to Callum McGregor.
In the 71st minute, Edouard scored the goal he had been threatening to hit all night as he waltzed his way through beyond four bamboozled defenders before sliding the ball beyond the stranded Olafsson.
It was a little piece of wizardry from the club’s talisman and it was his last action of the confrontation as he was withdrawn by Lennon with £5million Swiss hit man Albian Ajeti making his debut in his place.
At the same time, Patryk Klimala replaced the enterprising Christie as the Hoops gaffer looked to the weekend match against Dundee United at Tannadice.
Elyounoussi brought down the curtain on a fine individual display and fine team performance with a sixth in the fading moments when he stabbed in an accurate through pass from Ntcham.
All in all, it was a good night’s work for the champions as they continued to get rid of the rust.
Now for the next European test!
TEAM: Barkas; Elhamed, Jullien, Bitton, Taylor; Brown (sub: Ntcham 62), McGregor; Forrest, Christie (sub: Klimala 71), Elyounoussi; Edouard (sub: Ajeti 71).