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‘THE FIRST OF MANY,’ HOPES DEMBELE

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MOUSSA DEMBELE hopes he has found the goalscoring trail at Celtic after his first strike for the Hoops fired them into the Champions League play-off.

The 20-year-old French striker has taken time to adjust to life at the champions since arriving in the summer from Fulham and was dropped to the bench for the second leg against Astana last night.

With the game poised at 1-1 and heading for extra-time on a 2-2 aggregate, Dembele replaced James Forrest with 15 minutes remaining.

And in the second of three added minutes, he thumped in a penalty after he had been tripped in the box by Igor Shitov, who was sent off by Romanian referee Istvan Kovacs for a second booking. Dmitri Shomko followed him after picking up two bookings for arguing about the award.

The Hoops can look forward to facing Dinamo Zagreb (Croatia), Ludogorets Razgrad (Bulgaria), Copenhagen (Denmark), Hapoel Be’er Sheva (Israel) or Dundalk (Republic of Ireland) in the play-off while Dembele is looking to add to his breakthrough goal.

He said: “For a striker, the first goal is the most important one and the hardest to get.

“I got it and, hopefully, I can score more and more. Especially at this massive club and in the Champions League, the goal was something huge.

“If I keep working hard to score more goals, hopefully things will go well for me and the team. When you are a young player you want to play for a big team and to score goals in a game like that.

“It is something I have been waiting for, for a long time and that is why I signed for this club.”

Dembele claimed he was confident of scoring from the spot after practising penalties in training on Tuesday.

He said: “I felt a little bit of pressure, but as a striker I want to score and I practised it in training so I knew I was going to score.

“When you practise in training and it happens on the pitch then you just have to think about training and stay focused.

“The pressure was there, but as a footballer you have to cope with the pressure and that’s what I did.”

 
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