Five Star Celtic thump Nomme to all but secure progression
Celtic have all but secured their place in the next round of the Champions League qualifiers after a resounding 5-0 win over Estonian side Nomme Kalju at Celtic Park on Wednesday night.
Goals from Kristoffer Ajer, Leigh Griffiths, Callum McGregor and a brace from Ryan Christie secured a thumping first leg win for Neil Lennon’s side ahead of next week’s second leg tie - which looks a mere formality now.
With Romanian side Cluj beating Maccabi Tel-Aviv 1-0 their tie is still poised and Celtic will look to not only do the business in Estonia next week but they will also be keeping a keen eye on events in Israel also.
Story of the match
Manager Neil Lennon made just one change to the side that beat FK Sarajevo 5-2 on aggregate last week, with Griffiths starting alongside fellow striker Odsonne Edouard.
Celtic dominated the game from the start, pushing their Estonian counterparts back towards their own goal.
With just five minutes gone, Forrest and Christie linked up well to win a corner for the Scottish champions, before the resulting set piece from Leigh Griffiths was headed just wide by the onrushing steam train that was Jozo Simunovic at the back post.
Minutes later and Pavel Londak in Nomme’s goal denied Christie after a driving run from midfield.
Celtic continued to dominate the play and just before the 20 minute mark, Odsonne Edouard latched onto a through ball from Christie, but saw his shot blocked by the last defender.
Changes were coming thick and fast for Celtic, first Griffiths was inches from connecting to a low cross from James Forrest and a free kick from the striker was deflected by Kalju’s defensive wall with the loose ball falling to Scott Brown whose shot was saved by Londak.
Further chances fell to the likes of Christie, Edouard and McGregor but the score was still all square after half an hour.
Celtic didn’t have much longer to wait for the opening goal as on 37 minutes, Ajer headed home a Christie free kick off the underside of the bar.
That goal sucked the life out of the visitors and just a minute from half time, Celtic doubled their lead when Celtic were awarded a penalty for handball. Christie stepped up and fired home low into the right hand corner of the net, sending the keeper the wrong way into the bargain.
Seconds after the restart and Griffiths almost made it 3-0 when he latched onto a pass from Forrest only to be denied by Londak. But he wasn’t to be denied soon after.
With seconds remaining of the first half, Griffiths stepped up and sent a brilliant left footed free kick into the net from 20 yard outs. Celtic Park erupted and as Griffiths wheeled away to celebrate he slumped to his knees as he held back to the tears.
It was his first goal in seven months for Celtic and his first since returning from his extended leave due to his off field personal problems.
Into the second half and Celtic continued where they left off with Londak denying a number of Celtic players from extending their lead.
Johnston, Edouard, Forrest and McGregor were all denied by the Kalju keeper. But just after the hour mark, Christie made it 4-0.
The 24-year-old, who was the best player on the park for Celtic, won a 50-50 ball before laying it off to substitute Lewis Morgan whose resulting cross was blocked. Christie pounced on the loose ball and sent a curling shot past the helpless Londak to send the Celtic support wild with delight.
Not to be outdone, with just under 15 minutes remaining, Callum McGregor got on the scoresheet to make it Celtic 5-0.
Olivier Ntcham, who came on for Christie, drove forward on the break before slipping the ball to McGregor on his right. The influential Celtic midfielder took a touch before smashing a low driven shot across Londak and into the back of the net. It was a goal to crown off what was a superb display from McGregor but a dominant win for Celtic.
Celtic saw the remaining minutes of the game out still on top and will now travel to Estonia next week with progression all but secured.
CELTIC: Bain; Simunovic, Bitton, Ajer; Brown, Forrest, Christie (Nthcam 70), McGregor, Bolingoli (Johnston 38); Griffiths (Morgan 59), Edouard
Subs not used: Gordon, Jullien, Sinclair, Hayes.
NOMME KALJU: Londak, Kulinits, Avilov, Ugge, Mbu Alidor, Liliu, Subbotin, Klein (Mata 46), Markovych, Puri (Masitsev 85), Paur (Volkov 75)
Subs not used: Teles, Reintham, Tjapkin