Celtic ease past Nomme Kalju to set up Cluj encounter
Celtic eased into the third qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League after a 2-0 win on the night against Nomme Kalju in Tallinn.
A first half own goal and a superb debut goal from Maryan Shved sealed a dominant and comfortable victory in the Baltic state to secure a thumping 7-0 aggregate win.
The win now sets up a tie against Romanian side Cluj, after they beat Maccabi Tel Aviv 3-2 on aggregate.
Story of the match
Neil Lennon rang the changes from the side that beat Kalju 5-0 at Celtic Park last week ahead of Saturday’s Premiership opener against St.Johnstone.
Celtic’s new £7 million signing, Christopher Jullien, enjoyed what was a comfortable debut at the heart of Celtic’s defence, while Craig Gordon replaced Scott Bain between the sticks and secured a clean sheet on his first appearance since December 2018.
Despite off field issues related to comments made in the press, French midfielder Olivier Ntcham was given a second chance as he was back in the starting line-up and played a part in the opening goal as he linked up with youngster Mikey Johnstone down the left flank.
Just ten minutes into the game, Johnston drilled a ball across the face of goal and with Leigh Griffiths set to pounce on the ball, Kalju defender Aleksandr Kulinits sliced the ball into his own net.
The hosts nearly gave their small band of fans something to cheer, about despite the aggregate scoreline, halfway through the first half but midfielder Deniss Tjapkin fired a shot wide of the Celtic goal from the edge of the box.
Griffiths, who looks to be back firing on all cylinders after his off field issues, was proving to be a thorn in the side of the Estonian side but could not add to Johnston’s opener. Ntcham and Johnston missed a number of chances just before half time.
Into the second half and Gordon was called into action denying Kaspar Paur with a point blank save, before Jullien just headed over from a free kick.
January signing, Shved, finally took to the field in competitive action for Celtic and he almost made an immediate impact. But he was denied by keeper Pavel Londak - who played a blinder over the course of both legs to keep the score down.
As the game neared its conclusion, Shved finally crowned his debut with a goal as he took aim from 20 yards out to fire home a superb strike into the top corner leaving the keeper helpless.
Celtic will now face Romanian champions Cluj and if they secure their progression through that tie they will have one more round to play before reaching the group stages of the UEFA Champions League.
CELTIC: Gordon; Ralston, Simunovic, Jullien, Bolingoli; Brown, Bitton (Shved 70), Morgan, Ntcham (Christie 84), Johnston (Sinclair 61); Griffiths.
Subs not used: Bain, Ajer, Hayes, Edouard