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  • Christie strike seals victory for Celtic in Austria

    Christie strike seals victory for Celtic in Austria

    By: Mark Henderson on 03 Jul, 2016 18:11

  • Pre-season friendly
    Merkur Arena, Graz
    Sunday, July 3, 2016

    STURM GRAZ...0

    CELTIC...1
    (Christie 35)

    RYAN Christie’s first-half strike saw Brendan Rodgers collect his first victory as Celtic manager against Sturm Graz in the Merkur Arena.

    The 21-year-old made no mistake as he lashed in from close-range after good work from Scott Allan in the box.

    It proved to be the only goal of the game as the Hoops built on their draw with NK Celje three days ago and took another step forward in their pre-season preparations, with 22 players getting game-time under their belt in Austria.

    Similar to the opening game of the tour with Slovenian side Celje, Brendan Rodgers used the friendly fixture with Graz to cast his eye over his squad. 

    Nadir Ciftci, who came off the bench to score against Celje, was deployed up front, while Logan Bailly started between the sticks. Emilio Izaguirre was also given his first run-out of pre-season while teenager Jamie McCart was alongside fellow Celtic Youth Academy graduate, Eoghan O'Connell in central defence.

    Celtic fashioned the first opening in the third minute as Saidy Janko and Scott Allan combined down the right, allowing Christie to test goalkeeper Christian Gratzei with a curling shot.

    Sturm Graz, who finished just outside the European places in the Austrian Bundesliga, came into the contest with Bailly having to be alert to rush from his line and prevent Marc Andre Schmerbock and Martin Ehrenreich from reaching balls over the top.

    Ehrenreich, a home favourite, departed shortly after to huge applause as he brought the curtain down on his playing career with Graz. He is set to move into a coaching role with the Austrian club.

    The Scottish champions were enjoying plenty of possession in dangerous areas of the pitch but, aside from some good deliveries into the box from Christie, Liam Henderson and Izaguirre, they weren’t carving open the home team.

    Midway through the half, however, Ciftci showed good strength to shrug off the challenge of Christian Schoissengeyr before his chip was cleared off the line by a defender.

    The striker came even closer in Celtic’s next attacking foray as he fastened on to a Christie pass in the box and rounded Gratzei but he couldn’t steer his final shot on target.

    Schmerbock volleyed over for the hosts but it was the Hoops who made the breakthrough 10 minutes before the break.

    Allan was the provider, latching on to a flighted ball into the box and calmly picking out the unmarked Christie at the far post who fired home.

    Henderson had the chance to double the lead seconds later as the Bhoys cut through the heart of the Sturm defence again but his low attempt was saved by Gratzei.  

    Franco Foda’s side responded with a flurry of opportunities as half-time approached, through Fabian Koch, Bright Edonwonyi and Schmerbock, but Celtic preserved their slender lead going in at the interval.

    Only Nir Bitton remained on the field for the start of the second-half as essentially a completely new team took the field, with Brendan Rodgers keen for all his squad to get as much game-time under their belts as possible.

    There was little action of note in this juncture of the game as both teams struggled to find fluency amid all the changes, with the Austrian outfit also making a number of substitutions.

    Stuart Armstrong brought proceedings to life in the 57th minute with a dipping, curling drive from distance that was heading for the top corner until Grazei made a superb save.

    Captain Scott Brown then made his return from injury, replacing Bitton, a welcome sight for the manager and the Hoops faithful.

    Marko Stankovic and Kristijan Dobras had attempts for the home side, while Patrick Roberts flashed a long-range narrowly wide as the game continued its scrappy pattern.

    Only in the closing minutes was Craig Gordon called into serious action when he made a fine, reflex save to push away Andreas Gruber’s rasping drive as Celtic held out for the victory, the first of the Brendan Rodgers reign.

    CELTIC (4-2-3-1) Bailly (Gordon 46); Janko (Ralston 46), O’Connell (Sviatchenko 46), McCart (Ajer 46), Izaguirre (Tierney 46); Johansen (McGregor 46), Bitton (Brown 62); Christie (Roberts 46), Allan (Lindsay 46), Henderson; Ciftci
    Not Used: Fisher, Fasan

    STRUM GRAZ (4-4-2) Gratzei (Schutzenauer 83); Koch (Schmid 83), Maresic (Spendlhofer 46), Schoissengeyr, Lykogiannis (Potzmann 83); Ehrenreich (Huspek 19, Gruber 72), Matic, Lovric (Stankovic 58), Schmerbock (Dobras 58); Alar (Horvath 58) Edomwonyi (Kienast 69)
    Not Used: Jeggo.

    Website Man of the Match: Ryan Christie 

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