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  • Griffiths' brilliant brace earns Celtic victory in Slovenia

    Griffiths' brilliant brace earns Celtic victory in Slovenia

    By: Mark Henderson on 06 Jul, 2016 20:09

  • Pre-season friendly
    Stadion Stozice, Ljubljana
    Wednesday, July 7, 2016

    OLIMPIJA LJUBLJANA...1
    (Zajc 58)

    CELTIC...2
    (Griffiths 27, 56)

    LEIGH Griffiths’ deadly double fired Celtic to a deserved 2-1 victory over Slovenian champions Olimpija Ljubljana in an entertaining pre-season friendly.

    Scotland’s Player of the Year showcased the lethal finishing which saw him score 40 goals in the last campaign in the Stadion Stozice as he found the net with blistering strikes in each half, rendering Miha Zajc’s reply for the home side a mere consolation.

    It was another performance in which Brendan Rodgers will take plenty of positives from, coming on the back of the Hoops’ 1-0 triumph over Sturm Graz.

    The manager would also have been encouraged by a lively debut from new signing Moussa Dembele, who signed last week from Fulham on a four-year deal.

    Leading the line for the Hoops, the young striker was quickly to the fore, teeing up fellow forward Leigh Griffiths in the third minute, who curled narrowly wide from the angle of the box.

    It was one of several encouraging attacks for the Scottish champions in the early stages of the game, with Liam Henderson also offering plenty of enterprise down the left.

    The home side got their first glimpse of goal when Denis Kilnar volleyed over, before Jakob Novak shot straight at Craig Gordon following a quickly-taken free-kick.

    But Celtic always looked the more purposeful side going forward, and Dembele saw the sting taken out of his shot from the edge of the area by a home defender, allowing goalkeeper Aleksander Seliga to make a comfortable save.

    Julius Wobay had a curling free-kick saved by Gordon and then Dembele showed his speed to outrun his marker when chasing a through ball, but Seliga was out quickly to save his side.

    After a scare when Blessing Eleke headed wide from Zajc’s cross, the Bhoys made the breakthrough. Janko collected the ball and fed Griffiths in the box and the striker showed his sharpness by evading his maker and lashing a shot beyond Seliga.

    Scott Brown, who returned from injury in Sunday’s win over Sturm Graz, had been handed a start against Olimpija and his authoritative presence in the heart of the midfield was helping Celtic to control that area of the pitch.

    Down the left, Academy Bhoys Kieran Tierney and Henderson were combing to good effect and from the latter’s low cross, Griffiths blasted over as the Hoops went in search of further reward. Tierney also tried his luck after stepping inside a defender but Selgia was able to keep out his low drive.

    It was through this regular supply line of Henderson and Tierney that Dembele had a chance to find the target but he couldn’t keep his volley down as Celtic went in at the break deservedly in front.

    Dembele continued where he left off as the second-half got underway, forcing Seliga into action within seconds off the restart with an angled shot.

    Zajc flashed a shot wide for the Slovenian side but then the Bhoys doubled their advantage. Stefan Johansen intercepted a pass and picked out Griffiths. The striker made progress towards the box and with no tackle forthcoming he took aim and sent a dipping shot inside the post.

    Almost immediately, the hosts pulled a goal back when Zajc steered a shot into the top corner, with Tierney racing up the other end and bringing out another stop from the busy Seliga.

    With both teams making wholesale changes in the second half, the game became increasingly open, with chances at either end.

    Efe Ambrose, getting first run out of pre-season after joining up with the squad yesterday (Tuesday), headed wide from Johansen’s corner and substitute Ryan Christie found the the underside of the bar from Nadir Ciftci’s cutback.

    Novak spurned a golden opportunity for Olimpija, while Christie came close on two further occasions as Celtic collected another morale-boosting pre-season victory ahead of the start of the UEFA Champions League qualifiers.

    CELTIC (4-3-3) Gordon (Bailly 76); Janko (Ralston 74) Ambrose (O’Connell 74), Sviatchenko (Ajer 74), Tierney (Izaguirre 63); Bitton (Allan 74) Johansen (McGregor 74), Brown (Rogic 63); Griffiths (Roberts 74), Dembele (Ciftci 63), Henderson (Christie 63)
    Not Used:, Fasan, Fisher, Armstrong, Lindsay

    OLIMPIJA LJUBJANA (3-5-2) Seliga (Brljak 71); Kelhar (Cronmarkovic 64), Zarifovic, Ejup (Bajric 64); Kilnar (Alves 76), Novak, Matic, Zajc, Krefl (Kirm 46); Wobay (Vukcevic 74) Eleke (Velikonja 64)
    Not Used:

    Website Man of the Match: Leigh Griffiths

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