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  • McIntyre praises players after impressive Bilbao victory

    McIntyre praises players after impressive Bilbao victory

    By: Mark Henderson on 27 Oct, 2017 14:24

  • TOMMY McIntyre was delighted with the calmness and control of his players in Celtic’s 2-1 impressive win over Athletic Bilbao in the Premier League International Cup on Wednesday night.

    The young Hoops fielded a mix of youth and experience for the Under-23 match in Woking, with Eboue Kouassi, Liam Henderson, Kundai Benyu and Odsonne Edouard all featuring alongside the likes of 17-year-old defenders Stephen Welsh and Robbie Deas.

    And with the senior players getting some much-needed game-time and the young Celts rising to the challenge of facing technically-talented and streetwise opposition, McIntyre told the official Celtic website that it had been an excellent exercise and performance.  

    “It was a high-level game and we had a mix of first-team players and young players,” he said. “It was a very good test against a really good side but a great performance and I was really pleased.

    “The goals we scored and the possession we had in terms of the game, along with the way we controlled the match was very pleasing. We had most of the ball but we stayed calm and popped the ball about and we did get into a good shape and created some good opportunities.

    “Odsonne led the line well up front, and with Beni on the right and Mikey Johnston on the left, it gave us really good attacking options. In the middle of the park, we had Liam Henderson behind Odsonne, who showed a great attitude and pressed really well, while Eboue and Joe Thomson controlled the middle of the park.

    “We had a relatively young back-four, with Sam Wardrop, who is out on loan at Dumbarton, and the two U18s – Stephen Welsh and Robbie Deas – in central defence and Calvin Miller at left-back. Ross Doohan was in goals and it was good for him to come back from Morton, as he needs some game-time, along with one or two of the first-team boys. Their attitude was great and so was the performance.

    “We were predominately U21s. Liam Henderson was probably the oldest while they were a real B-team, a real U23 team," continued the Celtic coach. "Even talking to some of the first-team players after the game, they enjoyed it and it was really important as they got a good test. It was a real high-tempo game, the pitch was excellent and it was a good to get back into that tournament and give a good account of ourselves.”

    Mikey Johnston continued his rich vein of form by deservedly opened the scoring for the Bhoys in 14th minute before the Basque side levelled early in the second-half. However, the young Hoops rallied and sealed the three points when a Bilbao player turned Regan Hendry’s cutback into his own net.

    And McIntyre was pleased to see Johnston maintaining his positive progress with yet another impressive showing on the back of dazzling display against Bayern Munich in the UEFA Youth League.   

    “The Development Squad is very young this year and they are getting the opportunity to play high-level games domestically, but also in the UEFA Youth League and the U23 games,” McIntyre said. “It was a relatively young team and you can see there is clear pathway for them, and it’s really up to them.

    “Mikey has done well in training. He had a difficult period when he missed pre-season and was out for a while, but he is now looking more like himself. He was outstanding against Bayern Munich and for the first 45 minutes against Bilabo he was outstanding as well and he capped it off with a goal.

    “The goal came from their corner. It was a great counter-attack. Eboue won the header, Liam Henderson cleared it and Eboue then continued his run. He flicked it on to Odsonne, who slid it through for Mikey, who went one-on-one with the goalkeeper and scored. It was a great goal to get and a good type of goal in the way we want to play with that aggressive speed about the team. So that was really good.”

    The impressive victory puts the Bhoys back into the mix in the group after they started the prestigious competition with a defeat to Swansea. Their final match in the section is against Manchester United at the start of December.

    “Getting the sprinkling of the first-team lads and getting the right attitude and performance from them makes a big difference,” said McIntyre. “It’s a great experience for us at this level and the win keeps us in it and gives us a chance. It will be a tough one against Man United but it does give us a little bit to take into the next game which important."

    CELTIC (4-2-3-1) Doohan; Wardrop, Welsh, Deas, Miller (Bell 60); Thomson, Kouassi (E. Henderson 60); Benyu, L. Henderson, Johnston (Hendry 46); Edouard.

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