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  • Manager: Players produced an outstanding European performance

    Manager: Players produced an outstanding European performance

    By: Paul Cuddihy on 15 Feb, 2018 23:37

  • BRENDAN Rodgers’s side produced an outstanding performance against a very talented Zenit St Petersburg side to take a 1-0 lead into the second leg of their UEFA Europa League last 32 tie.

    The Celtic manager was delighted with his side’s display and the well-deserved win, which came courtesy of Callum McGregor’s stunning strike 12 minutes from time. And he praised his team for a mature display on the European stage.

    Speaking after the victory at Paradise, the manager said: “It was a very good victory for us. Tactically, we were excellent in the game and stayed calm when we had to defend, but with the ball I was really pleased with our personality in the game.

    “We showed control and calmness, we played with great maturity and capped it off at the end with a fantastic goal. It was a great piece of skill by young Charly and then an absolutely brilliant finish by Callum.

    “Right the way through the team, from the goalkeeper to Moussa, the players were outstanding. We played with a lot of young players in the team as well, but the maturity and personality they showed has shown that they’re clearly developing.

    “We have to be happy with the victory and, for me, I’m delighted with the performance, because to play with that confidence and that level of concentration in a big European game is very pleasing, and with so many young players, it bodes well for us going forward.”

    Celtic had dominated the first-half without getting the goal their efforts deserved, but patience, perseverance and no shortage of quality eventually paid dividends.

    Within five minutes of coming on as a substitute, Charly Musonda showed great skill on the left touchline before feeding the ball down the line to Moussa Dembele.

    As the Frenchman surged towards goal, Musonda raced to support him, and when the ball broke to him on the edge of the area, he lobbed a brilliant ball to Callum McGregor, whose control and finish was of the highest quality.

    “I said the other day that I thought we’d probably have to make a change between that 60 and 70-minute moment in the game,” said the manager, “and it was just about assessing what type of player we needed to bring in, whether it was going to be the speed of Scott Sinclair or the dribbling skills of Charly or Tom Rogic.

    “But I just felt at that stage of the game it was someone who was fresh and who could look after the ball. Charly’s skill and how he stayed on the ball, his composure to play through and then his pass at the end to Callum, were absolutely brilliant.

    “And when you look at the finish, it was sensational. The technique and the skill were absolutely brilliant and it was no more than we deserved.

    “It was about giving ourselves an advantage tonight, if we could. Like all of these games, if you can keep a clean sheet, then that’s important and I thought the stability that the team had – they concentrated and they organised themselves very well within the game, was great. That’s important going into the second leg, and then to get the goal.

    “We know we can score goals. Zenit will probably have to come out a little bit now to chase the game and, of course, that can give us more space and opportunities to play and to score. Like tonight, it’s going to be a tough game but we’ve given ourselves a great opportunity.”

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