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  • Neil Lennon: We’ll take huge confidence from Riga win into play-off

    Neil Lennon: We’ll take huge confidence from Riga win into play-off

    By: Joe Donnelly on 24 Sep, 2020 20:52

  • NEIL Lennon’s men showed great grit and determination against an ultra-defensive Riga in Latvia tonight (Thursday), when a last-gasp Moi Elyounoussi winner helped them progress to next week’s UEFA Europa League playoff qualifying round.

    The Norwegian midfielder scored on the 90th minute, just eight minutes after entering play, and was assisted by Jeremie Frimpong – he himself having replaced the injured James Forrest in the first half.

    In turn, the manager hailed the efforts of his substitutes in what was a well-contested but equally well-deserved win.

    “I think we were very good,” Neil Lennon told Celtic TV after the game. “We had to wait a long time for the goal, sometimes that happens in football, but I thought we were excellent and I thought our mentality was good.

    “I’m delighted with the performance, it’s not easy playing away from home, particularly when we’re going through what we’re going through at the moment, but it was a good performance and a great, very important win.

    “It takes two teams to make a game watchable and Riga set out their intentions very early. We started to wear them down, they started to play deeper and got more tired, and I thought Frimpong was superb in the second half. He’s put two beautiful crosses in and we should have scored from both of them, really.

    "And then he comes up with another really good one, Albian makes a great run across the defender, and it was a fantastic finish by Moi.”

    While pleased with his team’s performance as a whole, the manager singled out Elyounoussi and Frimpong for individual acclaim.

    He added: “I want to touch on Moi, he’s been out of the team for a few games because he maybe wasn’t at his best – but he’s trained brilliantly, and he’s such a great example to the rest of the squad. He comes up with a really important goal and I couldn’t be happier for him. I hope that sets his season on fire now, because he’s a great player.

    “I thought Moi, Jeremie and Albian all made an impact when they came on tonight. Albian could have scored, Jeremie’s done fantastically well, and he’s starting to look a lot more like himself again. He’s got a proper pair of boots on and he looks a bit more comfortable! He was great, he gives us that verve and that impetus going forward. That’s the best he’s been, certainly this season, I thought he was great.”

    Having overcome Montenegrin outfit Buducnost Podgoric in their third qualifying round tie 2-1, Celtic will travel to Bosnia and Herzegovinian next week to play FK Sarajevo in a single-leg play-off. Neil Lennon’s men overcame the same side in a Champions League qualifier last season, but the Irishman reckons there’s no such thing as a favourable tie.   

    He added: “We knew Riga was a difficult place to visit, whether there’s fans here or not. Copenhagen lost here last year, we were very wary beforehand, but we did well. They’re all tough games, but we can take a lot of confidence from that win tonight.”  

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