Manager: Aberdeen victory has prepared us for Helsinki
By: Laura Brannan on 06 Aug, 2012 09:56
SATURDAY´S 1-0 victory over Aberdeen was a hard-fought battle on the pitch and required a late goal from Kris Commons to seal the first league points of the new season, but Neil Lennon believes it was just the warm-up his side needed ahead of Wednesday evening.
Celtic will travel to Finland this week for the second leg of the UEFA Champions League qualifier with HJK Helsinki, and with the Hoops already leading 2-1, they will be looking to press home their advantage. And the manager took a lot from Saturday´s tough SPL opener.
He said: "The players were coming in at half-time saying they were feeling stiff so it was all about getting through the game and trying to get the win. We´ve done that and we kept a clean sheet.
"I know we´re going to improve and in the meantime it sets us up nicely for Wednesday.
"The game could have gone either way for long periods but I felt we were on top and we found a bit of a second wind towards the last 20 minutes of the game, which was pleasing."
Commons´ scrappy second half goal was the difference between the sides in a match with few chances on goal, but the manager expected that type of encounter and knows the dangers of early slip-ups.
"I´m delighted because the opening games are always unpredictable to call," he explained. "The day is usually muggy and the pitch is a bit slower so we felt any type of win would be great.
"We looked leggy. The effects of Wednesday night took it´s toll and it took a lot more out of the players than what we thought. We defended very well and we were in control of the game. Going forward we looked a little bit flat but that will improve as we go along."
Scott Brown missed the 1-0 victory with a hip injury and remains a doubt for Wednesday evening. The manager will assess his captain´s fitness levels this week, though, and hopes he will be available for the Helsinki game.
"Scott had a scan on his hip and he has a bit of degeneration in there, on the disc," he explained. "Whether we can get him through Wednesday...we will see how he is on Monday.
"He was very sore the other day and it´s not like Scott. It might mean an injection and hopefully that will calm it down. It might need to be seen to down the line but it is not a massive concern for us at the minute.
"It is never a risk when you play Scott but we will work closely with him over the next couple of days and see how he is."
James Forrest also missed the Aberdeen match with a tight groin, but is expected to be fit for Wednesday night. Charlie Mulgrew returns from suspension while Georgios Samaras, who went off injured after a kick to the face, will also be available.