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Nomme Kalju 0-2 Celtic (0-7): Scots ease through in Champions League


Aleksandr Kulinits turned Mikey Johnston’s cross into his own net

Celtic will play Romanian side Cluj in the Champions League third qualifying round after completing a comprehensive 7-0 aggregate win over Nomme Kalju.

After a 5-0 win in Glasgow last week, a Scottish side containing several fringe players dominated in Estonia. Aleksandr Kulinits turned Mikey Johnston’s 10th-minute cross into his own net and debutant Marian Shved rifled in a stunning second in stoppage-time.

Celtic will travel to Romania for the first leg against Cluj, who squeezed past Maccabi Tel Aviv 3-2 on aggregate.

Slick Celtic ease through

This was as comfortable an evening as Celtic have enjoyed in Europe in a long time, basking in the afterglow of last week’s emphatic 5-0 home win.

They were confident and relaxed as they dominated possession from the off. It looked for all the world as though they could replicate the first-leg result, particularly when they made the breakthrough so early in the game.

With Celtic playing slick, swift passing football, one such move brought about that opening goal. Olivier Ntcham, highly impressive in an advanced midfield position in the first half, found Johnston and the winger fired a tempting ball across goal. Griffiths was ready to pounce for his second in two games, but Kulinits intervened to nick the ball off the toe of the striker only to knock it into the net.

At that point, further goals seemed inevitable, such was Celtic’s stranglehold on possession, yet Pavel Londak had very little to do in the Kalju goal.

And if that perturbed Neil Lennon, the manner in which the home side began to threaten the Celtic defence as the second half progressed may also have given him pause for thought. The returning Craig Gordon twice saved well from Kaspar Paur to deny the plucky Estonians the consolation of an equaliser on the night.

Celtic began to turn the screw again in the closing stages, with both debutants passing up good opportunities – Christopher Jullien heading over from six yards out and then Shved, seconds after coming off the bench, seeing a side-footed effort turned round a post by Londak.

Lewis Morgan and Scott Sinclair were also denied late on by excellent goalkeeping but he could do nothing to keep out Shved’s powerful injury-time strike from the edge of the penalty area.

So Celtic ease into the third qualifying round where they will face a far stiffer task against the Romanians of Cluj.

‘Jullien showed qualities’ – analysis

Former Celtic goalkeeper Pat Bonner on Sportsound

What caught my eye was the performance of Christopher Jullien. I know Kalju got a few chances and Celtic got a little sloppy around the middle of the pitch but he showed all the qualities I would look for in a defender.

He was talking, he was pushing the line up and he was taking control. He covered for Jozo Simunovic and stepped in to midfield with the ball. And a real threat in the box from set pieces.

Former Celtic defender John Hughes on Sportsound

It was job done. For Craig Gordon, that clean sheet matters. Trust me. It matters for the defenders, too. They will pride themselves on clean sheets. So they’ll be absolutely delighted.

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