Celtic: Neil Lennon delighted with three-goal performance

 

Manager Neil Lennon praised his Celtic charges for winning a potentially "sticky" Champions League qualifying tie against Cliftonville in Belfast.

Mikael Lustig and Georgios Samaras scored first-half goals before James Forrest added a third late on.

"All round I'm delighted with the performance and the attitude of the team," Lennon told BBC Scotland.

"We played well, scored three goals, created a lot of chances and hopefully have a clean bill of health."

Celtic came into the Champions League second round qualifying first leg having lost all four of their pre-season friendlies to date against Ukrainian, Romanian and German opposition.

Interview - Celtic manager Neil Lennon

However, the visitors to the Solitude settled early and Lustig netted a fine header from Kris Commons's corner.

Their lead was doubled on the half-hour mark when Samaras slammed a left-footed shot past Cliftonville goalkeeper Conor Devlin from just inside the box.

And in a game where Lennon's men hit the woodwork three times, Forrest hit an 84th-minute third goal to cap a convincing victory.

"A lot of talk's been about our pre-season results but we just wanted to try to get it right for these games," Lennon said.

"That buys us a bit of time now. Some are still a bit rusty but that's understandable.

"We've got a friendly on Saturday which the bulk of this team won't be involved in and another game against Cliftonville next week.

"So, we'll feel the benefit of both those games coming up to the next round, hopefully.

"It was a sticky game for us and we've dealt with it very well."

James Forrest

James Forrest's near-post strike in the 84th minute made it 3-0

Northern Irishman Lennon expressed his pride at being able to lead out his Celtic team in his home country.

He also confirmed there was no update about the potential departure of striker Gary Hooper, who has been interesting QPR and Norwich City.

Lennon said: "No, nothing to add to that. Talks are still ongoing."

Celtic captain Scott Brown was equally happy with the straightforward nature of the win.

"We came out, showed what we're made of and showed that we're back to winning ways," he said.

"We're not too worried about pre-season results. It all depends on this result - that's the main thing.

"We've lost Victor [Wanyama, who has joined Southampton] but I'm sure we'll bring another couple of players in."