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Rodgers: Brilliant team effort proves how we've improved

 

By Ronnie Esplin

Brendan Rodgers expressed his pride after Celtic all but guaranteed their place in the Champions League with a 5-0 thumping of Astana in the first leg of their play-off at Parkhead.

The Hoops knocked the Kazakhstan outfit out in the third qualifying round last season 3-2 on aggregate and only a remarkable turnaround next Tuesday will see Celtic lose out on the reported £30million-plus riches from group stage participation.

Rodgers said: "I was really proud. It was a great demonstration of the progress the players have made over the last season.

"They had physical courage but they showed ability to be composed and handle the ball and have a belief in our shape and that was perfectly demonstrated.

"It was an outstanding team performance. We had good organisation, scored five goals and missed one or two chances.

"It was very complete in many aspects of how we work, a brilliant performance.

"We don't have to win but we want to go there and perform well. We have to complete the second leg and finish the job off."

Double goal hero Scott Sinclair said: "It was unbelievable. It was a great team performance and a lot of people are asking me if it was an easy game, but there is no easy games and we only made it look like that by the way we played.

"We were strong at the back, we kept possession. In the first 10-15 minutes of the game we could have done a little bit better, but once we started getting into the game and scored.

"It was great to get the goal at the end of the first half before going into the changing room and listen to the manager speak and we went out there with confidence and ready to perform again

"We stepped on the pitch and we wanted to make sure we won the game and not concede. We were strong at the back and now the main thing is we have a nice cushion going over to the second-leg, which was definitely important."

The former Manchester City man was delighted to make such a telling contribution and is determined to help the Hoops finish the job in next week's return clash.

"What a competition to be in. When I came here, I said this is the inspiration for you as a player - you want to be in the Champions League - and playing the best teams in Europe when you qualify, and we have one foot in the door.

"We have one more game to go and once we hopefully put that game to bed, we can look forward to the group stages."

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