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Brendan's nervy Hoops weather the storm in Kazakhstan

Astana 4 Celtic 3 - Celtic win 8-4 on aggregate

By Ronnie Esplin

Brendan Rodgers admitted he endured another night of Champions League qualification worry after Celtic progressed into the group stage despite a 4-3 defeat in Astana.

The Hoops' progress was never in serious doubt following their 5-0 thrashing of the Kazakhstan champions at Parkhead last week, however there were some nervy moments for the Carnlough man and the Scottish champions in a pulsating encounter at the Astana Arena.

The home side took the lead through an own goal by 19-year-old defender Kristoffer Ajer before Scott Sinclair curled in an equaliser.

That looked to have snuffed out the hosts' belief but two goals in a minute at the start of the second half from attackers Serikzhan Muzhikov and Patrick Twumasi brought the home side back to life.

When the Ghanaian grabbed his second to make it 4-1, there were some anxious moments before late goals from Olivier Ntcham and Leigh Griffiths gave the visitors an 8-4 aggregate win and confirmed they would be in European football's top club competition for the second successive campaign.

Rodgers recalled last season, his first as Hoops boss, when Celtic survived a nervy second leg onslaught to reach the Champions League group stage with a narrow 5-4 aggregate play-off win over Hapoel Be'er Sheva.

"Welcome to the annual Be'er Sheva moment," he joked after the game, referencing that nervy night in Israel.

"When the second goal went in, that was a good moment for us. We turned the momentum of the game then. The players were shocked with the goals we conceded but, once we got the second goal, the calmness came back into the team and that leads into the third goal and we defended much better then.

"But I think it is a yearly thing these moments.

"We have gone through this qualification phase really well but we had to withstand that and we have seen it before, teams maybe crumbling away and all of a sudden you have a shock result.

"But in the end we had 19 attempts at goal and the domination of possession but I still want us and expect us to be better.

"I am very happy and pleased to come though the six qualification games, especially against a team like Astana who are a good side."

Last season Celtic finished bottom of their group which included Barcelona, Borussia Monchengladbach and Manchester City, with three points and no wins.

As he looked forward to tomorrow's draw, the former Swansea City and Liverpool boss targeted at least third place in the group and Europa League football this time around.

He said: "Our aim was firstly to qualify, it's a big achievement with the route we have to take and the games we have to play. That was the first target.

"What we would like to do is progress this year and then be in European football after Christmas.

"We are going to play against some fantastic players in the Champions League, the highest club level, and the players will improve and if we can be in European football after Christmas that will be another great step forward for us.

"But we look forward to the draw.

"It is brilliant for the club and for Glasgow.

"It is not just about the football, it is about the nation and what it does economically and commercially, what Champions League football brings to Glasgow. It is absolutely fantastic."

Astana: Eric, Shitov, Anicic, Postnikov, Shomko, Maevski, Kleinheisler (Grahovac, 12 mins), Twumasi, Tomasov (Beysebekov, 46 mins), Muzhikov, Kabanaga. Unused subs: Mokin, Tagybergen, Beysebekov, Maliy, Shaikhov, Murtazayev, Grahovac.

Celtic: Gordon, Lustig, Ajer, Bitton, Tierney, Brown, Ntcham, Forrest (Ralston, 56 mins), Rogic, Sinclair (Armstrong, 64 mins), McGregor (Rogic, 56 mins), Griffiths. Unused subs: De Vries, Gamboa, Miller, Hayes,

Man of the match: Patrick Twumasi

Match rating: 9/10

Referee: Pavel Kralovec (Czech Republic)

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