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Celtic cruise Champions League tie as Rodgers admits red card a worry

Celtic 3-0 Alashkert

By Ronnie Esplin

Ten-man Celtic cruised into the Champions League second qualifying round as expected with a comprehensive 3-0 win over Alashkert at Parkhead.

The Hoops' 3-0 win in Armenia last week made the return game something of a formality and a first-half double from striker Moussa Dembele - the second a penalty - and a strike from James Forrest made their lead unassailable.

In between the first two goals, defender Jozo Simunovic was shown a straight red by referee Haratiu Fesnic for a high challenge on Jefferson Reis De Jesus.

With Celtic's defensive corps already depleted, that could have serious consequences for their future qualifiers, and boss Brendan Rodgers admitted that while he wasn't convinced, he understood why the ref flashed red.

"It could have gone either way, I can see why the referee has sent (Simunovic) off," the Carnlough man conceded.

"It's a high boot on the hip of the player. Initially it looked like he wasn't going to give it, the referee.

"But especially in European football, when your foot's that high you can normally expect a red card."

But the home side remained dominant until the final whistle to go through 6-0 on aggregate and set up a meeting with Rosenborg in the next round, the first game at Celtic Park next week.

Celtic's convincing first-leg win had taken the tension out of the return game, but with season tickets valid there was a good crowd inside the stadium for the first competitive home game of the season.

Rodgers started the same side which began in Armenia and unsurprisingly they took control of the early stages, taking the lead in the seventh minute due the tenacity of Dembele.

He refused to buckle under a couple of tackles inside the box before finding the corner of the net with a shot from 12 yards.

There was some anger among the Parkhead fans, however, four minutes later, when a tackle on Reis De Jesus by Simunovic close to the halfway line was deemed to warrant a red card by Romanian official Fesnic.

Jack Hendry moved from right back into the centre of defence with Forrest covering but there was little difference to the flow of the game.

In the 18th minute Celtic were awarded what looked like a soft penalty when midfielder Artak Grigoryan tackled Odsonne Edouard in the penalty area but when the fuss died down Dembele confidently slotted home the penalty.

The game ambled along with the Glasgow side still in control, albeit the fact goalkeeper Craig Gordon did well to push away a powerful drive from skipper Grigoryan for a corner which came to nothing.

Last season's treble winners showed their clinical side again following a swift break in the 35th minute when Edouard played in Forrest, who drilled the ball low past keeper Ognjen Cancarevic.

The threat of more goals remained strong and Cancarevic made a fine fingertip save on Kieran Tierney's long-range drive moments after the restart.

After the game, Rodgers issued an injury update on Dembele - who was replaced by Ryan Christie in the 66th minute - saying: "We'll find out in the next couple of days, he just felt a little bit of tightness in his hamstring.

"We'll just need to see where he is with that."

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