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Celtic showed hunger and desire to down Alashkert in Europa League opener: Rodgers

 

By Ronnie Esplin

Brendan Rodgers saluted his Celtic players after they completed a commanding 3-0 victory with two late goals in the first leg of their opening Champions League qualifier against Alashkert.

The Scottish champions had to cope with the searing heat in Yerevan but led 1-0 at the interval thanks to an added-time goal from Odsonne Edouard, who made his loan deal from Paris St Germain permanent over the summer in a club-record transfer reported to be around £9million.

The French striker redirected a wayward James Forrest drive into the net for his first European goal for the Hoops, but the visitors refused to simply defend their lead and surely booked their place in the second qualifier against Valur Reykjavik or Rosenborg when Forrest scored a second in the 81st minute before Callum McGregor added a third in the 90th minute.

"It is a huge credit to the players and medical staff," Rodgers said.

"We know we have a long way to go in terms of getting to full capacity but certainly at this stage, to show that hunger and desire to continue to work to the very end, it was a real winning difference.

"They kept pushing and kept working and they got their rewards. So it was a great credit to how hard they have worked fitness-wise.

"A clean sheet was important because as you start to tire in the game you can maybe lose a goal cheaply.

"But we didn't do that, we concentrated well and scored three very good goals."

Rodgers believes his side will be all the better from working through the testing conditions against the champions of Armenia.

He added: "It is breathless really. You sense it just standing in it. I thought they coped with it very well.

"They will really benefit from that game in terms of fitness and it sets us up well for the next leg.

"It is just a case of picking the team to win the game but also to get the players developing their fitness."

≈ New Rangers signing Lassana Coulibaly is excited to team up with Steven Gerrard after completing his move from Angers.

The 22-year-old midfielder has joined the club in a season-long loan deal, subject to international clearance, and could make his debut in tomorrow's Europa League opener against Shkupi.

"I am very happy to be here," he said. "When my agent told me Steven Gerrard was the manager, I said 'no problem' and I am happy to come and join this team.

"The manager can help me to develop my football and he is someone who I watched when he was at Liverpool."

Roma striker Umar Sadiq has also agreed a move to Ibrox, with the young star likewise moving on a season-long loan deal.

ALASHKERT: Cancarevic, Yedigaryan, Voskanyan, Praznovsky, Daghbashyan, Grigoryan, Dashya, Reiss (Simonyan, 85 mins), Yedigaryan (Manasyan, 82 mins), Sekulic, Nenadovic (Romero, 55 mins). Unused subs: Avagyan, Zeljkovic, Stojkovic, Antonic.

celtic: Gordon, Hendry, Ajer, Simunovic, Brown, Forrest, McGregor, Ntcham (Kouassi, 67 mins), Tierney, Dembele (Sinclair, 67 mins), Edouard (Morgan, 77 mins). Unused subs: Bain, Christie, Allan, Ralston.

Man of the Match: Callum McGregor

Referee: Danilo Grujic (Serbia)

Match Rating: 7/10

Alashkert0

Celtic3

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