Commons gives Celtic the edge
Celtic 1 Elfsborg 0: Neil Lennon believes the clean sheet Celtic kept in their 1-0 win over Elfsborg at Parkhead could be key to getting past the Swedish side in the second leg of their Champions League third qualifier
It was not a vintage performance from the Hoops who huffed and puffed for long spells against the organised and at times robust Swedish champions before a second-half header from Kris Commons gave them the advantage for the trip to Boras next week.
Both sides hit woodwork in an open and even first 45 minutes, but the half ended scoreless.
Celtic – who beat Irish League champions Cliftonville 5-0 on aggregate in the previous round of the competition – had more of the play and possession in the second-half and got the breakthrough when Emilio Izaguirre planted a cross on to the head of the former Nottingham Forest player who planted it past keeper Kevin Stuhr-Ellegaard.
The Celtic boss said: "I am delighted with the performance and the result.
"They made it difficult for us to break them down but it was not frustrating, it was understandable.
"We weren't at our best but that was always going to be the case, there is still a bit of rust there.
"We still have a lot to do in the tie but we are confident.
"The crucial thing is clean sheet. That is important. If we score over there Elfsborg have got to get three.
"The tie is probably in the balance but we are confident that we can go there and get a result.
"The Astroturf might change things with the way I pick my team, but I was pleased with result.
"I would have taken a 1-0 win before the game."
Much of the attention was on Mo Bangura, who, as expected, took his place in the Elfsborg side against his parent club who had tried and failed to prevent the 24-year-old striker, on loan to the Swedes for one year, from playing in either of the ties.
Bangura was jeered each time he touched the ball but kept the Celtic defence occupied without causing material damage.
Lennon said: "I thought he did well, considering it was a thankless task.
"I thought Efe Ambrose and Kelvin Wilson played him very well."
Elfsborg boss Jorgen Lennartsson believes his side are still in the tie.
He said: "They were the better side and deserved to win the game, but I don't think Celtic should feel that the tie is over because it is not.
"It was a very good first half and we played exactly the way we wanted.
"In the second half we were too deep and did not have enough possession, didn't create any chances – maybe one – and they pressed us hard.
"We hoped we could defend to get a draw but we conceded one goal.
"It was not good but we think the game is still alive.
"We have lost only one of the last 25 game at home on our Astroturf.
"So it will be a different game, we have to attack, we will have the crowd on out side."
Lennartsson admitted he had targeted Georgios Samaras, who came in for some heavy treatment from the visitors.
He said: "Of course, he is a good player and he didn't score."
On Bangura's inclusion, the Swede's coach said: "He was excellent and showed he is mentally strong and could handle the pressure Celtic had put on him, and we put on him by playing him."
Goalscorer Commons claimed Elfsborg had treated Celtic the way that Hoops had prepared for the games against Catalan superstars Barcelona in the group stages of the competition last season.
He said: "It reminded me a lot of how we played against Barcelona.
"We had to give their top-quality players respect, get behind the ball and make us break them down.
"In fairness to them, they probably saw how good we are at home and gave us respect. They would have been happy at 1-0.
"It could be a vital goal in the grand scheme of things, but I do think that we can score in Sweden.
"Fraser Forster could have stayed in the changing-rooms. I don't think the ball touched his gloves.
"They were happy at 1-0. I think they would have been delighted at 0-0, but we are more than confident about going on the road and getting goals."