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Parkhead fans will inspire Celtic to return leg victory, vows Mulgrew

By Ronnie Esplin

Celtic defender Charlie Mulgrew is looking to experience one of the big European nights in Glasgow next week as the Hoops try to claw back the shock 2-0 defeat in the first leg of their Champions League play-off at Shakhter Karagandy.

The Scottish champions' loss at the Astana Arena on Tuesday night was as unexpected as it was potentially damaging to Neil Lennon's side, who were made to pay for slackness in defence and profligacy in front of goal.

While the robust Kazakhstan side looked limited in many aspects of their play, a dramatic turnaround in front of what is sure to be a packed house is required if Celtic are to reach the lucrative group stages of the competition for the second successive season.

The Scotland international said: "The crowd will get right behind us and we will really need to go for them.

"We were disappointed to lose but we are staying positive and looking towards the second leg.

"It was a tough game but we have to believe in ourselves for the second game. We we were well prepared, we knew what was coming and we know what we will get again next week but we have to stand up to it better and score a few goals."

Mulgrew knows the Parkhead club's decision to allow midfielder Victor Wanyama, striker Gary Hooper and defender Kelvin Wilson, the spine of last season's team and arguably the three best players in their respective departments, to leave will come under scrutiny should they fail to overcome the Kazakh champions.

Lennon has brought in Amido Balde, Virgil van Dijk, Derk Boerrigter and Steven Mouyokolo, while Schalke 04 striker Teemu Pukki is on the radar, but the Hoops manager continues to search for more players to bolster his squad although no new signing would be eligible for the second leg in Glasgow.

"We are not using that as an excuse," said Mulgrew.

"We knew these questions would come but we have a lot of belief in each other, we have a big squad and enough players to deal with the challenge.

"You are hoping you get a more positive result but it could have been worse.

"We have to look at the positives and we have a real chance if we approach it positively next week.

"We are not thinking along the lines (of non-progression).

"We knew this tie was over two legs and we are looking to next week to turn it around."

Meanwhile, Celtic boss Lennon was equally defiant about his side's chances.

Lennon said: "They are definitely in the ascendancy and there is that euphoria straight after the final whistle. But they have to come to Glasgow and they will have to defend well because we will come at them from the off.

"We knew they would be physical and a threat from set pieces.

"But if you look at the game in the cold light of day, we had six or seven clear-cut chances to either take the lead, equalise or get back in the tie so it gives us plenty of encouragement for the second game in Glasgow."

The Parkhead boss, indeed, was far from downbeat after the game.

"It is a big task but the tie is far from over," he said. "We have plenty in us to turn it around. The players will be very motivated.

"There will be a few players who will be disappointed with their performances tonight but we are still well in this tie although we have a lot to do."

Shakhter coach Viktor Kumykov insists his side have more work to do at Celtic Park before they become the first club from Kazakhstan to play in the Champions League.

The Russian said: "We still believe Celtic have a chance to qualify and we believe the game in Glasgow will be even more difficult because Celtic are a more experience team.

"We played very confidently but there is a second-leg ahead of us and I expect we can get another good result."

Belfast Telegraph


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