Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Football Scottish Celtic

'We weren't tippy-tappy': Lennon hails clinical Celtic stars after opening day thrashing

Celtic 7 St Johnstone 0

Mine’s a treble: hat-trick hero Ryan Christie fires in Celtic’s second goal
Mine’s a treble: hat-trick hero Ryan Christie fires in Celtic’s second goal
Neil Lennon with Mikey Johnston

By Gavin McCafferty

Celtic manager Neil Lennon was delighted to see his team's hunger for goals as they began the Ladbrokes Premiership season with a 7-0 thrashing of St Johnstone.

The champions recorded their biggest win since an identical scoreline against Motherwell in Ronny Deila's final match in charge in May 2016.

Ryan Christie set up Mikey Johnston for a ninth minute opener before scoring a hat-trick and Odsonne Edouard and substitutes Olivier Ntcham and Leigh Griffiths completed the rout.

Celtic had only scored more than two goals on one occasion between the time Lennon took over from Brendan Rodgers in late February and the end of last season, and he had spoken about his desire to see them play with more attacking intent.

Lennon said: "I think there are more goals in them. There's a belief when they play like that, take their chances and shoot and create.

"We weren't tippy-tappy, we were far more purposeful against a team who can be dogged and difficult to break down.

"What pleased me more than anything is we got a good early goal and built on it, we didn't take our foot off the pedal.

"You are always looking for more but if we can get the wee man (Griffiths) up to speed, what an asset he is going to be.

"There's goals from Odsonne, goals from (James) Forrest, goals from (Scott) Sinclair and (Callum) McGregor and that pleases me.

"We look a threat at set plays. So we are not just one-dimensional at the minute. I like the variation in the way we play."

On treble star Christie, the Hoops chief added: "Ryan is a great boy, a great professional and he's easy to work with. He wants to do well, he wants to impress, and I've inherited a great player.

"He uses the time away to look after himself. He's far stronger than he's ever been and that gives him confidence. He's always been a technician but we're seeing a great player who only keeps getting better."

Christie himself admitted confidence played a part in the early shots that sailed into Zander Clark's net but added: "That and the fear of getting told off I don't do that. The manager has said he wants me to shoot on sight if I get a chance.

"He is never going to shout at me if I take it on. I'm delighted to hear that."

Looking ahead to Wednesday's Champions League third qualifying round first-leg against CFR Cluj, Lennon explained that Hatem Abd Elhamed - who limped out of Saturday's game - will be assessed, with Marian Shved, Jozo Simunovic and Christopher Jullien expected to be available for selection.

"Hatem got a dead leg against St Johnstone, but we'll just have to monitor him," explained Lennon.

"I thought he was outstanding and Boli had a great game as well on the opposite side. Marian should be back in the squad for Wednesday as well. We've got a good depth there and he'll add to that again.

"Speaking generally, we don't need to send messages, there are three trophies sitting out there at the front of the pitch. We talk on the pitch, that's what we like to do."

St Johnstone's dismal afternoon followed on from a poor Betfred Cup campaign that saw them lose three times but manager Tommy Wright was far from downbeat.

"I'm still confident going into the season," he said.

"I don't see any reason why I shouldn't be. I've got the experience to deal with it and we'll deal with it.

"Believe it or not, I'm in pretty good fettle. We experienced a 6-0 last year and we went on an incredible run after that so it's up to us to work hard this week and bounce back.

"And we have got to learn from it. There was a severe lack of leadership out on the pitch and that's something that has to be addressed."

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph