Europa League qualifier
So far so good for Celts after victory over AZ Alkmaar
Celtic players celebrate v AZ (pic: SNS Group).
Celtic 2 AZ Alkmaar 0
Europa League play-off, 1st leg
Celtic are showing marked improvement on their stuttering start to the season and are closing in on the Europa League group stages after an impressive attacking performance against their Dutch opponents.
Ange Postecoglou will be satisfied at a job well done with his team taking a two-goal lead to the Netherlands next week.
There is a real attacking flair to the side which the new manager is piecing together, and on another evening the Hoops’ pressing game could have netted a few more given the chances they carved out.
Goals from new recruit Kyogo Furuhashi – his sixth in as many games – and James Forrest ultimately did the damage for the hosts.
The second leg promises to be another exciting affair, with AZ no doubt confident they will be able to breach the Celtic defence, which once again had its moments. Thankfully for the Hoops, Joe Hart produced when it mattered to ensure a two-goal cushion will accompany the squad to the return in the AFAS Stadion.
“I thought it was a cracking game of football,” said Postecoglou.
“They took it to us at times, we had to work hard and show resilience, but the pleasing thing for me was we didn’t yield or change our approach.
“We were still trying to be brave and even the times it didn’t work out, we just got back on the horse and went again. Our reward for that was getting the two goals.
“It’s one thing wanting to play beautiful football but you’ve got to roll your sleeves up and show resilience and we did that.
“We had to at times and we knew we had to because they’re a good team. The key to that is we didn’t try and change anything we were doing.
“We had to be brave on the ball and we were. In the midst of a really heavy programme of football, we keep going to the well with these guys and they keep producing.
“It’s outstanding and the spirit they showed when physically a few of them were pretty much running empty, they never stopped and it’s a great sign for the future.
Celtic, meanwhile, look set to bolster their ranks with the capture of Croatian right back Josip Juranovic.
Celtic and Legia Warsaw have agreed a fee of £2.5m for the defender, who played for his country in the Euro 2020 finals this summer.
“As anyone who has watched the past four or five games can tell you, the players give everything,” added the Celts’ boss.
“There is a core group I’m going to continually. We need to support them. It’s our responsibility to provide some extra players to ease the burden.”
Celtic: Hart, Ralston, Starfelt, Welsh, Taylor, Turnbull (Soro, 88), McGregor, Rogic (McCarthy, 75), Forrest, Furuhashi (Montgomery, 75), Abada (Edouard, 58).
Goals: Celtic – Furuhashi (12), Forrest (61).