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Celtic must improve - Commons

Forward demands improvement for Champions League qualifier

Kris Commons (right) of Celtic got off to an impressive start to the new season by scoring the winner against Aberdeen.
Gulf News

Glasgow: Celtic’s Kris Commons admits his side will have to improve if they are to progress further in the Champions League.

The Hoops forward scored the only goal of the match as they began the defence of their Scottish Premier League title with a narrow 1-0 win over Aberdeen at Celtic Park on Saturday.

With rivals Rangers languishing in the third division after their demotion when the Ibrox club couldn’t be saved from liquidation, Celtic had been widely tipped to canter to this season’s league title.

However, the Hoops struggled to break down a solid Aberdeen rearguard who restricted the home side to few opportunities before a howler from keeper Jamie Langfield handed Celtic the lead, allowing a low Commons shot to squirm past him at his near post.

Coach Neil Lennon now takes his side to Finland for the second leg of their Champions League qualifier against HJK Helsinki, where they will aim to protect the narrow 2-1 win they gained at Celtic Park last week.

Commons says Celtic will need to step up their game against the Finnish champions as they aim to qualify for the group stages of the competition for the first time since 2008.

“From our own point of view there were a lot of tired legs out there for us against Aberdeen and it took a while for us to get going,” the forward said.

“Maybe some of them were thinking about the game on Wednesday because it is a crucial game for us and maybe some took their eye off the ball a little bit.

“It seemed like a lot of guys were running on empty but we got the three points and that’s the main thing and we have a big game on Wednesday now.

“I think in any European game you need to raise the bar but we have a good squad and good players and they want to bring back the big European nights to Celtic Park.

“We are going to have to bring a better performance on Wednesday to do that but I am sure we can do it.

“It is a massive game and that’s what we have been building up to in pre-season, playing against teams like Ajax and Inter Milan to get us ready for European opponents.

“It has all been geared up towards Wednesday and hopefully we will be fighting fit and ready.”

Celtic manager Lennon admitted his side had been suffering a hangover from their midweek European match.

“Going forward there was a lack of freshness about us and I think the exertions of Wednesday night took their toll a little bit,” Lennon said.

“The players were complaining about being feeling a bit leggy and stiff at half-time. I understand that as opening games of the season are quite like that.

“The rest between now and Wednesday is important and we need them as fresh as possible for a very important game.

“I’ve played these opening games and I know how it is and sometimes you don’t find your true match speed and tempo until four or five games into the season.

“I can sympathise with them on that aspect but we will have to get better.”

Celtic captain Scott Brown missed the match against Aberdeen with a hip injury but manager Lennon said he may risk him for the match against Helsinki.

“He had a scan on his hip and he’s got a bit of degeneration on the disc. We will see how he is on Monday but he was very sore and it’s not like Scott,” the Hoops boss said.

“It’s never a risk when you play Scott but you obviously want him 100 per cent fit.

“We will work closely with him over the next couple of days and see how he is.

“We are hopeful the injection will calm it down and there is a little bit of degeneration in there which might have to be seen to a little bit further down the line.

“But it’s not a massive concern for us at the minute.”


Scottish Premier League results from Saturday

Celtic 1, Aberdeen 0

Kilmarnock 0, Dundee FC 0

Hearts 2, St. Johnstone 0

Ross County 0, Motherwell 0

St. Mirren 2, Inverness 2