Celtic maul vulnerable Anderlecht to make away-day statement

Brendan Rodgers sent out an attacking XI against struggling Belgian side

Leigh Griffiths scores for Celtic in their   Champions League  match against  Anderlecht  at Constant Vanden Stock Stadium  in Brussels, Belgium. Photograph: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Leigh Griffiths scores for Celtic in their Champions League match against Anderlecht at Constant Vanden Stock Stadium in Brussels, Belgium. Photograph: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

 

Anderlecht 0 Celtic 3

Celtic have enjoyed so few successes in Champions League away matches that they are entitled to cherish this one. The response to the mauling at the hands of Paris Saint-Germain was supplied on an ultimately comfortable evening in Brussels.

This was Celtic’s second win in 28 attempts on the road in the competition. It was also their first in five years. Wider context is positive for a team who enjoy such dominance in Scotland that ability is often underplayed. On this evidence, Celtic are vastly superior to Anderlecht. Another away trip, to Munich next month, suddenly carries heavy significance.

At face value, Celtic were facing a team in disarray. Anderlecht’s dismal opening to the season means they sit seventh in the Belgian top flight and without a permanent manager. Unsurprisingly, Brendan Rodgers stressed before kick-off that they remained formidable. And yet Rodgers’s deployment of such an attacking XI – Scott Sinclair, Tom Rogic and Patrick Roberts started in support of Leigh Griffiths – suggested he sensed some vulnerability.

The opening exchanges did little to remove any sense that this represented the first of two Europa League playoffs for the teams. It was scrappy, with the failure to retain decent possession even more striking on a perfect playing surface. It took 31 minutes for either goalkeeper to be called into action, Anderlecht’s Frank Boeckx saving comfortably from a long-range Olivier Ntcham drive.

Celtic breached the first-half tedium with a fine move that deserved its reward of the opening goal. Ntcham, who had been struggling more than most, played a terrific pass to the marauding Kieran Tierney. The left back’s low cross found Griffiths at the back post, with the striker taking a single touch to convert.

Anderlecht could have restored parity within a minute, Craig Gordon holding an attempt from Sofiane Hanni. Their captain should have done better having permitted himself space and time.

The home side opened the second period with a brief vigour not witnessed in the first. A dipping, swerving shot from Hanni caused Gordon problems before Celtic produced a response sufficient to settle any nerves.

Dreadful defending played a key part in that second goal, Olivier Deschacht miscontrolling a pass from Leander Dendoncker to the point where Roberts could pinch possession. The Manchester City loanee who, like Ntcham, had not been enjoying a terribly profitable night, lashed a shot that deflected in off Serigne Mbodji. That may have been pertinent but there was little doubt as to where the blame lay; Deschacht was replaced moments later.

Anderlecht huffed and puffed in search of salvation that never really looked like arriving. A perfect night for Rodgers was completed by Sinclair, who clipped home from an Ntcham pass.

Team maturity, as regularly cited by Celtic’s manager, had been perfectly illustrated.

(Guardian service)

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.