Sunday 17 December 2017

Lennon: we must take our chances

Celts boss has faith side can win

Celtic manager Neil Lennon. Picture: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Celtic manager Neil Lennon. Picture: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Shakhter's Andrei Poryvaev, left, fights for the ball with Celtic's Kris Commons. Picture: AP/Alexei Filippov

NEIL LENNON claims he witnessed enough in last week's 2-0 Champions League play-off defeat by Shakhter Karagandy in Astana to believe the second leg at Parkhead can be rescued.

The Hoops lost to the Kazakhstan champions to leave their group-stage aspirations in the balance.

However, the Celtic boss insists he was encouraged rather than frustrated by his side's first-leg performance.

"There are deficiencies in the way Shakhter play, we exposed them in the first game, but couldn't take advantage of it," said Lennon.

"So what we have to do is take advantage of the opportunities that we create.

"I need my players to play their best and if they play their best, then I think they will win this tie.

"We know we had by far and away the bulk of possession and by far and away the bulk of the best chances over there.

"That gave me a lot of encouragement rather than frustration.

"We know we can create chances against this team and hopefully at home we can take those opportunities.

"It may be a frustrating evening, so we have to be patient.

"We might even concede a goal, that means we have to score four. But that is the reality of the game."

Shakhter Karagandy are on the cusp of becoming the first club from Kazakhstan to qualify for the group stages of the Champions League, although a place in the group stages of the Europa League is guaranteed should they lose.

Manager Viktor Kumykov, though, tried to play down the pressure he admits to feeling ahead of one of the most crucial games in the country's football history.

"There is an additional pressure on my shoulders, I feel that, but it doesn't have to be Champions League," he said.

"It won't be a tragedy for us if we don't qualify to the Champions League group stages.

"As we stated before, the main task was to qualify for the group stage of a European competition and we will have achieved this anyway."

Meanwhile, Georgios Samaras insists there will be no need for panic inside Celtic Park if the home side fail to get an early goal.

The Kazakhstan champions will have to survive an early onslaught if they are to have a chance of becoming the first club from their country to reach the group stages of the competition.

However, the Greece forward, 28, believes the taking of chances, whenever they come, is the key to a Celtic victory.


"The early goal would be perfect, but we don't need to panic," he said. "We need to keep playing our game, keep moving the ball really well and the chances will come.

"I don't care if the goals come in the last 10 minutes or the first 10 minutes, it is 90 minutes, there is plenty of time.

"The main thing is to be clinical with the chances we create.

"We believe in our team, our talent and we fully respect Shakhter, but at Celtic Park with a full house, anything can happen.

"It is a big game. We want to be back in the Champions League group stages and hopefully everything will be okay."

But Samaras admits the Hoops will have to display more guile than they did in Astana if they are to reach the Champions League for the second successive season.

"I expect it to be like the first game," said the former Manchester City player. "They will try to defend and keep a clean sheet.

"We need to be more clever and more patient, to find a better way through their defence and create more chances, and the chances we create, we have to put them in the back of the net.

"They are a good team, but it is a team we can beat. They are not Barcelona, whom we played last year, they are not a top European club. We respect them but we think we can do it."

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