Lennon not counting his chickens
Celtic manager Neil Lennon admits their poor away record in Europe means their Europa League tie against Utrecht is still very much alive despite a 2-0 win at Parkhead on Thursday night.
Goals from Efrain Juarez and Georgios Samaras put the Hoops firmly in the driving seat ahead of the return leg of the play-offs in Holland next week.
Lennon had no complaints about the efforts of his players but believes it would be dangerous to take a place in the group stages for granted just yet.
"Have you seen our away record?'' he smiled wryly. "You are never comfortable. But, if you had asked me before the game if I'd have taken 2-0, I would have said yes against a very good side. Going into next week, we have a lot to think about but it was very satisfying tonight. It was a clean-sheet which was important and I fancied us to score some goals tonight and we've done that.
"Overall, it's pleasing but there is still a lot of work to do in the tie. We rode our luck at times. There were a lot of things that pleased me but you can see that there is still a bit of work to do as well.''
Efrain and Samaras may have netted the goals that mattered but it was 22-year-old debutant Beram Kayal who stole the show with an impressive display.
"He's got a bit of everything,'' said Lennon. "He was making tackle after tackle and passed the ball very well. You could see in the second half that he has it in him to push past people as well. All round, I think we've got a very good player there. It's early days but I was delighted with his debut. It was always in my mind to play him. He came in last week and he has been very impressive in training.
"We just needed to know how his fitness was and after we spoke to the medical department, we thought let's get him in there and playing. He's mature for his age. I like his mentality and his hunger. He's got all the things you want in a player.''
Asked if he sees bits of himself in Kayal's game, Lennon added: "He actually gets forward more than me. Believe it or not, I used to be able to burst past people and I like that in him. He can take the ball under pressure and he can see a pass and he can tackle. His closing down, his energy, all those things were pleasing on the eye.''
Like Lennon, Utrecht coach Ton du Chatinier believes the tie is far from over and, when asked if his team can still progress, he replied: "Why not? Here in Glasgow it was a hot night but in Holland with our full support, why not? At home we are very strong. We played against Ajax last season and won. We played against Feyenoord and won. We know that Celtic are out of the Champions League and for this club it's very important to go further in the Europa League. But it's a bonus that we have already played four games against Tirana and Lucerne and we look forward to next week.''