Nomme Kalju 0-2 Celtic (Agg: 0-7): Neil Lennon's side take a step closer to Champions League group stages
Celtic will face Romanian side Cluj in the third round of qualifying
By PA Media
Last Updated: 30/07/19 11:31pm
Celtic eased past Nomme Kalju with a 2-0 victory to move a step closer to the group stages of the Champions League.
A first-half own goal and a stunning debut strike from Marian Shved ensured the Hoops avoided any bother in the Baltics, running out second-leg winners over the Estonian champions and completing a thumping 7-0 aggregate victory.
It was a professional display, albeit one understandably lacking in intensity, which set up a meeting with Romanian side Cluj in the third round of qualifying.
Boss Neil Lennon was able to rest six of his players following last week's 5-0 first-leg win, with Saturday's Ladbrokes Premiership opener against St Johnstone in mind.
Christopher Jullien, the £7m signing from Toulouse, enjoyed a comfortable debut at the back while keeper Craig Gordon kept a clean sheet on his first appearance since December. Olivier Ntcham was also back in the starting line-up for the first time since intimating he wanted to leave the club.
Ntcham went some way to making amends by linking up with Mikey Johnston as the Hoops took the lead, and stretched their advantage to six, after only 10 minutes. Johnston drilled the ball across goal and Kalju defender Aleksandr Kulinits, with Leigh Griffiths breathing down his neck, sliced the ball into his own net.
The hosts almost gave their extra fans something to cheer midway through the first half but midfielder Deniss Tjapkin fired wide from the edge of the box.
Griffiths almost fashioned a second but no one was on hand to meet his cross.
Ntcham then fired over before Johnston spurned a golden chance, volleying off target from 12 yards out just before the interval.
A slow start to the second half from the visitors saw Gordon called into action for the first time with a point-blank save to deny Kaspar Paur.
Jullien missed out on a first Celtic goal when he headed a free-kick over, before another debutant took to the field in the shape of Shved. The Ukrainian winger almost made an instant impact but his effort was bravely blocked by home keeper Pavel Londak.
But as the game moved into stoppage time Shved took aim from 20 yards out and pinged a superb shot into the top corner.
Lennon: We are in a good place
Celtic now have two more rounds to negotiate, starting with another step up in class against Cluj next week, if they are to reach the group stages.
"I thought we had a tough first-round tie against Sarajevo, we negotiated that well and negotiated this one brilliantly, so we are in a good place," said Lennon.
"The quality does get stronger as you go along, but we'll cross that bridge and be well prepared.
"Winning tonight keeps the momentum going into Saturday and, judging by the dressing room, we've come through unscathed."
Lennon pleased with debutants
"I was very pleased with Christopher [Julien], it was important he got 90 minutes," added Lennon.
"And then Marian [Shved] comes on - he's had a frustrating time with a groin injury - he got a good 25 minutes and scored a great goal to wrap up the tie.
"You could see what the goal meant to him and it will give him a huge shot in the arm."