Celtic 6-0 Reykjavik: Lennon’s side deliver a high tempo and clinical dismantling of Icelandic champions

Parkhead side ease into second qualifying round

Mohamed Elyounoussi beats Reykjavik keeper Beitir Olafsson to make it 1-0 to Celtic after just six minutes of the tie. Picture: Alan Harvey/SNS
Mohamed Elyounoussi beats Reykjavik keeper Beitir Olafsson to make it 1-0 to Celtic after just six minutes of the tie. Picture: Alan Harvey/SNS

Neil Lennon has experienced plenty of nerve-wracking nights on Champions League qualifying business during his two spells as Celtic manager. This wasn’t one of them.

As stress-free an occasion as the Scottish champions could have hoped for, they cleared the first hurdle on their path to the group stage of Europe’s elite club competition with ease against a hopelessly outclassed KR Reykjavik side.

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Celtic can anticipate a tougher assignment next week when they welcome the winners of tonight’s match between Hungarian champions Ferencvaros and Swedish title holders Djurgardens to Glasgow in the second qualifying round.

But as facile as this victory was for his team, Lennon can take satisfaction from the attitude and sharpness his players displayed.

Both physically and mentally, they appear to be well prepared for the challenge of trying to take the club back to the biggest stage of European football for the first time in three seasons.

Having been forced into domestic isolation by Boli Bolingoli’s disregard for Covid-19 convention, Celtic looked every inch a team desperate to release some pent-up energy as they returned to action following the postponement of two Premiership fixtures.

Lennon had urged his players to set a tempo which the semi-professional Icelandic champions would find difficult to live with and they heeded his call.

Right from the outset, Celtic’s movement and accuracy of passing left Reykjavik chasing shadows. The signs were ominous for the visitors when Beitir Olafsson had to make a smart save to keep out an Odsonne Edouard header in the third minute and it took only another three minutes for Celtic to make the breakthrough.

It came from a simple through ball from inside his own half by Christopher Jullien, which Reykjavik defender Arnor Adalsteinsson chose not to attack in the air. It soared beyond him, allowing Mohamed Elyounoussi to race in and take the ball wide of the advancing Olafsson and slide home a low shot from close range.

Lennon made two changes to the back four which had looked vulnerable in Celtic’s last outing at Kilmarnock nine days earlier, replacing Jeremie Frimpong and Kristoffer Ajer with Hatem Elhamed and Nir Bitton.

But there was little for his defence to concern themselves with as Celtic set up camp in the Reykjavik half. Olafsson did well to block Edouard’s close-range shot in the tenth minute but more goals from Celtic looked inevitable.

They duly made it 2-0 seven minutes later as Elhamed powered forward from his right-back beat and drove the ball low across the face of the six-yard box. Edouard failed in his attempt to make a clean contact but the ball ricocheted off the shins of Adelsteinsson and beyond Olafsson.

The veteran goalkeeper had probably expected to have a busy evening and so it proved.

While his handling was less than convincing at times, he made another fine stop down to his left to keep out an Elyounoussi shot in the 20th minute.

There was little respite for the Reykjavik defence and they were breached again 11 minutes later.

Kristinn Jonsson made a brilliant goal-saving challenge on James Forrest inside the six-yard box but only at the expense of a corner, which Ryan Christie whipped in from the left for Jullien to head powerfully home from around ten yards.

A goalline clearance by Danish defender Kennie Chopart prevented Edouard adding a fourth before the interval.

Celtic goalkeeper Vasilis Barkas, making his home debut, had scarcely had a touch of the ball but he was finally called into action in first-half stoppage time when he made a sharp save to deny Kristjan Finnbogason after a smart break forward by the Reykjavik striker.

Normal service was resumed less than a minute into the second half as the hosts’ full-backs combined to make it 4-0 as Elhamed’s looping cross from the right eluded the flat-footed Reykjavik defence to allow Greg Taylor to nod in his first goal for Celtic.

Firmly in cruise control, Celtic were able to ease the load on the 35-year-old bones of captain Scott Brown as he was replaced by Olivier Ntcham just after the hour mark.

While there was less intensity about Celtic’s play now, they still carried a consistent attacking threat and Edouard claimed their fifth goal in the 72nd minute, showing delightful footwork inside the penalty area before guiding a low shot beyond Olafsson.

It was the French striker’s final touch of the night as he made way for £5 million debutant Albian Ajeti, joined up front by Pole Patryk Klimala, who replaced Christie.

New Swiss recruit Ajeti was unable to sniff out a goal on his maiden outing but Celtic did add to their tally in stoppage time when Elyounoussi, probably their leading performer on the night, slid in his second goal from close range after being picked out by a low cross from Ntcham.

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