Opportunity Knocks for Rodgers

5 months ago

Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers believes his side now hold the advantage in their Europa League last-32 tie with Zenit St Petersburg after a narrow win in Glasgow.

The Scottish champions were significant underdogs to win the tie against a Zenit side that were leading goalscorers during the Europa League group phase.

The Hoops were the better side at Celtic Park on Thursday evening though and they notched a deserved success when midfielder Callum McGregor scored the only goal of the game 12 minutes from full-time.

The victory ended an 11-game winless streak for Celtic in European competition at home (excluding qualifying ties) and will have been a big relief for Rodgers.

“We have given ourselves the advantage,” said Rodgers. “Like in all of these ties, if you can keep a clean sheet it’s important.

“The stability the team had, the concentration, they organised themselves very well in the game, that’s important going into the second leg.”

Celtic’s recent domestic form has dipped, with a league defeat at Kilmarnock already this month and an edgy 3-2 Scottish Cup win over Partick Thistle last weekend.

They produced their most controlled European performance in Glasgow for some time though and will fancy their chances of eliminating Zenit, with Celtic now odds-on to make progress.

Rodgers suggested that Roberto Mancini’s team will have to ‘come out and chase the game’ in Russia next Thursday, where a goal in the Krestovsky Stadium would make Celtic very hard to topple.

The Celtic boss must overcome a home league game against St Johnstone on Sunday before his side makes the long journey to St Petersburg for the return leg.

Zenit were playing their first competitive game after their own winter shutdown and Mancini admitted they didn’t cause Celtic enough problems in Glasgow.

Celtic’s Europa League odds were halved following the impressive win against free-spending Zenit and Rodgers will attempt to conjure up the sort of performance that saw the Hoops win 3-0 against Anderlecht in Belgium back in September as they attempt to finish the job off next week.

“We know we can score goals. Zenit probably have to come out and chase the game now which could give us more space and opportunities to play and score,” the Celtic boss added.

“It will be another tough game, but we have given ourselves a great opportunity.”

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