Leigh Griffiths scores on return to starting XI as Celtic thump Nomme Kalju

Leigh Griffiths scores on return to starting XI as Celtic thump Nomme Kalju
Leigh Griffiths celebrates his goal.

Celtic 5 - 0 Nomme Kalju

Leigh Griffiths marked his return to the starting line-up with a brilliant free-kick as Celtic took command of their second Champions League qualifier with a 5-0 first-leg win over Nomme Kalju.

The striker more than vindicated Neil Lennon's decision to hand him his first start for eight months seven days after making his competitive comeback off the bench following a long spell out with depression.

The Scotland international curled into the top corner from almost 30 yards to put Celtic three ahead in first-half stoppage-time.

Goals in the previous 12 minutes from Kristoffer Ajer and Ryan Christie had sent Celtic on their way to an emphatic home victory and the latter and Callum McGregor were on target during an even more dominant second-half performance.

Celtic had 26 shots at goal, 14 of them on target, while Estonian champions Kalju, who are 20 games into their league season, could not test Hoops goalkeeper Scott Bain.

Callum McGregor scores.
Callum McGregor scores.

Griffiths came in for Lewis Morgan as Lennon started with a back three of Jozo Simunovic, Ajer and Nir Bitton. Boli Bolingoli played on the left of midfield, although the summer signing only lasted 37 minutes before limping off for Mikey Johnston.

Celtic created chances from the off. Simunovic had two sights of goal from early corners and the visiting goalkeeper made an unorthodox stop from Christie's swerving strike.

Odsonne Edouard twice came close and Scott Brown forced a good save before the breakthrough came in the 36th minute when Ajer headed Christie's near-post free-kick in off the bar.

Christie won a 44th-minute penalty when Reginald Mbu Alidor handled as he flicked the ball into the box, and the former Inverness man sent the keeper the wrong way.

Griffiths had a shot diverted wide before finding the top corner with a curling effort, then punching the corner flag and sinking to his knees in celebration.

The second half was a procession of Celtic chances. Christie and James Forrest both had two strikes saved and Johnston also threatened twice before Christie curled home his second from 18 yards in the 65th minute.

Johnston forced another stop and the shots continued to rain in before McGregor drilled into the bottom corner from 22 yards in the 77th minute.

French midfielder Olivier Ntcham came off the bench for his first appearance of the season following his trip to the UEFA European Under-21 Championship finals, and Celtic cruised through the closing stages.

- Press Association

More on this topic

Reds in danger of early exit – 5 Champions League talking pointsReds in danger of early exit – 5 Champions League talking points

Abraham hoping scans clear hip injury after Chelsea draw 2-2 with ValenciaAbraham hoping scans clear hip injury after Chelsea draw 2-2 with Valencia

Liverpool’s Klopp anxiously waits on fitness of midfielder FabinhoLiverpool’s Klopp anxiously waits on fitness of midfielder Fabinho

Five Napoli fans arrested before Liverpool match after skirmishes outside AnfieldFive Napoli fans arrested before Liverpool match after skirmishes outside Anfield

More in this Section

Henderson demands stronger punishments for racismHenderson demands stronger punishments for racism

Imokilly and Duhallow hit out at O’Donovan proposalsImokilly and Duhallow hit out at O’Donovan proposals

Klopp confident Liverpool can handle pressure to keep Champions League hopes on trackKlopp confident Liverpool can handle pressure to keep Champions League hopes on track

Rafael Benitez not interested in Premier League managerial vacanciesRafael Benitez not interested in Premier League managerial vacancies


Lifestyle

As David Attenborough announces new series on plants, we run down some of the weird and wonderful vegetation he might include.11 bizarre plant species from around the world

The weather’s always going to be a key factor on any wedding day — but especially so when the bride works for Met Éireann, writes Eve Kelliher.Wedding of the week: Bride and groom are literally on cloud nine

My wife and I are in our fifties and she has just started using porn. She thinks it will enhance our sex life if we watch it together, but I find the idea a total turn-off.Suzi Godson's Sex Advice: My wife wants us to watch porn together?

As you probably have heard by now, changes to the rules concerning gift vouchers in Ireland came into effect earlier this month, giving consumers more rights when it comes to these popular items.Making Cents: Play your cards right when giving gift vouchers this Christmas

More From The Irish Examiner