New bhoys Daniel Majstorovic and Beram Kayal made faultless debuts tonight as Celtic took a major step towards qualifying for the Europa League with a 2-0 win over Utrecht.
First half goals from Efrain Juarez and Georgios Samaras put Celtic in the driving seat but it was the performances from the new bhoys that had the fans excited.
Without even a friendly appearance between them the Swede and the Israeli made telling impressions in their first showings.
Majstorovic strolled through the game, bringing shape and assurance to a normally nervous defence and looked very much like the identikit defender at the top of Neil Lennon’s wish list.
Calm but imposing, firm in the tackle and aggressive in the air the 33-year-old looked the ideal fire fighter to solve many of the club’s on-going defensive worries.
It’s doubtful if any defender has arrived at the club burdened by so much expectations. A leader and winner for starters, sure in the tackle and purposeful in the air.
Bringing a commanding physical presence and purpose to a defence known too often as the sieve.
On tonight’s showing Daniel ticked all those boxes and even got away with a very professional late foul that went unpunished whilst team-mates Samaras and Maloney picked up cheap yellow cards dished out by a showy referee.
Without going overboard Glenn Loovens started to look as if his role had been defined, as a sweeper, covering for Majstorovic and required to do no more.
After some testing early moment Cha Du-Ri settled well and showed some defensive discipline as well as bombing forward when the opportunity arrived. On the other side Joe Ledley was solid in an unusual position, content to clear his lines and keep things simple.
More unexpected was the appearance of Kayal. Neil Lennon isn’t short on midfield options but clearly has a lot of faith in the 21-year-old Israeli, faith that was repaid by the bucketload.
From the first whistle Kayal was making himself available for passes, putting in tackles and showing a great eye for a forward pass where he wasn’t short on options.
The demons and restrictions of the 4-4-2 system of recent seasons was banished spectacularly with the first goal when Kayal’s pass sent Juarez through on goal with the chance duly buried.
In two Celtic appearances Juarez has doubled the scoring contribution from last season’s central midfield partnership of Scott Brown and Landry N’Guemo.
Not content with his assist Kayal’s appetite for the game increased visibly. Sensing a support short on heroes he threw himself into everything with the fans responding accordingly.
The link up play of the whole team was impressive throughout. The new look flexible formation gives players like the perfect platform to express themselves.
It was far from the perfect performance, Utrecht had some early chances but after a long painful period of decline and lack of leadership there were plenty of positives to come out of the match.
Rome wasn’t built in a day but in Majstorovic and Kayal Lenny might have unearthed two players who will be crucial to his hopes of success for the season.
SPL wins over St Mirren and Motherwell alongwith entry to the Europa League is required over the next ten days- with the new boys settling and impressing Lenny’s thunder could be just around the corner.
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