Celtic 3-1 Suduva: Brendan Rodgers’ side into Europa League group stage

Leigh Griffiths’ 100th goal for Celtic opened the scoring in the first half

Celtic salved some of their European disappointment by easing into the group stage of the Europa League.

The Scottish champions dropped into the continent’s second-tier competition after being knocked out of Champions League qualifying by AEK Athens.

But Leigh Griffiths’ 100th goal for the club, and strikes by Callum McGregor and Kristoffer Ajer, secured a 4-1 aggregate win over Lithuania’s Suduva.

Celtic will join Rangers in Friday’s group stage draw (12:00 BST).

This season will be the first time in over a decade that there have been two Scottish clubs in the league section of a European competition – the Old Firm clubs were both in the Champions League in 2007/08.

The Glasgow sides will meet on Sunday in their first derby of the campaign.

Revived Griffiths joins feted list

This always promised to be a comfortable night for Celtic – and so it proved.

The hubbub over striker Moussa Dembele – absent as he ponders life in the wake of Lyon’s rejected bid – was put to one side and his team-mates put the Lithuanian champions away without any fuss.

Having fallen down the pecking order, Griffiths hasn’t had the easiest time of it of late at Celtic, but his free-kick just before the half hour was the Griffiths of old.

He actually had two decent chances just before, but when he sized-up the dead ball it was Hampden versus England all over again. Up and over and in.

It earned Griffiths a place in the pantheon of Celtic’s goalscoring centurions. Some list, that. Jimmy McGrory, Bobby Lennox, Stevie Chalmers, Henrik Larsson and Kenny Dalglish to name just five.

Suduva tried to keep the score down, but couldn’t. McGregor, for one, was too much for them. Celtic wasted a few chances, but when Scott Sinclair squared for McGregor early in the second half, the midfielder all but guaranteed Celtic’s progress.

Ajer’s angled header made it three, a goal that did something to reflect Celtic’s total domination.

There could have been more – the impressive replacement Ryan Christie, Mikey Johnston, Sinclair and Ajer all went close – but this was a stroll for Celtic. The Europa League beckons.

Striking comparisons as derby looms – analysis

All thoughts now turn to Sunday and the much-anticipated meeting of Rodgers’ Celtic and Steven Gerrard’s Rangers.

There were signs here that Celtic are beginning to find their attacking mojo. And they’ll need it. Rangers are not the pushovers of last season. They look well-organised and robust in defence where previously they were accident-prone and demoralised even before they got off the bus at Celtic Park.

Rodgers and Gerrard have some decisions to make, principally up front. Can Gerrard trust Alfredo Morales, big on goal threat but woefully short in the fuse department, in the white heat of Parkhead?

The Celtic manager has a conundrum, too. Will Dembele still be a Celtic player? And if he is still in Glasgow what will his mood be like?

Questions about Dembele and about Odsonne Edouard. Is he fit enough to make it? In most of his marquee wins, Rodgers has one of the two Frenchmen starting. They’ve delivered them and again.

What now? Griffiths didn’t look pin-sharp against Suduva, but he got his goal and regained some confidence. The tale of the Old Firm strikers will be a big theme in the coming days.

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