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Tony Watt and Filip Twardzik turn in excellent performances against the highlanders and the Scottish Premier League champions prepare for their Champions League play-off

DIGEST
By Martin Macdonald

CELTS RUN RIOT UP NORTH

A much-changed Celtic side impressed in the highlands as the Hoops demolished Inverness Caledonian Thistle 4-2 on Saturday afternoon.

Thomas Rogne, Scott Brown, Beram Kayal, Joe Ledley, Kris Commons and Georgios Samaras were all given a rest with the vital Champions League play-off second leg against Helsingborgs on the horizon, but the players who came in impressed, with Tony Watt in particular turning in a fantastic performance.

It was a more experienced player who got the ball rolling for Celtic, however. Victor Wanyama put the visitors ahead in just the fourth minute after he rose high in the box to head home Adam Matthew’s corner.

The next goal was all the work of the youth academy graduates introduced into the side for the match. Filip Twardzik picked up the ball in the centre of the park and drove forward before releasing a ball through on goal for Watt, and the 18-year-old showed a clean pair of heels to lose the defender and bear down on goal, before coolly lifting the ball over Inverness goalkeeper Graeme Shinnie.

The Hoops added to their lead three minutes after the break through a well-worked move straight off the training ground.  Matthews looked poised to whip a free kick into the danger area of the Inverness box but instead played a cute pass into the centre of the box, and Charlie Mulgrew showed excellent technique to sweep the ball into the bottom corner.

Watt completed the rout and topped off a superb individual performance in the 64th minute when he found himself in the right place at the right time to receive a pass from Matthews yards from goal and smash in his second strike of the game.

The action was not over, however, and Inverness managed to reduce the deficit thanks to two neat finishes from Ross Draper, but by this time the points were already in the bag for the Hoops.

LENNON PROUD OF YOUNG GUNS

Celtic manager Neil Lennon has spoken of his extreme satisfaction with the performance of two of his younger players in the 4-2 victory over Inverness, Filip Twardzik, and Tony Watt.

Watt scored a fantastic double and Twardzik looked like a seasoned professional in his centre midfield role, and the Hoops boss has heaped praise on his young guns. Speaking after the match, he said:

“I thought Watt had a sensational game and Twardzic was excellent as well. They have done themselves no harm at all with that performance.”

“Tony has very good assets. He is full of running and was a real handful for the back two and Filip we have known about for quite a while, so it was just a case of giving him the opportunity to get in.”

Lennon also stressed that the performance was even more impressive due to the venue of Tulloch Caledonian Stadium, which is usually a very tough hunting ground for the Glasgow side. He said:

“They have done very well in a difficult tie, and it’s a great performance and result for us.”

NEXT MATCH: ON THE VERGE OF THE BIG TIME

Celtic’s next match sees Neil Lennon’s side compete with Helsingborgs for a place in the European Champions League Group Stage.

The Hoops are favourites to go through after securing a potentially vital two goal advantage in the first leg in Sweden, in which Joe Ledley and Giorgios Samaras both found the net.

The Scottish Premier League Champions, who lifted the famous trophy in 1967, are aiming to reach the group stage for the first time in four years, but manager Lennon has stressed that he is treating the match like any other. Speaking to the media this week, he said:

“Football has a funny way of kicking you when you think you´ve cracked it so we´ve prepared as low-key as we possibly can. We know there´s a lot of hype surrounding it so we´ve tried to protect the players from that. We just want to get the game started now.”

"I wouldn’t say this is the biggest game of my managerial career to date. Winning the championship was a huge priority for me and even my first game in charge was as important as any that I´ve had. There have been a lot of big games in between then and this is just another one."

The match which could make or break Celtic’s season takes place on Wednesday night at Celtic Park in Glasgow.

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