Celtic 3-0 Alashkert (agg 6-0): Brendan Rodgers’ 10 men set up Rosenborg reunion

And so to the land of the fjords where, for Celtic, the prospect of revelling in the midnight sun at this time of year will be tempered with an appreciation that a significant upgrade in class assuredly awaits them. 

As welcome and as beneficial as this rout of hapless and hopeless Alashkert was, no-one within Brendan Rodgers’ squad will need reminding that Rosenborg, who they face in the first leg in Glasgow next Wednesday, will not make for such malleable opponents. 

This time last year, in the penultimate qualifying round, a James Forrest howitzer in Trondheim was required to separate the sides over 180 minutes.

Moussa Dembele (L) notched twice as Celtic recorded another easy victory over Alashkert

The striker gives Celtic a deserved lead on home soil with just seven minutes on the clock 

The striker gives Celtic a deserved lead on home soil with just seven minutes on the clock 

Jozo Simunovic was sent off after only 11 minutes into Celtic's 3-0 win over Alashkert 

The win came despite Jozo Simunovic receiving a red card after only 11 minutes in Glasgow


Celtic: Gordon, Hendry, Ajer, Simunovic, Tierney, Ntcham, Brown, Forrest (Johnston, 76), McGregor, Edouard (Sinclair, 64), Dembele (Christie, 66)

Subs not used: Bain, Allan, Ralston, Kouassi

Goals: Dembele (7, 19), Forrest (35)

Yellow card: Ajer 

Red card: Simunovic

Alashkert: Cancarevic, Dashyan, Andranik Voskanyan, Praznovsky, Daghbashyan, Grigoryan, Sekulic (Simonyan, 64), Arthur Yedigaryan, Reis De Jesus (Romero, 86), Nenadovic (Manasyan, 45), Artak Yedigaryan

Subs not used: Avagyan, Zeljkovic, Stojkovic, Antonic

Yellow cards: Daghbashyan, Reis De Jesus, Manasyan

Ref: Horatiu Fesnic (Romania)

Already well into their league season, rest assured, the team who recovered to knock out Valur of Iceland on Wednesday night will have the scent of vengeance in their nostrils and belief in their hearts.

It may prove to be every bit as tight again.

Amid all the natural concern as Celtic plot a circuitous route to the business end of the Champions League for a third straight season under the Irishman, though, there is considerable comfort to be had.

The Scottish champions unmistakably, look lean, fit and focused right now – perhaps more so than they have done in either of Rodgers’ previous summers.

In Moussa Dembele and Odsonne Edouard, they are carrying a twin goal threat which should unsettle the Norwegian champions in no small measure.

Having watched Edouard strike in Armenia last week, this was Dembele’s turn to shine.

He lashed home a first-half double on the new Parkhead turf, the second coming from a dubious penalty award, before Forrest collected his second of the tie. The half-time whistle was the sound of sweet release for the outclassed Armenians.

What a pity such an accomplished performance by Rodgers’ men was pockmarked by a deserved sending off for Jozo Simunovic after just 11 minutes of play. 

The Croatian defender’s boot into the lower back of Alashkert’s Jefferson was rash and dangerous and fully deserving of the punishment meted out by the Romanian referee.

Facing an imminent suspension just as his side needs him most, Simunovic must know he is in danger of making himself a liability in his manager’s eyes. It was his good fortune that Alashkert had no punch to go with their admirable spirit.

Simunovic was sent off for a wild and high boot on Alashkert's Brazilian striker Jefferson

Simunovic heads towards the tunnel after being dismissed for a tackle on Jefferson Reis

Dembele also nets from the spot after Artak Grigoryan concedes a foul on Odsonne Edouard

The Frenchman is congratulated by several team-mates including full-back Kieran Tierney

The Frenchman is congratulated by several team-mates including full-back Kieran Tierney

On the back of a comprehensive 3-0 first-leg scoreline, this was a Parkhead European night without all the usual anxiety.

Truthfully, it was as much of a chance for Rodgers’ side to further crunch through the gears as anything else. Accordingly, there was never any chance of the personnel and shape that endured the searing heat of Armenia being altered. 

Having being given the run-around by Dembele and Edouard eight days previously, the sight of the French pair marching out of the tunnel must have left the Alashkert rearguard cold. 

It took only seven minutes for Dembele to get his first competitive goal of the season.

Having already tested Alashkert keeper Ognjen Cancarevic from 20 yards, he tactically positioned himself on the edge of the box to take Forrest’s ball into feet.

Immediately surrounded by a pack of yellow shirts, there seemed no obvious escape route. What did we know?

Showing the strength of a bull, Dembele simply motored backwards with the ball under his spell, knocking as many bodies out of the way as required. Once the coast was clear, he bludgeoned the ball into the bottom corner with his right foot.

James Forrest's goal 10 minutes before the interval made it 3-0 to dominant Celtic on the night

James Forrest’s goal 10 minutes before the interval made it 3-0 to dominant Celtic on the night

The 27-year-old celebrates extending Celtic's lead even further as the hosts avoid any nerves

The 27-year-old celebrates extending Celtic’s lead even further as the hosts avoid any nerves

Cantering towards the next round, Celtic’s only concern ought to have been the occasionally overzealous approach of the visitors. Simunovic’s aberration was, then, bizarre on many levels. 

Defending his lines on half-way, he was entitled to challenge Jefferson to the long ball.

His waist-high boot at the Brazilian was wild and dangerous, though. Tellingly, there were no complaints from the Croatian as Romanian referee Horatiu Fesnic ended his involvement after 11 minutes by reaching into his top pocket.

As is the Rodgers way, there was no look to the bench. Forrest was redeployed as a bona fide right back, with both front men retained in a 4-3-2 formation. The flow of traffic remained the same.

For all Alashkert were completely outclassed, they appeared to have a legitimate grievance with the manner in which they fell two behind on 19 minutes.

Chasing down the advancing Edouard, Artak Grigoryan appeared to clip the ball out for a corner before his trailing leg felled the Frenchman. In any event, the official signalled a penalty. 

Dembele was never likely to offer much sympathy and coolly sent the keeper the wrong way from the spot. 

It was now a matter of Alashkert avoiding humiliation. Cancarevic did prevent Edouard adding a third from close range then watched Kristoffer Ajer come within inches of redirecting Olivier Ntcham’s drive beyond him.

Ten minutes from the break, however, Cancarevic was a beaten man for the sixth time in the tie.

Next up for Brendan Rodgers' side is another meeting with Norwegian champions Rosenborg

Next up for Brendan Rodgers’ side is another meeting with Norwegian champions Rosenborg

Last season, an excellent goal from Forrest sealed Celtic's place in the play-off round

Last season, an excellent goal from Forrest sealed Celtic’s place in the play-off round

In a move that showcased Celtic’s strength and pace on the break, Alashkert were mercilessly undone by failing to win the second ball on their own corner. 

In what seemed like the blink of an eye, Callum McGregor glided away from three opponents to feed Edouard.

Fears the Frenchman had waited for too long to execute his pass proved unfounded. Forrest took one touch to control it and found the far corner with a low, guided shot.

For all the goals dried up after the break, the same couldn’t be said of Celtic’s desire to keep going. 

Kieran Tierney forced Cancarevic to tip his pile-driver over the top in the opening minute of the second period.

Ntcham’s waltz up the byline brought out another fine stop from the Alashkert keeper before Forrest and McGregor’s solo efforts met with the same fates. 

So battered and bullied were the Armenians by Celtic’s front two that when their numbers went up within the space of 60 seconds you half expected them to applaud the decision.

Substitutes Scott Sinclair and Ryan Christie did their utmost to rub salt in Armenian wounds.

A wonderful spin and run by Sinclair preceded the execution of a pass which gave Christie a clear run on goal. Again, Cancarevic commendably kept the score down. 

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