Ki helps Celtic to a 4-0 victoryGLASGOW - Neil Lennon says he is delighted Celtic will go into their Europa League playoff second leg on a high after watching his side demolish St. Mirren 4-0 at Parkhead on Sunday.
Scotland striker Kenny Miller scored a second-half hat trick as defending champion Rangers beat Hibernian 3-0 in a fiery match at Easter Road that saw both teams reduced to 10 men in the first half.
Celtic went above Rangers on goal difference after a 4-0 home victory over St. Mirren, with Joe Ledley, Shaun Maloney, James Forrest and Ki Sung-yueng on target.
Ki, who was substituted into the match in the 71st minute, connected on a long-range shot in the 81st minute with his team leading 2-0. It was Ki’s first goal for Celtic in the Scottish Premier League since signing with the club in January.
It sets the Glasgow-based club up nicely for their trip to Holland where they will take on Utrecht for a place in the Europa League.
The Hoops take a 2-0 advantage from last week’s tie at Celtic Park and Lennon said it was important for the club to stay focused on Europa League after crashing out of the Champions League against Sporting Braga.
“It is a big game in the context of the season,” he said. “We would like to get a European run going but we are up for a very difficult 90 minutes on Thursday night. We are aware of that but we are in good shape going into the game.
“It was important to go in on the back of a good performance and result. It is a different game altogether and different quality of opposition in a different environment.”
One player who may feature against Utrecht is winger Forrest. The 19-year-old set up the first and scored a sensational third against St. Mirren as he justified his manager’s faith in him.
And Lennon lavished praise on the youngster, who was making his first ever start at Celtic Park. “Forrest’s performance really pleased me,” the Celtic manager added. “We’ll probably structure our team differently in Holland, but whether Forrest plays or not, we’ll have to think about that. He is certainly an asset to the team.”
The Scottish youngster was happy to be handed his chance.
“I was absolutely delighted to make my first start at Celtic Park. It felt really good and I was obviously delighted to score as well,” Forrest said. “I want to play more games and show the fans what I can do.”
Meanwhile, in London, Brede Hangeland made up for an own goal as Fulham twice came from behind to hold Manchester United to a 2-2 draw in the Premier League on Sunday.
Hangeland recovered from accidentally turning Ryan Giggs’ corner into the net, in the 84th minute, to head an equalizer in six minutes later. After the own goal, a penalty was awarded against Damien Duff but Nani missed the spot kick. Paul Scholes put United ahead in the first half with his 150th goal for the club, but Simon Davies leveled after the break.
Park Ji-sung started at left wing and played a total of 66 minutes before being substituted for Nani.