Lennon confident Celtic can finish job in Finland
Celtic manager Neil Lennon believes his side can finish the job in Finland after watching his side come from behind to defeat HJK Helsinki 2-1 in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League third round qualifying tie.
The Hoops started the match at a frantic pace but failed to take their early chances and conceded a costly away goal just 90 seconds after the break when Helsinki's Rasmus Schuller finished from close range.
Gary Hooper fired home a 54th minute equaliser after being picked out in the box by Georgios Samaras before Charlie Mulgrew headed home a 61st minute winner.
It leaves Celtic, who have only won once away from home in the past 32 European matches, with a tough task in the return leg next week as they bid to make the group stages of the competition for the first time since 2008.
However, Lennon said he was delighted with the result and backed his side to score against the Finnish champions in Helsinki.
"It's a huge improvement on where we were this time last year in the 0-0 draw against Sion," the Celtic manager said.
"We went a goal down and showed brilliant character as the game could have got away from us at that stage and their energy levels could have sagged.
"But such is the work that they've put in and the spirit they've got they clawed their way back into the game brilliantly and for a bit of luck or better finishing they would have won the tie more comfortably.
"I think Helsinki can count themselves pretty fortunate that it is only 2-1. We have got a week to get ready, we have got another game in the league against Aberdeen at the weekend, and the players will benefit from that game tonight.
"I thought the tempo of the game was good and thought some of the football was superb and some of the chances created were superb against a team who just wanted to sit in and counter attack.
"They will think they have got a good result but I've seen enough to know there's plenty of scope for us in the away tie.
"Are we capable of scoring away from home? Well we proved that last year against Sion and we might have to do that again on Wednesday night.
"We have got goals in the team. Our away record as we know is not the best so that next week would be a good place to start to improve on that.
"Overall I can't be overly critical of the team and for the first competitive game it was an excellent performance. They are listening and learning and they know they have a good chance of qualifying."
Celtic's UCL desire
With Rangers banished from the SPL after the club was demoted to the third division when it couldn't be saved from liquidation, entry into Europe's elite tournament and the millions that go with it are vital as Celtic bid to make up for the loss in attendance money caused by the absence of their fiercest rivals.
And Lennon said his players were desperate to see the return of Champions League football to Celtic Park.
"We want European football badly here and I think the players showed how committed they are to that," the Hoops boss said.
"The scoreline doesn't reflect the performance but sometimes that happens in football. Tonight and Saturday will give them competitive games and hopefully make them a bit sharper.
"Helsinki will come away thinking the away goal is a good buffer for them but for me the tie is in the balance.
"We are a goal up so we have the slight advantage over them and they will have to come out and score. They showed they are capable of doing that but then again so are we."